Franziska I. Stein
Franziska Stein died on December 15, 2021, at her home in Reston, VA, with her family at her side just a few days before her 99th birthday. Born near Karlsbad, Czechoslovakia, Franziska enjoyed a perfect childhood playing in the mountains near her home. But in 1939, when she was 17 years old, World War II began. From this moment onward, she lost the freedom to chart her own destiny. She served as a nurse in the Red Cross during the war and met her husband George, who was her patient. They married in 1942.
Expelled from her homeland in 1945, she made her way to the devastated city of Berlin with her young daughter and a knapsack on her back, not knowing if her in-laws were still alive, or if her husband or father would return from the war on the Eastern Front. Luckily, they were all united shortly thereafter.
Unfortunately, when WWII ended, the Cold War began, and Berlin was on the front lines of this ideological conflict. The unending daily struggle to survive eventually became intolerable for her and her family. They decided to immigrate to Colombia, South America. While running a hotel in Cali, Franziska blossomed as she embraced the rich culture, history, and geography of her new home. She also began a 40-year long “temp” job assisting more than 4,000 victims of the Nazi Regime obtain compensation for the losses they suffered.
Immigrating to America in the mid-1960s, she and George settled in the small town of Lyons, Colorado, founding and operating the iconic Black Bear Inn restaurant there until 1977. Later she opened the restaurant Franziska’s and F&B Art Gallery on Terry Street in Longmont. In Colorado she came face-to-face with cowboys, rattlesnakes, celebrities, and the Cold War. But America was not home, and the reunification in 1990 provided a reason to return to Germany.
Throughout her life, people and events weaved Franziska’s story together across continents, and a vigilant guardian angel by her side gave her courage in the bleakest of times. This remarkable woman prevailed through it all and published her autobiography “Chopin Through the Window” in 2018. A New edition from Word House books will be out in early 2022.
She did not think she led a good life, having suffered so much during the war, and in many ways, even more during the peace that followed. For sure she did not have an easy life. But she retained a strong sense of humor, optimism, joyfulness, and an amazing ability to collect friends wherever she went.
She is survived by her granddaughter Amy Crews Cutts, and great grandson Andrew Cutts of Reston, VA; as well as her “adopted” granddaughters Karen Crews Gregg of Lyons, CO and Brenda Crews Martinez of Highlands Ranch, CO, and their families.
The building on Main Street was remodeled into a restaurant in 1973 by George and Franziska Stein. The couple also established the name, Black Bear Inn, and popular cuisine. In 1977, Hans and Annalies Wyppler bought the restaurant. They brought an international flair to the Inn with a focus on Swiss-Bavarian food, and a Mobil four-star restaurant rating. After the 2013 flood damage, the building was sold to Tracey Barber who remodeled the building, and expanded her Lyons Quilting business.