Trudy Sellers’ story:

A new life, many times over

Created date

March 10th, 2020
Trudy Sellers is pictured here in her home at Ann's Choice. Trudy wears glasses and red top, with a golden broach on her left shoulder.

Trudy Sellers found the perfect mix of socialization, creative outlets, and peace of mind when she moved to Ann's Choice. 

Trudy Sellers is upbeat, charming, and very busy. Her lilting German accent punctuates her conversation. From her sunny attitude, you’d never suspect how painful her childhood was. Like so many of her compatriots born before or during WWII, her life was filled with trauma. 

She was born in Memel, a small town in the former East Prussia, in 1937. When the war started, her father was drafted into the German army. After the Russians moved into Germany on the Eastern Front, she, her mother, and younger brother fled, first to Leipzig, then to Dortmund. 

Her voice quavers as she recalls that first flight: “I remember being six. My father was gone, and we were told we had to leave. Mother took her best rug, rolled it up, and put it in a closet with the only doll I ever had. She said, ‘I’m putting it in here, and when we come back, you can play with it again.’ Of course, we never came back. My entire life, I wished I could walk into the closet and see that dolly again.”

They spent the difficult post-war years in Dortmund. Her father died in battle, and her younger brother died of diphtheria. At the urging of her mother’s sister, and with assistance from their church, they emigrated to America when Trudy was 17. They settled in Philadelphia to be near her aunt and began piecing together a new life.

Starting over

A talented baker, Trudy found work in a bakery and spent her career in retail bake shops. Her husband Alvin, an army veteran, was also a baker; they spent many happy years together raising four children. They lived in a three-story home outside Philadelphia. 

After Alvin passed away, her children were busy raising their families, so Trudy cut the grass and shoveled the snow herself. “I enjoyed it, because work is my relaxation,” she says. “But my kids insisted, ‘Mom, you should think about going into something smaller,’ and I agreed.” 

Every house she and her daughter Marion saw wasn’t quite right, so they started looking at senior living communities. “None was my fit,” Trudy says. “Too many people sitting around doing nothing. That didn’t work for me. I’m too active.” That was until they found Ann’s Choice in 2015.

She loved the light, airy public spaces, the spacious Brighton model, and how friendly everyone was. “There is joy living at Ann’s Choice,” she says. “Even people you don’t know say hello. I like that, and I can do whatever I want to do.”

A variety of activities keep Trudy extremely busy. “Every second of my day is spent working in one way or another. It’s how I was raised,” she says. She never misses a meeting of the German club, which has more than 60 members. “We see films, chitchat, sing, and share travel photos. I really enjoy it.” 

She keeps her knitting and crocheting skills sharp with the Keystone Crafters. She is active in her church, and also sings in the German club and Ann’s Choice choirs. For several years she volunteered at the Rose Garden. 

Says Trudy, “My children are so happy that I live in Ann’s Choice. I’m safe and secure, and I’m never bored. If something needs repairs, all I do is call. I feel happy and free from the duties I used to have.”

Making peace with the past

After she came to America, Trudy never spoke of her childhood during the war. “I wanted to forget the past and build a new future,” she says. Then, on September 11, 2001, as she watched the Twin Towers fall, terrible memories overwhelmed her.

“Seeing those planes shocked me so badly. I was terrified another war was coming,” she says, choking with emotion. “I felt it was time to let my family know. I opened up to my daughter about my childhood, and she wrote down everything. It was such a relief to finally let it out.”

In 2003, Marion accompanied Trudy to Germany. The visit provided a mix of joy and sadness; above all, it gave Trudy a sense of closure. In Memel, the house where she was born still stood. So did the bunkers where she hid during air raids. 

“When I saw the bunkers, my face went white as snow,” she recalls, “but I wasn’t scared anymore. I could show Marion what I went through as a child, and it helped me finally make peace with what happened during the war.” 

Trudy is grateful to her adopted country, and to her husband and children, for giving her a fresh start and a wonderful life. She says, “Now, this new chapter at Ann’s Choice is everything I could have wished for.”

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