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Posens celebrate 70 years, with a big dash of Sanibel sprinkled in

By Staff | Mar 10, 2015

For the last 70 years, Warner and Susan Posen have had a lifetime of memorable experiences, but one thing has remained consistent – they have done it together.

Although this June marks the Posens’ 70th wedding anniversary, they will be having family coming to their Sanibel timeshare complex this week to celebrate the life milestone. Sanibel has been a special place for the Posens, who discovered the vacation paradise in 1974 and have come back every year since from their usual home in New York.

“We fell in love with the island because it was so different, there were no high-rises or busy developments. We just loved Ding Darling refuge, too,” Susan Posen said.

For the last 41 years, the Posens have vacationed to Sanibel, where they eventually bought a timeshare in 1976 at a condo near the lighthouse on Point Ybel. All of it was purely by chance.

“My brother and his wife were down and I brought them to the lighthouse, and here there was a timeshare (condo) being built near it,” Susan said. “We had never heard of a timeshare, because it was a new concept. But that’s what we bought and the next year, the building was finished being built.”

But like every person the Posens’ age, World War II had a great affect on their earlier lives and it even directed their paths to cross, which eventually led to a blossoming family and a lifelong marriage.

Each of Warner and Susan spent their youths in Holland, with Warner being born in Berlin, Germany. His family moved to Holland in 1932 when Warner was a young lad.

In September of 1939, the war in Europe erupted, as Germany started their march across the continent, invading country after country. Holland was soon in the Nazis’ crosshairs.

“Everything was pointing in that direction (a German attack), because Norway had already been invaded,” Warner said.

Warner’s family was able to secure exit visas at an early time before the Germans attacked Holland. The family moved to Suriname, South America, where they secured their U.S. visas, took a two-week coastal steamer to Trinidad, South America, then flew a Pan Am flight to New York.

“It was around the time Pan Am just started flying clippers, which land on water,” Warner said.

Once the war broke out, exit visas were difficult to obtained, as Susan’s family found out. On the week of the German invasion of Holland, Susan’s parents happened to be in southern France.

“We were going to meet my parents in Paris, but on the exact day I was suppose to leave, the Germans came the night before,” Susan said. “We couldn’t leave and my parents couldn’t get back.”

During the night of May 9, the Germans parachuted in all over Holland. The battle for Holland lasted five days, before the Dutch surrendered, because the Nazis completely destroyed Rotterdam with their bombs and threatened to do the same to Amsterdam.

Susan’s parents were advised to use their exit visas, but had to do so without taking their three children Lou, Susan and Rudi.

Unfortunately at the time, Susan’s father was gravely ill and passed away en route to New York City, while the three siblings were still staying with family in Holland.

After a few months, the siblings were able to secure their exit visas, but the southern route to the Atlantic Ocean was unaccessible, due to the war.

Lou (19 years old at the time), Susan (16) and Rudi (12) set off on their own for their quest to reunite with their mother, now in New York, in October of 1940.

They took the train from the heart of Nazi nation, Berlin, Germany to Rome then to Milano, Italy.

“We stayed there for weeks looking for transportation and finally flew to Madrid (Spain) and then we went to Lisbon, Portugal,” Susan said. “We were told we were able to get on the final ship heading to the United States.”

Remember now, these were three kids traveling through a raging war zone with not much money and no adult to lead them the way. They arrived in New York City and reunited with their mother in December of 1940.

“Necessity brings a lot of courage,” Warner added.

But at the time, the three siblings didn’t know what they were embarking on and how lucky they were to make it out of war-torn Europe. Many of Susan’s extended family, though, were lost in the war, including many aunts, uncles and cousins.

“Emotionally, it was very difficult leaving family behind,” Susan said. “But I didn’t realize how lucky we were and I don’t remember being nervous at all during the trip. We lost most of our family, but luckily some survived. But now, our family has grown again.”

Again, it was WWII which brought Susan and Warner together when both attended a Dutch Club memorial event in New York City May 10, 1941, to memorialize the German invasion of the country.

Familiarity brought the duo together during the event.

“I was constantly at home with my mother, who was going through a tough time because she was recently widowed,” Susan said. “I decided to go to the Dutch Club, which was holding a memorial service for the day Holland was invaded. I was quite shy then, so I was very happy when I saw a familiar face in Warner. I didn’t know him much at the time, but I knew who he was since we grew up in the area.”

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Susan’s oldest brother, Lou, enlisted in the Army the very next day. Warner eventually enlisted as a 19-year-old in 1943.

Warner served for three years in Europe as an intelligence staff sergeant in the O.S.S., in what was the precursor organization to the CIA.

“I got a very free ticket back to Europe,” Warner laughed.

In June of 1945, the Posens were married in New York City in a hotel (which doesn’t exist anymore), while Warner was on leave. The couple couldn’t honeymoon too far away, and went to Washington D.C., before Warner was called back to duty as an intelligence officer.

After the war, the Posens lived with Susan’s mother for a year because of the lack of housing, but were able to rent their own apartment about a year later.

Warner worked hard, and was the president of an international hide and leather trading company, which made him travel much during the year. Susan stayed home and raised their children: Richard, Dennis and Michael.

Susan was also known for her activism in the Great Neck, N.Y., area, while also becoming a talented sculptor.

This week, they will celebrate their 70 years of marriage with their family, which includes daughters-in-law Sharri, Ilise and Stacey, along with seven grandchildren Danielle, Jonathan, Stephanie, Michelle, Alex, Ricki and Andi, as well as two great-grandchildren in Ruth and Susanna.

The couple have endured many ups and downs throughout life, including the loss of their own child, Richard.

But it’s how you go through life handling those highs and those lows, which is the key to longevity in marriage, Susan said.

“We just learn at this age, good or bad, you have to go on,” Susan said.

And moving on is exactly what the Posen couple intend to do.

“Now, we are looking forward to 75 years,” Warner concluded.