Following a long and eventful life, Brigitta Czernik Gruenther of Falls Church, Virginia, passed away on November 11, 2022. Brigitta was born on February 4, 1927, in Erfurt, Germany. She was educated at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria, where she was awarded a full scholarship and graduated with the Concert Diploma. She began playing the cello when she was 9 years old, and at 15, she was the youngest cellist in the Mozarteum Orchestra. As a member of the Mozarteum Orchestra, she performed in festivals and toured Germany, Austria, and Norway in chamber groups. During her music career, she had the honor of performing in recitals broadcasted live over radio stations in Austria and WNYC in NYC, and she appeared frequently as a soloist in concerts for members of the United Nations.
Brigitta had a long and successful career as a musician. In the Washington area, she was principal cellist for many years and a frequent soloist of the now disbanded Arlington Symphony. Pursuing her lifelong love of music, Brigitta performed in many places, including the Kennedy Center and Wolf Trap, and spread her talent by teaching the cello and forming meaningful relationships with many of her music colleagues and former students. For over 30 years, she participated in the Concerts in Schools Program sponsored by the Washington Performing Arts Society and performed frequently in the Friday Morning Music Club. Brigitta spent almost two decades volunteering her musical services, alongside her sister Carola for the Catholic Mass in the Alexandria jail, and freelanced with many orchestras and chamber groups. She also often played her cello for the Mass at St. Anthony church in Falls Church. At one time, she was invited to join the U.S. Army Band, but declined.
Brigitta was an Army wife, who took care of eight children (seven sons and one daughter) while her husband, Don, was on multiple deployments around the world (including Korea and Vietnam). She was a loving wife and mother, who was very generous and loyal to her family and friends, and deeply treasured her 54-year long marriage. Always looking out for others and offering ways to help, Brigitta was independent, intelligent, and strong-willed, with a mischievous sense of humor and a huge heart. She was active and engaged in everything she did, from her involvement in her family, to her lifelong music career, to her hobbies and passions. She was a fantastic cook, and an avid reader of the newspaper, poetry, and non-fiction topics. Brigitta maintained strong bonds with her loved ones, and kept in touch with her friends, including from her youth and young adulthood. Her strong faith in God was a comfort to her, especially in difficult times. Whenever she misplaced something and hadn't found it in a few days, she'd pray to St. Anthony to help her find the item. This seemed to work for her every time, which always delighted her. She was cultured and a lover of all things beautiful, from music to art to her photography. There was always beautiful music in the house, between her practicing for her concerts or listening to classical music from the radio. Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach were her favorite composers, and hours of her life were spent dedicated to performing and practicing the music that brought her such joy. She commissioned a composer, Garrison Hull, to write a complex sonata for violoncello for her, which she later performed at Strathmore Hall.
Brigitta had a green thumb and spent many hours tending to her beautiful garden full of flowers. Slow mornings were spent enjoying nature - watching bunnies, birds, and squirrels in her yard. She was deeply connected to her roots and traveled annually with her sister, Carola, to Europe to visit friends and family in Germany and Austria. She was an adventurer who loved to explore new places- she generously took her family on multiple trips and cruises to Alaska and Europe. A talented and prodigious hand-written letter writer, Brigitta would write "meaty paragraphs” about her travels- multi-page accounts recounting her sights, experiences, and adventures. She was always planning a new travel destination and looking towards her next trip. Her favorite city remained Salzburg, Austria.
Brigitta is survived by her children, George, Ray, Fred, Michael, Peter, and Lucy Maria; her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her husband, Donald; her sons, Ralph and Thomas; her grandson, Lucas; and her sisters, Carola and Gerlinde Czernik. A funeral Mass and celebration of life for both Carola and Brigitta will be held on Friday, September 15, 2023, at the St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church at 3305 Glen Carlyn Rd, Falls Church VA 22041. The schedule for the ceremony is as follows: 10:00 am Mass and 11:00 am Celebration of Life, followed by an interment of ashes for Carola at 1:30pm at Columbia Gardens Cemetery, 3411 Arlington Blvd, Arlington VA 22201. An interment for Brigitta will take place on a future date at Arlington National Cemetery; date TBD. In lieu of flowers, her family asks that donations be made in her memory to an organization dear to your heart.