Pia Klausnitzer, or Sonny, as everyone knew her, lived quite a life, and she loved to talk about it.
She had lots of memories of growing up in a small town in Germany during World War II.
She died peacefully Dec. 19 at Broadmore Senior Living Center in Johnson City, Tennessee, where she had been living for the past four years. She was 85.
She was born in Potsdam, Germany to Georg and Maria Sendner.
In Germany, Mrs. Klausnitzer witnessed the rise of Hitler, begged for bread from Americans and escaped sniper fire when she was caught stealing wood to keep her family warm.
She loved to tell stories of watching the Americans march through her country and how her grandmother made her a skirt by defiling the Nazi flag.
She spoke often of escaping from East Germany when she was 16 and the difficulties of being orphaned at a young age.
She studied cooking in Switzerland and physical therapy in Germany which led her to her career and her future husband.
She first met Gerhard Klausnitzer when he was assigned to her as her patient in a hospital in Germany. Although they didn't hit it off initially, the two fell for each other and married in 1963. The wedding photos show him in a dark suit standing on a wet city street, and her in a cream-colored wool skirt and jacket.
Eight days later the couple moved to England for his job.
There they had two children, Karen and Dorren.
In 1977, the family moved to America, for another job change. They lived briefly in New Jersey then settled in their American home in London, Kentucky, where the family became naturalized citizens.
Mrs. Klausnitzer thrived in Kentucky.
She opened a physical therapy practice and worked on skeptical patients who were willing to try anything to relieve their back pain.
She became known as the little German woman who had "bear claws as hands," she would say.
In addition to getting a physical therapy session, many of her patients also got a history lesson from an eye-witness. Some also got cake and a nice cup of tea.
Over the years as her practice grew, many of her clients became family friends.
In 2005 Gerhard Klausnitzer suffered a debilitating stroke and spent his last five years in the care of nurses at Laurel Heights Funeral home where Mrs. Klausnitzer was a frequent visitor. They had been married 47 years when he died.
After his death, Mrs. Klausnitzer moved to Johnson City and spent her final years in senior living centers there, where her daughter Dr. Karen Stone lives.
She is survived by daughters, Dr. Karen Stone and husband, Jeffrey Lynn of Johnson City, Tennessee, and Dorren Robinson and husband, Robert of Nashville, Tennessee; sister Ria Temple of Germany; and four grandchildren, Devon Wade, Wilson Wade, Maggie Robinson and Wolf Robinson.
Visitation for Mrs. Klausnitzer was from 2-4 p.m. on Dec. 26 at London Funeral Home Chapel. The funeral was at 4 p.m. followed by a private burial at A.R. Dyche Memorial Park in London.
Published on December 27, 2017