Kerstin Waschewsky was born on a farm in Malmohus lan, Skane, southern Sweden between the world wars. She grew up in a world of dandelions, cows which needed to be milked, hay, long summer sunlight, midnight sailing parties under the full moon, mid-summer (midsommar) festivals, and lots of schoolwork and farmwork. She grew up surrounded by family, her father, mother, and siblings who she maintained contact with over the course of their lives by phone, by her characteristic long, hand-written letters, and by visits “as often as possible”. The recent passing of her beloved sister Boel hit her hard, a day she described as “the saddest day in my life” and which she took as a sign that her own time was almost over.
At an early age, Kerstin showed an independent streak: although the father who she loved wanted her to stay on the farm, she wanted to be a chemist. Her independent streak in her early school years earned her “mixed reviews” from teachers and school administrators, with some wishing she would give predictable answers to questions in class and “behave” while others took delight in her original way of thinking about things and her willingness to challenge authority.
Kerstin put her sharp intellect to work in adult life, educating herself and eventually obtaining a position as city councilwoman, with a male secretary who served as her stenographer using what must have been the latest technology of the era. She was rightly proud of her early career achievements.
Kerstin had another side to her, which was one of deep concern for others, a theme which played out in her life until the very end. During World War II she worked as a fire warden inspecting roof tops for incendiary bombs, and following the war she served in a number of roles across Europe doing relief work with Quakers and others to help heal the wounds of war. The song “This is My Song” (Finlandia) by Jan Sebelius was very meaningful to her and helped her get through the war. Members and attenders of LJMM have been privileged to hear many of the stories she told from those post-war years:
-of how she served in Norway, walking and riding in wagons across the country, helping displaced families to recover from the war, including working with others to rebuild homes and also assisting local farmers dig up family treasures which had been hidden from the retreating Nazis;
-of the time she served as midwife for a woman in labor, as she was the only person with first aid training in the village they were in;
-of how she lived in a huge cave after the war, helping to look after hundreds of Romanian orphans, and of taking the orphaned children on outings to pick pine nuts in the forest;
-of how she first met Friend Andy Szabo of San Diego Meeting, during the war, just after he had been smuggled from Denmark to Sweden in a herring barrel. Kerstin later worked with him in Rome doing relief work for some years, and had wonderful memories of their time together.
It was during this time that Kerstin met her husband, Hans Joachim Waschewsky, who was born in Konigsberg, Prussia, Germany on 4/17/29. He was a German citizen who had been displaced by the war in his early teen years from his home in Königsberg, (which after the war became part of the U.S.S.R., Kaliningrad Oblast). After living in Sweden together for a number of years, Kerstin and Hans Joachim decided to follow the call of opportunity and move to the United States. The couple had two children together, daughter Gabriela (currently residing in Gainesville, FL) and son Markus (currently residing in NYC).They became permanent residents of the United States in1966. Their petition for U.S. citizenship was granted on 12/21/1973. Kerstin was proud of her dual nationality, travelling back and forth between countries often.
During their time in the U.S., the family lived first in New York (Chappaqua), followed by Minnesota, and then sunny southern California. A little-known fact is that the family originally lived in Clairmont before moving to their home on Sagebrush Road in La Jolla. Kerstin loved raising her daughter and son and being involved in their school life; she would often talk about the work she did tutoring struggling students at Decatur Elementary, and of going to watch her son Markus competing at the race track at La Jolla High. She was extremely proud of both of her childrens’ educational achievements, which included a doctorate for Gabriela and a masters in architecture for Markus. The “light of her life” in later years was the grandson, Jupiter, which her daughter Gabriela and son-in-law Bill gave her. Whenever visitors came to see her in her home she would show them his picture and letters he had written her and she talked about him with great fondness.
During the San Diego years Kerstin continued to show her caring side, and was involved in many ways in the community:
- teaching Swedish to adult learners in the local adult school;
-being a founding member of SVEA, an international organization started for Swedish women who lived in the United States which sponsored trips for Swedish women around the world;
-hosting homework study/social sessions with her son Markus and his friends after school,
-serving on the board of the La Jolla Symphony for 20 years and hosting fund raising parties,
-helping raise thousands of dollars for the LJMM “sharing fund” (a fund maintained to help with urgent community and individual needs) by crocheting small “hearts” and offering them “for a donation of $3.”
-giving hugs and her crocheted hearts to people all over the world to encourage them and to share her deep love,
-making a trip with good friends to Bolivia in support of the volunteer organization “Quaker Bolivia Link”, where she was asked to speak in front of a church congregation,
-serving as a valued member of the LJMM Ministry & Oversight, Adult Religious Education and Memorials Committees
Kerstin was a woman of strong and unyielding convictions, which she was not afraid of sharing with others. She was a strong proponent of the value of hard work and self-improvement and had little patience for those who relied on others to get things done. She also had strong views on issues of diet and nutrition, “extolling the virtues of dark chocolate and black Swedish coffee” at every opportunity, something that would always bring a smile to the faces of those who loved her.
Kerstin passed away at the age of 94 in hospice care in Gainesville Florida, the city where her daughter Gabriela and family live. We will deeply miss this intelligent, loving woman who gave us so much joy and enriched so many lives.