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Herma’s prolonged period of suffering ended on October 25, 2011.

Herma was born to Leo and Hermine Pirker on May 1, 1926 in Vienna, Austria, and never lost her affinity for the cosmopolitan life that shaped her. Identified early as a gifted student, she ultimately earned a Ph.D. in History from the University of Vienna. She not only studied history; she experienced history through the turbulence of the Second World War: air raids, the battle for Vienna between the German and Russian armies, the subsequent starvation, a partially bombed apartment, and the brutalities of a half-year-long Soviet occupation. Her fiancé, Ernst Breisach, suffered a serious wound and frostbite at the Russian front. With love and dedication in the midst of the aftermath of a brutal war, Herma and Ernst married on August 2, 1945.

The desire for a more secure future motivated them to build a new life in America, emigrating to the United States on January 1, 1953. Although separated from family, they embraced their new homeland, and Herma’s regular monthly letters helped bridge the geographic distance for decades. Her determination, resiliency, and legendary thrift helped the couple establish strong roots for this new branch of the family tree, which grew to include daughter Nora Sylvia and son Eric Ernst. Herma brought to motherhood much love, encouragement, and an unwavering expectation of excellent effort.

Once her children had a good start in school, Herma sought employment to help secure the family finances against uncertainty. Fully qualified to teach at the university level, employment policies of the time did not permit spouses to teach in the same department. Herma earned a Master’s Degree in Library Science in 1967. She capably headed the WMU Waldo Library Serials Department for 23 years until retiring in 1989.

Herma remained a dedicated mother, an avid traveler, and a gifted crafter. She was an exceptional seamstress and no machine could produce more beautifully knitted garments. The family grew with the birth of grandchildren and their establishment of families. Her passing is mourned by her husband of 66 years, Ernst; daughter Nora (Rodger Brannan) of Duluth, MN; and son Eric (Tobi) of Kalamazoo; grandchildren Patrick (Becky) Brannan, Joseph Brannan, Stephen Brannan, Michael Brannan, Ryan (Carrie) Breisach, Jeffrey (Danielle) Breisach, Kristi Breisach, and Stephen (Allison) Breisach. As one of her last joys, Herma was able to hold great-grandson Evan Breisach and she was thrilled to learn that the great-grandchild expected by Ryan and Carrie is a girl.

The family expresses profound gratitude to the Rose Arbor Hospice staff for the love and care shown to her and the entire family, and for the pastoral care of the Rev. Dr. Randall Warren. St. Luke’s Episcopal Church (247 W. Lovell Street, Kalamazoo, Michigan) will host the visitation on Friday, November 4 from 5:00 – 8:00 PM. The funeral liturgy will be celebrated at St. Luke’s on Saturday, November 5 at 1:00 PM, followed by a reception in the parish hall. Memorial gifts to Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan are appreciated. Arrangements are being handled by Michigan Cremation Company.


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2 Condolences

  1. Anonymous on October 27, 2011 at 12:13 pm


  2. Julie and Phil Kechele on October 28, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    Nora, Eric and your families –
    So sorry for your loss. You are in our prayers. We hope that you will find peace in memories of happy times as a family. Love, Julie and Phil

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