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Maria Heiser

Maria Heiser, 78, Woodstock and formerly of McHenry, died Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015, at JourneyCare Hospice Center – Woodstock.

She was born May 2, 1937, to Heinrich and Margarete Kottusch in Berlin, but her childhood home was further east in the German region of Silesia (now western Poland).

Quickly displaced by the war, she spent much of her formative years as a refugee. Post-war, she and her family settled into what would become East Berlin. As a teen, she openly protested the Russian occupation, her activities, in time, forcing the family to escape to the West — as luck would have it, just before the rise of the Berlin Wall. It was in U.S.-occupied West Berlin that she met an American sergeant, with whom she had a daughter, Andrea. They would not, however, become a family, and she was left to raise Andrea alone.

In 1964, she and Andrea immigrated to Cary, and Maria married Robert J. (Bob) Heiser. They soon had a son, Robert Jr. (Rob). Speaking little English on arrival, she learned the language piecemeal from the many soap operas aired in the day.

In 1969, they moved to McHenry, which she would call home for most of her life. In 1970, she took a job at McHenry High School-East Campus managing the Language Lab, a room where foreign-language-speaking students could sit in booths listening to English-language tapes through headphones. It was a role she cherished, and she made a lasting impression on many who used the lab. After her position was cut, she worked at the McHenry Medical Group and later at Kemper Insurance. She divorced in 1978.

When not working, she spent much of her time at her typewriter, initially crafting stories and poetry in both English and German. Much of her writing was semi-autobiographical. She was most proud of self-publishing “About People and Things,” a book of her poetry.

Survivors include two children, Andrea (Michael) Gilio, Mesa, Ariz., and Rob (Sharon) Heiser, Johnsburg; eight grandchildren, Michael, Holly and Adam Gilio, and Corey, Max, Hannah, Sophia and Julia Heiser; four great-grandchildren; and a sister and a niece, Wilma and Ira Mayerhofer, Munich, Germany.

She was preceded in death by her parents and an infant granddaughter, Olivia Christine Heiser.

Interment was private.

Memorials may be made to JourneyCare Foundation, 405 Lake Zurich Rd., Barrington, IL 60010.

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