Berit M. Hattendorf | Newport this week
Berit M. Hattendorf, 79, died surrounded by her loving family at her home of 92 Rhode Island Avenue, Newport, after a series of illnesses lasting several years, on May 10, 2021.
She is survived by her 43-year-old husband, Naval War College Professor Emeritus John B. Hattendorf, and their three daughters: Kristina Nasser and her husband Tommy of Middletown; Ingrid Peters and her husband Jason, of Newport, Anna Hattendorf and her husband Frank Doyle of Newport; seven grandchildren: Hannah and Max Nasser, Hazel and Olivia Peters, Freja, Porter and Levi Doyle. In addition, his brother, Emeritus Professor of Neonatology at Vanderbilt University, Håkan Sundell, MD, of Nashville, Tennessee, and his children: Erik Sundell, MD, and his wife Jennifer of New Orleans; Ann-Kristen Sundell, MD, and her husband Erik Christensen of Olympia, Washington; Alan Sundell and his wife, Dr Rebecca Starr of Singapore; his niece and nephew, Dr. Kim Skyelander of Loveland, Colorado, and William H. Hattendorf III of Onekama, Michigan. In addition, her many cousins from Sweden and England with whom she remained in close contact throughout her life,
Berit was born on November 6, 1941 in Stockholm, Sweden, to Gunnar and Ia (Sandell) Sundell. Raised in Stockholm, where her father was editor of the moderate daily, Stockholms Tidningen, she dated Franska Skolan and Viggbyholmskolan in Stockholm. She then obtained her qualifications as a dental assistant at Tandläkarhögskolan, which is part of the Karolinska Institute.
Born on the anniversary of the Battle of Lützen in 1632 and the death of King Gustavus II Adolphus⸺ on a day when Swedes traditionally display their national flag, she has developed a natural affinity for Swedish tradition. She always made sure that the flag flies for her on her birthday. She grew up in an apartment on Scheelegatan in Kungsholmen, opposite the city courthouse, Rådhuset, and within walking distance of downtown Stockholm. At the height of World War II, when Nazi forces threatened to attack neutral Sweden, she traveled with her mother and brother to her maternal grandparents’ farm, Näs Gård, in Hubbo near Västerås, in Västmanland. That 18e-century herrgård was for her an emblematic place at the center of the Sandell family, who lived there for more than a century. Throughout her life, she often returned to Näs. There she found inspiration to carry on many Swedish family traditions from her youth, from Name Day celebrations to snapsvisor (aquavit drinking songs), holiday traditions and much more. Decorating her home for Sankta Lucia, Swedish Christmas Eve and Easter Eve were her delicacies, as well as producing traditional dishes on these occasions.
During her teenage years, she spent the summers at the family chalet in Älgö in the Stockholm archipelago. For a time she was a junior member of the Royal Swedish Sailing Club (KSSS). During these years she accompanied her parents on vacation to San Marino and particularly loved the Adriatic beaches in Rimini. As a teenager, she traveled to England twice to improve her English.
In 1965, after completing her studies, she followed her brother to the United States, a pediatric resident at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She got a green card to stay in the United States. She found her first job at Marquette Dental School as a dental assistant. She later lived in St. Louis, Missouri; Charleston, South Carolina and Annapolis, Maryland, before moving to Rhode Island in 1975.
While visiting the Bicentennial Tall Ships in Newport in 1976, she volunteered to be a translator for the Royal Swedish Navy sail training crew. Falken and Gladen during their visit to the port. Around the same time, she started working at Jean Babcock’s brick market shop, Iron and Pine, and continued there for many years. At the Swedish America’s Cup Challenge in Newport in 1980, she was thrilled to be one of the Swedish women from Newport who donned their folk dresses to meet the King and Queen of Sweden upon their arrival at the Newport Airport and to be included in some of the social events during the Royal Tour. Most memorable, she got to speak at length to her teenage idol, Swedish singer and folk actor, Sven-Bertil Taube.
After her marriage to Trinity Church, Newport, Rhode Island, in 1978, Berit became an active member of the Civilian Brides Club at Naval War College. She was particularly interested in the Christmas tree decorating contest and helping to raise money for the club’s scholarship program. Beginning in 1984, Berit and his family became regular sponsors for the families of international officers attending the Naval Command and Naval Staff Colleges at Naval War College. They continued for over two decades. Through her own experience as a foreign national and permanent resident of the United States, she easily understood the issues facing naval officers and their families. She helped them face the new challenges they faced during their year in America. She warmly welcomed students of War College from many countries, including Egypt, Germany, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Singapore and the United Kingdom to her home. She felt a special responsibility towards the Swedish officers attending the Naval War College, which several Swedish naval chiefs personally reinforced, encouraging her continued devotion. Many of these student officers became longtime friends and penpals.
She became interested in the local history of Newport, whose rocky coast and 18th-century wooden buildings reminded her of Sweden. Among her many interests, she has developed two successful projects. When Nancy Bredbeck recruited Berit to teach and guide at the Newport Art Museum, she became particularly interested in the art and artists associated with Newport. As part of her training as a museum educator, she undertook a study on “Newport’s First Woman Portrait Painter: Jane Stuart”. The Newport Historical Society has published his work in History of Newport (1995). Another project centered on his favorite children’s Christmas poem: “Night before Christmas” by Clement C. Moore. Moore had been a summer resident of Newport. She especially enjoyed several opportunities to be a “house keeper” when the former Catherine Street home in Moore was open for Christmas visitation in Newport. Berit began collecting various editions, parodies, and ephemera related to the night before Christmas, eventually racking up nearly 400 items. She exhibited a selection from her collection at the Redwood Library and hosted the opening reception for library members.
A passionate gardener, she usually spent hours every day tending her garden at home. In 2000, the Newport Garden Club elected her a member. She greatly appreciated her many friends among her members. She has served on several club committees, particularly enjoying the work of documenting some private gardens in Newport for the Smithsonian Institution.
With the development of the digital camera, Berit became an avid photographer, spending long hours at CVS printing her photos. She has organized her photos into albums, booklets and even shoebox shelves that have recorded the growth of her family and their businesses as well as her many travels.
Berit loved to travel. She has brought her family back to Sweden on many trips and accompanied her husband on several of his business trips which have often taken them to Britain. She really enjoyed the Lake Michigan beach and forest trails during the annual vacation at the Hattendorf Family Cabin in Portage Point near Onekama, Michigan. In addition, she visited all the countries of Western Europe as well as India, Israel and Peru. She became interested in ceramics. Porcelain from Sweden and Germany, earthenware from Quimper in France and Portugal, and hand-painted tiles from Delft in Holland decorated his home.
From 1981 to 1983, she and her family lived in Singapore. She became fascinated by the Chinese culture of the Strait, the workers of Samsui with their red bandanas and the different ethnic communities of the city-state. She was involved in activities at St George’s Anglican Church in Tanglin, and in the social life of the diplomatic community in Singapore, particularly valuing her friendships through the Swedish Embassy.
In 1990-91, she made a comfortable temporary home in Bad Krozingen, near Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany, as part of a 13-month exchange program during the dramatic year of reunification. German. Berit especially appreciated the unique opportunity to travel extensively within Germany during this time, including visiting places that were once part of the Swedish Empire in the 17e century. Several places she visited still had Soviet occupation troops present. She showed her fearlessness by exercising her Swedish neutrality in the trading rooms for the night. In Dresden, the reconstruction of the Frauenkirche, which she initially saw as a complete ruin, has become a recurring interest for her. Later, in 2001-2002, she created a nice home in the Jericho section of Oxford, England. During this time, she became an active member of the College Spouses Club, which introduced her to many unusual features of Oxford and the surrounding area.
For more than four decades, she has enabled her husband’s academic career through his insightful and patient understanding of the intellectual and professional needs of an academic. She was an efficient and diplomatic hostess to students, academics and senior naval officers. At the same time, she developed her skills and interests as a distinctive and much loved individual who conversed as easily with princes and dukes as with ordinary academics or sailors and laborers and laborers.
A funeral will be held at Trinity Church, Newport at 10 a.m. on Saturday May 22. His ashes will be buried in Trinity Cemetery, Portsmouth, Rhode Island, and with his parents and paternal grandparents in the EW Sundell family, Östra Kyrkogården, Västerås, Sweden. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in his memory to the Newport Garden Club, the Newport Public Education Foundation, and the Naval War College Foundation (for the Hattendorf Prize Endowment Fund).