Anita Ober, who had had a house in Springs since the late 1960s, died in Philadelphia at the Hahnemann University Hospital on Feb. 2 at the age of 81. She had been in deteriorating health for some time, suffering from Parkinson’s Disease as well as diabetes.
Ms. Ober was born out of wedlock to two teenagers, both 15 years old, in Mannheim, Germany, on Aug. 24, 1935. She never knew who her birth father was while he was alive. Her childhood was difficult, according to Mickey Rowley, a close friend whom Ms. Ober considered a stepson. Hitler and the Nazi Party had taken over Germany two years before her birth; she was 4 years old at the outset of World War II. From 1940 until Germany’s surrender in 1945, Mannheim was the target of more than 150 bombing raids by the Allies. Blackouts and explosions were an ongoing reality for her during those childhood years.
She was raised first by her mother’s parents, then was adopted by her birth mother, Anita, and her mother’s new husband, Aleksandar Ober, shortly after the war. While she had been very close to her grandparents, she was extremely unhappy with her new family. Later, she researched the life of her birth father, Peter Fuchs, found out where he was buried, and obtained a picture of the grave, which she displayed in her house until the end.
Ms. Ober frequently told Mr. Rowley that she had only 50 cents in her pocket when she immigrated to the United States in 1962. Then 27 years old, she initially worked as a domestic helper, cooking and cleaning. She eventually took a job as an administrative assistant for the German chemical company BASF. She then moved on to another German corporation, Henkel Chemical, where she remained until her retirement in 1994. She had risen to the position of vice president and chief operating officer in Henkel’s U.S. division, headquartered on Madison Avenue. She was responsible for all travel arrangements for the company’s employees, and traveled the world frequently, something she enjoyed.
She developed a close relationship with a fellow German, Gotfried Durr. That relationship lasted 16 years, ending in 1992, with Mr. Durr moving back to Germany.
She began coming to Springs in about 1967 or 1968, while keeping an apartment in Manhattan. She loved speculating on properties in Springs. She bought one property in the late 1960s, then another. The second was a house under construction on Manor Lane. She eventually sold both properties at a handsome profit. After her breakup with Mr. Durr, she decided to retire from the business world, and purchased land on Woodcrest Drive, personally designing a new house there. Before she bought the land, she had Mr. Rowley climb a tree to see if there was a view of the harbor. There was.
“She loved walking on the beach,” Mr. Rowley said. She enjoyed reading, and loved to cook. She would go to the farm stands and to Stuart’s Fish Market in Amagansett to shop, and took it personally if one did not stay for dinner. She was a volunteer for many years at Guild Hall in East Hampton.
In her will, she left large gifts to Guild Hall, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Doctors Without Borders, and various smaller nonprofits, as well as bequests to an artist friend and a woman who had helped her with household chores.
A celebration of her life will be held at Ashawagh Hall in Springs this summer, when a memorial bench is installed. Mr. Rowley suggested that those interested in participating might visit the “Remembering Anita Ober” Facebook page for updates and further details.