CUNNIFFE, Maria (Nimitz), of Stoughton, passed away peacefully, on September 11, 2019, at the age of 89. Born in Himmelwitz, Germany, which is now Poland, on February 19, 1930 to the late Victor Nimitz and Martha Krzyk. At the age of 14, Maria was separated from her family, never to see them face to face again. When the Russians invaded East Germany, she fled with many other people. They walked all over the country for many weeks. At some point, the Russian Army stopped them and asked for their papers. Because she had lost hers in the pandemonium, Maria was arrested and sent to a Russian concentration camp. She was abused and traumatized by her ordeal. With the help of a German camp guard and his brother, who were hired by the Russians to act as translators, as most Russians could not speak German, she was able to escape the camp. Maria walked through fields and farms for 3 nights, lying in the fields during the daylight, as to not be seen by the Russians. She eventually came to a town that sat next to a river. On a bench by the riverbanks, she would sit for many hours. On the other end of the bench was an old German lady who finally asked Maria if she was thinking of escaping. The lady told her not to, because, the Russian guards would kill her. She told Maria that she owned a house and lived alone, and that Maria could come and stay with her. She stayed with this woman until one night she awoke to the screams of many women being dragged from their homes by the Russian soldiers and being raped. Maria escaped through a second-floor window and hid out in a field behind the house. The next morning, she returned to the home and told the woman she had to leave. The woman tried to convince her to stay, telling her that the soldiers would not be back, however, Maria was too afraid and that day she returned to the bench by the riverbanks, where she had met the woman. The Russians would allow the people to swim in river as long as they stayed away from the middle of the river because on the other side of the river were American soldiers. Maria felt that she had to take the risk, so she swam and eventually crossed over the middle of the river and the Russian guards shot her. She went unconscious. Afterwards, she learned that an American soldier had rescued her and that she had remained unconscious for 3 days. When she awoke, she didn’t open her eyes until she heard the men speaking English. At that point she knew she was on the other side of the river and was safe. Eventually, she met an American soldier, named Raymond Cunniffe, came to the United States and they were married in 1959. Maria became an American citizen on September 5, 1962. She developed a deep love for this country after her ordeal. Her husband Ray passed away in 1982. She left no children and had no relatives here, however, she had many nieces and nephews through her marriage into the Cunniffe family, although, they all lived out of state. She was especially close to her dear friend of 43 years, Virginia Spyridopoulos, and thought of her family as her own family.
When Maria was eight years old, in the year before the start of WWII, Chester Nimitz came to her town. He came with another man and it happened that they stopped her, and asked, if she knew where Martha Nimitz lived. She asked why they wanted to know, and he replied that Martha had been married to Victor Nimitz, one of his cousins. Victor had passed away before Maria was born. She always remembered that day, and how he looked in his white uniform. After the Pearl Harbor attack, Chester Nimitz was elevated to Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet. That brought both land and sea forces under his command. The formal Japanese surrender took place on his flagship, the U.S.S. Missouri. On December 14, 1944 the U.S. Congress established the rank of Fleet Admiral. The next day Franklin Roosevelt appointed him to that rank, Fleet Admiral.
Maria worked as a waitress and hostess for many years in the Framingham area. Later she worked for the Raytheon Co., where she became a supervisor with security clearance. Maria also had a dear friend in the late John Boyle, with whom she went to many events at the Elks Club over the years. They also enjoyed taking drives and go out to dinner, especially Christo’s Restaurant. Maria was a person of humility, grace and great strength. She was loved by many people who knew her and will be greatly missed. Relatives and friends are respectfully invited to attend a visitation period on Friday, September 20th, from 8:30 – 9:30 AM in the Cartwright Funeral Home, 419 No. Main St. (Rt. 28), Randolph. A Funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10:00 AM in the Immaculate Conception Church, 122 Canton St., Stoughton. Burial will follow at 1:15 PM in the Massachusetts National Cemetery, Bourne. For directions or to leave a sympathy message for the family, visit www.cartwrightfuneral.com.
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