Lucy B. (Behnke) Opal, 93, a long-time resident of Swanzey died on Monday, May 10, 2021, at Applewood Care Center in Winchester. She passed peacefully while sleeping after a period of declining health.
Lucy was born the daughter of the late Olga (De Busse) and Leopold Behnke on May 9, 1928, in Lodz, Poland. As a child, she and her family lived under German occupation during WWII and in 1945, to escape Soviet Communism, they fled to Pomerania an area which the American Forces took over for a period but later gave back to the Soviets. The family lived quietly as not to be repressed or killed by the Soviets.
She was educated in Lodz Poland and later went on in her studies at Rostock University in Germany with a degree in Eastern European studies (Slavic) and Psychology where she met her first husband, Gunther Inderson who was studying law. Sadly, he and their child, Norbert P. Inderson were killed with many students for protesting against the Soviets in East Germany.
Lucy was employed by Fr. Schiller University in Jenna, Germany as an Assistant Professor for a few years. In 1952 she fled with the help of friends to West Berlin and was flown to the American Zone of Germany. She took a job as an interpreter and hostess with the U.S. Government at Sub headquarters in “K-Town” Kaiserslautern in Pirmasens Germany on the French border. (Between 1950 and 1955, Kaiserslautern developed into the largest US military community outside of the U.S. and for this reason, Kaiserslautern is also referred to as “K-town”; a term coined by the early American military population who had difficulty pronouncing the name).
Lucy spoke four languages fluently, Polish, German, Russian and English, and was an asset to the allies. While there, an officer brought her a newspaper in Polish. The paper was published by Boguslaw Opalko who was an officer in the Polish Army assigned to the U.S. Army in Verdun, France, and in April of 1955 became her husband. In 1957 they immigrated by a special decree by Pres. Dwight Eisenhower on an Army boat arriving on April 30, 1957, in New York City where they saw the Statue of Liberty. Lucy recalled that moment with the words “Upon seeing Lady Liberty, we both broke down with tears of joy”. Once arriving in the U.S., her husband changed his name to Robert Opal.
Lucy went on to work at the United Nations in N.Y. as an interpreter and hostess. She also worked in New Britain, CT for ten years as a secretary for a Vice President at American Home Corporation. Throughout the years in CT, VT, and NH, Lucy and her husband were very involved in managing a weekly local Polish radio show.
Lucy and her husband Bob found residency in Chester, VT. where she studied Special Education. In time they moved once again to Winchester, NH. In 1971 they opened a restaurant and ice cream parlor at Forest Lake. She and her husband, Bob managed the shop for thirteen years until he passed suddenly in 1984. Lucy continued to work part-time as the director of the Polish radio show on WKNE until 1985. Lucy went on to teach at Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center where she worked with special needs elderly and young people. Time was also spent working at the Educational Council and Redevelopment Agency where many of the staff became her extended family. Lucy retired at the age of seventy after a life of many sad and happy adventurous experiences.
Lucy continued to do volunteer work and gave freely of her time to AARP and the Republican Party and was proud of the many photos she had taken of herself with President Bush. She was a history buff and enjoyed reading about psychology. When time permitted, she could be found working in her beautiful gardens being with nature or sitting on her little porch.
Lucy is predeceased by her brother, Egon Behnke of Alberta, Canada. She is survived by her sister Llona Jordan of Germany, a niece, Henny Heuer of Travemünde Germany, a niece, Carmen Weiss, and nephew Larry Behnke of Alberta, Canada. In addition, she leaves; extended family and friends in Germany, Poland, Austria, Canada, Brazil, Russia, and America.
Lucy was buried privately and quietly in the family lot at Evergreen Cemetery in Winchester. All services were under the care of Cheshire Family Funeral Home and Crematories, 46 S. Winchester St. Swanzey, NH. 03446. WWW.chshirefamilyfh.com