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Adie (Estebena Risse)

Adie was Estebena Risse, our great, great aunt.  She was Anita Risse’s sister – twin, I believe.  She brought up Gumma and Dita after their mother died.  They called her ‘Adie Dear,’  and she had been an intimate member of their household since their births.  Both Adie and her sister died of stomach cancer not too far apart from each other.  Anita died in 1917 while the family was living on Staten Island and Papsi was working on Wall Street.  Adi died in about 1924-7 in San Remo, Italy, where there was a cancer specialist who had attended Anita as well before World War I.  Gumma remembered visiting Adie in San Remo with Papsi when Adie was dying.  I know from letters that the photo of Adie in the carriage was taken by Papsi on an outing during a visit to her in 1924.  The girls were then living with family in Berlin and Papsi was travelling all over Europe meeting politictians and business men and bankers about the Dawes plan to alter the reparations due to the allies according to the Treaty of Versailles.  Gumma and Dita did get a visit with Adie in San Remo before she died.  Gumma remembered the very, very steep hills of San Remo, which sits on the Mediterranean coast below the Alps and not far from France. 


It was through Adi and her interests in the arts that the family came to Woodstock in the summer of 1917 and stayed on Byrdcliffe, first in Carniola, the Cricket, and then in HiLoHa which Papsi eventually bought.


At about the same time – I don’t have the exact dates in my head – but there are lots of letters from then – Papsi was arrested as a German spy and put in a camp for enemy aliens in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia.


This was an event of which Dita, in particular, was absolutely ashamed.  So it hardly ever got mentioned.  He was cleared and released, but his office mate was not.  Apparently he and a group of German nationals were renting the same office suite in downtown NY and all were scooped up.  The roundup was the result of a German spy being arrested in England.  The charges were related to passing money to Germany and to factory workers in the US and in Mexico to stage uprisings and slow-downs and since Papsi’s business then was to foster German-American business relations you can understand how he would become implicated.  If you have access to the New York Times archive you can search by his name and find the articles about it all. 


The sad thing from a personal point of view is that the girls lost their mother and then they lost their father.  Adie was the person who was with them through all of this.  She was also responsible for Papsi’s early release — she kept petioning the US government for him.  The arguments were based on his dual citizenship — he was a Mexican national, not a German national; on the plight of his family — recently widowed and two little children, etc. . .


Adie was also a sculptor.  We have a variety of bronze and plaster medallion portraits of family members.  I also have a photographic portfolio of her work, some of which was included in an exhibition of  “American Sculptresses” in NYC in the teens.  Her name was mispelled in the catalog “Russe”.

The Risse women included several artists:  Adie, sculpture; Lia printmaking and photography.  I wonder if they were ever called, “les soeurs”?

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