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Erika Wolff Guttentag

Posted By Hall-Wynne On March 8, 2019 @ 9:32 am In Durham,Obituaries | 5 Comments

Erika Wolff Guttentag, 102, a beloved mother, grandmother and friend, died Sunday at The Forest at Duke in her adopted home of Durham, NC

Born in Germany, Mrs. Guttentag lived long enough to have traveled by horse-drawn carriage in the one-time province of Pomerania and to have taught computer skills in the Bay Area of California, where she lived for nearly fifty years.

Mrs. Guttentag was born in Danzig, a city once in Germany and now Gdansk, Poland. She and her sister, the late Ursula Wolff, were raised in nearby Stettin by their mother, who ran a small private school in their home.

As a young woman Mrs. Guttentag survived Nazi oppression in wartime Germany, worked for the Red Cross, and after the war married Dr. Otto Guttentag. The medical ethics pioneer had fled Germany in 1933, meeting his wife-to-be when he returned in 1945 as a U.S. citizen and captain in the U.S. Army Medical Corps.

Together they embarked on a new life in the United States, where Dr. Guttentag was on the medical school faculty at the University of California, San Francisco. They raised three children in Piedmont, a town across the San Francisco Bay located near Berkeley.

Mrs. Guttentag adored being a wife and mother, pursuits she executed with energy, commitment and love, never shying from sharing frank opinions and sly humor throughout her life.

She loved the opera and embraced American traditions such as avidly rooting for the San Francisco 49ers. She also infused her American home with traditions from her birthplace, speaking German with her family, placing candles on Christmas trees and baking seven-layer birthday cakes she first tasted as a child at a family friend’s estate in Pomerania.

After her younger son reached high school, Mrs. Guttentag started a second career, teaching German at The College Preparatory School in Oakland for 19 years. Later she volunteered to teach computer skills at a senior center in Berkeley. After moving to Durham in 2001, she tutored her grandchild on the complexities of Latin grammar and making Stollen, the German Christmas sweetbread.

Otto Guttentag died at home in Piedmont in 1992, under Mrs. Guttentag’s care. She is survived by her daughter, Maria Parker and her husband Rod Parker of Durham, NC; her son, Lucas Guttentag, his wife Debbie Smith, of Albany, CA, and their sons Ben Goldenson and Nick Goldenson (and his wife Ye-Hui Lu), of Los Angeles and San Diego respectively; and her son Christoph Guttentag, his wife, Cathy Clabby, and their child Eren Guttentag, of Durham, NC. She is also survived by cousin Helga Rolfsmeyer-Dingemann in Germany and other extended family members.

In lieu of flowers, family members request donations be made to Book Harvest, a Durham nonprofit that puts books in the hands of children across central North Carolina

Condolences for the family of “Erika Wolff Guttentag”

Condolence from Leslie Seldin on March 10th, 2019 11:02 pm

Dear Guttentags — I offer heartfelt condolences to you all. Erika is sorely missed. As a friend of hers since 1997, when we first met on a two-week trip to Turkey, I remember her as the heart of the group. Her generous spirit was something we were all drawn to. She began dinner with dessert and soon everyone followed suit. Erika was a natural leader by being herself. Her unapologetic love of the Royal family, her voracious curiosity and love of travel made her wonderful company. I’m so grateful to have known her and through her to have met some of you, whom I also hold dear. Warm thoughts to all.

Condolence from Christal on March 11th, 2019 3:25 pm

Christoph & Cathy & Erin~
Deepest condolences to you all for the loss of this wonderful family member. Erin spoke often of her & her love for her grandmother.
Love to you all at this time of sorrow.

Condolence from Elicia on March 11th, 2019 11:44 pm

Mrs. Guttentag family:
Please accept my sincere sympathy for the loss of your dear beloved mother and grandmother, Erika. Mrs. Guttentag was a very unique person. I enjoyed her company as much as you all have. She was a very gifted person; she taught me how to knit at the age of 100 years. She enlightened me about her history in Germany and her life in the US.. She was truly a wonderful person in every way.

My love to all of you during this difficult time.


Condolence from Carol Reynolds Wynn, RN, BSN on March 12th, 2019 8:12 am

What a tremendous loss to your family. Mrs. Guttentag was one of my favorite patients at The Forest at Duke, and a beloved member of the community. I will always cherish our lunches out and her remarkable sense of humor. She was truly a blessing in my life and I will never forget her. May your memories bring you peace and comfort today and in the days to come.

Condolence from Mundi on April 28th, 2019 11:23 am

Dear Maria, Lukas and Christoph. Very sad to hear from Richard this morning that you have lost your mother.. How many wonderful memories connect me with your parents.I still miss the happy visits to Piedmont,your house ,the trips to the City and the many inspiring conversations. I will convey the sad news of Erikas’s passing to my children and we all send yo our deepest sympathy. Your cousin Mundi..Mundi

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