Carola A. Czernik, passed away on March 24, 2020. She was a gifted musician, pianist, organist and graduate of the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria. She received a teaching degree from her hometown of Erfurt, Germany. She took piano and organ lessons at the Erfurt cathedral from the organist Heinrich Stockhorst and later was the acting organist and choir director for the Erfurt Cathedral. After she emigrated in 1955 through Ellis Island to the U.S. to join her youngest sister and family, she earned her teaching certificate in Music History, Piano, and Organ. For many years, she taught K- 6th grade music history, piano, organ and choral singing for the Alexandria, VA school system, as well as tutored individuals in German language and piano lessons. For many years she played the piano for the inmates attending the Catholic Mass at the Alexandria jail, as well as for performances at various churches and continuously volunteered her skills for many charitable organizations.
Twice a year, Carola and her cellist sister Brigitta Gruenther would travel to the New York City area and perform at concerts for dignitaries of various United Nations countries. Each concert honored a specific country in the UN and featured music of composers from that country. These concerts were arranged and hosted by Florence Bocarius, a close friend of theirs from their Mozarteum days, who was also a talented organist.
Carola led a full 94 year life and loved to travel, hike, garden, make music, and be with her family and friends. She loved animals and flowers. She never let a dog pass by without wanting to give it her love. She often provided treats to neighbor dogs. Carola had an endearing personality and an impish sense of humor. Beloved to many, she was gentle and kind to everyone she met. She was like a second mother to her niece and nephews, children of her sister Brigitta. She remained connected with her roots, and traveled with Brigitta to Europe annually to visit friends and family mainly in Austria and Germany. She loved the mountains and spent many hours hiking the Alps with friends and family, well into her 80s. Generous and loving to all, Carola loved all living things, and wouldn’t hurt anything, even an insect. She was a passionate photographer who took beautiful pictures of friends, flowers, and trips she went on. Absolutely fearless, Carola had a tireless sense of adventure and enjoyed travel, fondly remembering a trip to Iceland, where she even rode one of the Icelandic horses when she was in her early eighties. Carola liked to work in her garden and especially enjoyed her prized azalea bushes and flowers.
Carola had several harrowing experiences while living in the Russian-occupied zone in Erfurt, East Germany. She and her sister Gerlinde and mother were followed, harassed, and thrown in jail overnight by East German police because they attended Catholic Mass. They were also under suspicion of being spies for the U.S. because one of Carola’s sisters was married to a U.S. Army officer. When Carola left Germany by train, she was not able to obtain the required travel documents to cross the Austria-Germany border at Berchtesgaden, Germany. She took the chance and managed to elude detection by the authorities. Once in Berchtesgaden, she communicated with her sister Brigitta and father Carl to meet at the top of Hohen Staufen mountain, when they would then hike together down to the Austrian side. Brigitta and Carl climbed the mountain from Salzburg three days in a row without meeting up with Carola. Finally on the fourth try, they were able to reunite and hike down to Austria.
Carola is greatly missed by all who knew and loved her. She is survived by her niece, Lucy Maria; her nephews, George, Ray, Fred, Peter, and Michael; her great-nieces and nephews, students, and many dear friends. She was preceded in death by her sister, Gerlinde and her nephews Ralph, Thomas, and Lucas. Her other sister, Brigitta, died in 2022. A funeral Mass and celebration of life for both Carola and Brigitta will be held on Friday, September 15, 2023, at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church at 3305 Glen Carlyn Rd, Falls Church VA 22041. The schedule for the ceremony is: 10:00 am Mass and 11:00 am Celebration of Life, followed by an interment of ashes for Carola at 1:30pm at Columbia Gardens Cemetery, 3411 Arlington Blvd, Arlington VA 22201. In lieu of flowers, her family asks that donations be made in her memory to an organization you find dear to your heart.