Valerie Elsa Henrich (nee Kuhn) passed away peacefully at her home on March 23, 2022. Valerie was born on September 22, 1924, the daughter of Marie Kuhn and Adolf Kaller, in the village of Kunzendorf, Czecholavakia in the region also known as the Sudetenland. Valerie started her schooling in the village and when older continued her education at a school in the city of Opava (formerly Troppau) where she was an excellent and diligent student through the 8th grade. As high school was not the norm, she completed courses in shorthand and bookkeeping to prepare for an apprenticeship in a department store. During the school year, she lived in a boarding room in Opava and in the summers she returned to Kunzendorf to work on her stepfather’s farm. The 1938 annexation of the Sudetenland by the Third Reich brought turmoil and instability to the region, and the final battles of World War II in May, 1945 brought Russian army occupiers to her home village. Valerie and her cousins lived in the fields and forests surrounding the village through the summer of that year to avoid the horrors brought by the Russian victors. Valerie was then assigned to a commune farm by the Czech government. She did not stay long as she seized an opportunity to escape. She managed to survive several dangerous situations and hiked through mountains back to her village when she learned she and her family would be expelled in July,1946. In a memoir she wrote 40 years ago but only shared in recent years, Valerie reflected about her forced expulsion and asked: What would have happened had I not taken my fate in my own hands? Given her vocational skills, she was quickly hired to assist a local doctor in her new home, Frankenberg, Germany, and thereby provided support for her mother, grandmother, and three younger siblings. Soon after, she was hired to work in the de-Nazification office and promoted to the main de-Nazification office in Wiesbaden, Germany, where the American military occupation government was headquartered.
Two years later, she met a young American soldier, Vincent Henrich, who treated her with great respect and won her heart. They were married on May 9, 1953 in Wiesbaden and came back to Alexandria, Virginia in September. They started a family while he was assigned to work in the Pentagon. She moved to Houston, Texas with her two sons, Vincent III and Gary to stay with Vincent’s family while he served in Thule, Greenland. When he returned, they moved again to Albuquerque, New Mexico where they had two more children, David, who died in infancy, and Jenny. Valerie enjoyed New Mexico and learned to work with ceramics. She and her husband enjoyed square dancing, family day trips, and short vacations to sites such as the Grand Canyon. Mr. Henrich retired from the US Air Force in 1964 and the family moved to Sidney, Ohio and then Vandalia where they continued to raise their family.
Valerie never worked outside the home after marrying Vincent, at his request, but her business sense and ability to manage a budget and look after the daily logistics of a household proved to be essential for the family’s wellbeing. She also was a woman of Faith and relied upon the teachings of the Bible for herself and for her family. Her favorite book in the Bible was James and reflected Valerie’s belief that the strength of her Faith was measured by her actions. All three of their children graduated from college – a source of great pride to her. With her children reaching adulthood, Valerie finally had the time to pursue her talents and interests. She learned to play golf at the Cassel Hills Golf Course in Vandalia and started painting seriously, a passion she had long deferred despite her interest in the arts. She rarely sold her work though she had numerous offers and created well over 200 works, a number of which won awards and were displayed at various art shows in the Dayton area.
Valerie and Vincent enjoyed traveling around the United States as well as Europe and North Africa. Throughout her life, Valerie was interested in politics and history, based largely on her wartime experiences as a teenager and young adult. She continued to stay interested and engaged until her final days.
She is preceded in death by her parents, her half-sister Christl Hajek, her son David, and her husband Vincent.
Valerie is survived by her half-siblings Gerlinde Korn and Rudi Hajek, both of Frankenberg, Germany; three children, Vincent Henrich III, Gary (Linda) Henrich, and Jenny (David) Burns; grandchildren Melanie Henrich, Evan (Liz) Henrich, Larissa Henrich, Steven Henrich, Eric (Kim) Burns, Andrew (Brittany) Burns, and Laura Burns; two great-grandchildren Raina Henrich and Abigail Burns and many nieces and nephews.
To those who survive her, she is remembered as talented, determined, hard-working, smart, perpetually active, and fun. A German nephew said she was a pioneer to her German relatives – all descriptions indicate a dynamic, vibrant life. Valerie’s and Vincent’s ashes will be interred at the National Cemetery at Fort Logan National Cemetery, Colorado, alongside their son, David. A memorial service will be held at Hodapp Funeral Home on Columbus-Cincinnati Rd. West Chester, OH 45069, on Monday, April 4th. Visitation from 11AM-noon with a service following immediately after.