Edith Riess Newsome, 1928–2022
Intrepid traveler Edith Riess Newsome took her final journey at her home on Sept. 29, 2022, with her loving family by her side.
Born in Heilbronn, Germany, on Jan. 6, 1928, Edith was a proud Swabian and had a happy early childhood until WWII began. Bombs shattered her small town, and she lost her younger brother, Gunther. She remembered the American GIs coming through her town and giving all the children chocolate. She also spoke of the time she and her young girlfriends locked arms in solidarity against soldiers trying to encroach on their town. Edith trained as a schoolteacher and did some teaching in Germany after the war.
Edith could always recall the exact date she made her first incredible journey: Oct. 19, 1951. She sailed across the Atlantic on the SS Washington to begin her new life in America, staying with relatives in Philadelphia who found Edith her first job as a domestic worker. She later worked as a waitress.
Edith’s next adventure was a move to Los Angeles, where she worked as an au pair for the children of James Cagney and other celebrities. Eager to see the world, Edith saved up the money she earned to make many trips abroad. On a trip to Portugal, she met her beloved Milton.
Milton and Edith married and lived in Chatham, N.J., until Milton’s retirement from New Jersey Bell.
Before she left for America, her father wished her a prosperous new life and made her promise to honor the family name. She respected her father’s wishes and carried the Newsome name with honor and integrity, as well.
In 1965, Edith and Milton made the cross-country move to Kenwood, Calif. They bought a large lot and home on Highway 12. Edith meticulously cared for her property and could often be seen waving from atop her mowing tractor as she cut the grass. She loved entertaining and preparing food, sharing all of the cookies and German sweets she horded throughout the house with the grandchildren on their visits. This continued with her many great-grandchildren as well, always remembering to send Advent calendars, with a chocolate behind every door; Dobosh Tortes; and many hand-written cards, notes on relevant happenings, a forgotten photo, or thoughtful trinket or gift. She was kind and generous to all who knew her.
Edith contributed to her Valley of the Moon community through her many volunteer roles. She worked with residents at what was then called Sonoma State Hospital. As a docent, hike leader, and trail builder, she volunteered at Sugarloaf Ridge and Jack London Historic State Parks, the Native Plant Society, and Sierra Table.
After Milton died in 1990, Edith continued to live in Kenwood until she sold the special property, which would later become VJB Winery. In 1998, Edith moved to Oakmont, where she made many friends. She joined the German Club and swam and hiked regularly. She and her friend, Sonoko, loved attending the Santa Rosa Symphony and San Francisco Opera. Never happy to sit at home, Edith adored taking day trips and, just in September, visited the Apple Hill area near Placerville, where she savored her apple pie a la mode.
Edith cherished family, friends, and hiking outdoors. She loved food, flowers, and life. One of her special treats was to share stories and laughter with her good friends over a poke bowl at the Flamingo. Edith remained active right up until the end, sneaking drives to Café Citti even though she wasn’t supposed to be driving on the main roads. In her final days, she expressed gratitude for her good life and for her family and friends, whom she dearly loved. Edith was a determined, compassionate, generous, and amazingly diverse woman. We will continue to learn of stories and chapters of her incredible journey for many years to come.
She is survived by beloved cousins Fritz Stahl and Roland Kuhn, and family, in Germany, seven step-grandchildren, nine step-great-grandchildren, a global cadre of friends, admirers, and contacts across the U.S., Germany, Japan, the Louisiana bayou, and most extensively in her beloved Sonoma Valley of the Moon. Rest in peace, our sweet Edith; we will see you on the other side!
The family invites friends to a celebration of Edith’s life at her home on Nov. 12, from noon to 1 p.m., with a reception from 1 to 4 p.m. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Compassion and Choices. Edith will be interred at the Newsome family gravesite in Sandisfield, Mass.