Eugenia Fischer Sundin died peacefully Dec. 26, 2012. A beautiful and gracious mother, she has gone to the angels and reunited with her mother, father and faithful family members. She was 98 years old.
She had been a resident of the Westminster Canterbury Richmond retirement community in Richmond, Va. since May 2008.
Eugenia, who went by Jean, was born June 16, 1914 in Montclair, N.J. to parents Eugenia and Paul Fischer.
Her father, Paul Fischer, was an attorney. Her mother, Eugenia McChesney Fischer, died in 1920 during the influenza epidemic, leaving Jean and her younger sister Madeline (Madge) motherless as infants. She and her sister were greatly cared for by her mother’s brother, John McChesney, Aunt Molly and sisters Madeline and Mabel McChesney and her husband Bob Thompson. These relatives became Jean and Madge’s surrogate parents throughout their young adult and college years.
Jean graduated from the prestigious women’s school Emma Willard in Troy, N.Y. in 1933. She graduated from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. in 1937 with a BS in art. She taught art at the Mills School in New York city briefly, then married her husband, Col. Alvar (Red) B. Sundin, after his graduation from West Point in 1938.
Madge was also married to a 1938 West Point graduate, Donald G. Williams, in the same period after his graduation.
Jean received an outstanding education and gained a global perspective about other countries from frequent travels to Europe during her summer breaks from both high school and college. When not travelling in the summer months, she attended Camp Wyonegonic in Denmark, Me. both as a student and counselor. She gained an appreciation for nature, which she later used in her paintings and artwork. She was very athletic and participated in all sports, and demonstrated her leadership skills as a camp counselor by teaching the younger girls many outdoors activities and sports.
The trauma of losing her mother at such an early age instilled in her a character of independence, self-reliance and determination to pursue and graduate from college, which was unusual for women at that time. She won many artistic and acting awards at Emma Willard and Skidmore College, and starred in many plays and theatre events at Skidmore. In 1936 and was crowned the Winter Carnival Queen.
After her marriage to Red, she accompanied him all over the world for the next 27 years as a loyal Army wife and raised four children: Eugenia, Allan, Eric and John.
While her husband was overseas for the duration of World War II, from November 1942 to July 1945, she lived in New Bedford and Mattapoisett, raising two young children, Eugenia and Allan, and awaiting his return from the heavy fighting in North Africa, Italy and Europe. He was a young Division Operations Officer G-3 with the 9th Infantry Division for the pivotal battles in Morocco during the North Africa Torch Invasion and the final Tunisia and Sicilian campaigns battles, which led to the Nazi Germans defeat. As a youthful 27-year-old battalion commander during the Normandy invasion, he was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action, the nation’s third highest award for valor. He was also awarded eight battle stars.
Jean studied art and exhibited her paintings throughout the family’s many duty stations, including in Washington D.C.; West Point, while Red was assigned there as an instructor; Salzburg and Vienna, Austria; Carlisle, Pa.,; Fort Monroe, Va.; Charleston, S.C.; Martha’s Vineyard and many other locations in which she has lived. Always independent, when the family lived in Vienna, Austria she would commute from the American sector to the heavily-guarded Russian sector to study sculpture.
While Red was stationed in Korea, the family lived in Arlington, Va. There she earned her real estate license and kept busy selling houses until his return a year later.
After her husband retired from the U.S. Army in 1966, they moved to Charleston, S.C., where he worked at The Citadel as the dean of cadet affairs and director of administration for the college. Jean continued to study art and sculpture in Charleston and was an active exhibiting member of many artist guilds and galleries in Charleston. She was president of the Charleston Artist Guild in 1989.
During the summer months they traveled to Martha’s Vineyard to vacation at the family cottage in West Tisbury on the Vineyard Sound shore near Lake Tashmoo. Her Aunt Madeline bought the cottage in 1950 and left it to Jean.
Red died on July 3, 1981. Jean remained in Charleston, but made frequent visits to Melbourne, Fla., Virginia Beach and Martha’s Vineyard to visit family and friends. She was affectionately called “Meme” and looked 20 years younger than her age — always beautiful at any event and the life of the party.
In April 1994 she married one of Red’s West Point classmates, retired lieutenant general (Bert) Bertram C. Harrison of the U.S. Air Force. They traveled extensively around the world and lived in Mount Pleasant, S.C.; Melbourne, Fla. and Martha’s Vineyard. Bert died in December 2009.
Her entire life Jean was a model mother, homemaker, cook devoted to her children and husband.
She is survived by her daughter Jean and husband Austin of Conway Melbourne, Fla.; sons Dr. Allan Sundin and wife Betty of Virginia Beach, VA, Eric Sundin and wife Nancy of Richmond, Va., and Dr. John Sundin and wife Kathryn of Jefferson, N.C. She is also survived by seven grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Westminster Canterbury Foundation, 1660 Westbrook avenue, Richmond, VA 23286.
Chapel Services were held Jan. 11 at the West Point Old Chapel, with interment in the cemetery alongside her husband, Col. Alvar B. Sundin. A reception was held at the West Point Officers Club.