24 April 1911 – 13 February 2018
In 1911, the Garuda was adopted as Thailand’s national emblem, scouting made its debut in the kingdom, and HM King Vajiravudh, Rama VI, became the first King of Siam to fly in an airplane.
It was also the year Herta Rommel was born, on 24 April – half a world away in Germany. Herta grew up the daughter of a merchant. When she was little the family moved to Zurich, Switzerland, where she went to school, high school and later studied psychology at the University.
After she finished her studies she married Hermann Pilz, with whom she later moved to Bad Cannstadt in Germany. She gave birth to two children: son Peter and daughter Christel.
Together with her first husband, she started a blown-glass factory that later morphed into the famous electronic company Pilz GmbH & Co. KG., currently run by her daughter-in-law. She worked there for 20 years as what she called a “utility woman”. Eventually control of the company was turned over to her son Peter. But when he died in an airplane crash, her daughter in law Renate brought the company to new heights.
After her second husband, her puppy love Mr. Rommel died, Herta moved to Pattaya to live with her daughter Christel.
For Herta Rommel, living until just before your 107th birthday was easy: Just live one day at a time and don’t worry about your age, she said.
“One has to take life as it comes and never should think or be worried about anything, stay away from stress, keep mentally active and eat healthy food as well,” she told the Pattaya Mail at her 100th birthday gala at the Royal Cliff Hotel in 2011.
Longevity ran in the family. Rommel’s father lived to age 105. And, unlike the centenarians she envisioned when she was younger, Rommel remained active in body and mind. She was an avid reader and learned to use a computer at age 94. At 104, she got on Facebook and wrote her own emails, chatted with friends all over the world and kept up-to date on the news.
“I often wonder where the time has gone. After reading the Bangkok Post and Pattaya Blatt, I like watching German news on the internet. I only have a few close friends and I don’t need more. I enjoy nature, our dogs, watching the birds, frogs and the geckos. I read a lot, call friends in other countries via Skype and I’m doing crossword puzzles,” she said in the 2011 interview.
While she used a walker to get around, she was no homebody and often went out with her daughter.
“I just have to take care to not stumble over my dog Uschi,” she chuckled in 2011, noting she took the pooch out for a walk every day at 6:30 a.m.
But she never lost her sense of humor, her charm, her sweet smile or her willpower and wisdom, and was always eager to learn something new.
“Nobody,” she said in a 2015 interview at her 104th birthday party, “is ever too old to learn new things.”
Herta Rommel passed away Feb. 13 in the same Pattaya apartment she’d occupied for 20 years. She is survived by her Pattaya-resident daughter, Christel.