Maria von Trapp, 'Sound of Music' Sibling, Dead at 99

Last surviving member of Austrian family band that inspired the beloved musical

February 23, 2014 10:56 AM ET
Maria von Trapp
Maria von Trapp
Bill Peters/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Maria von Trapp, the last surviving member of the family music group that inspired The Sound of Music, died on Tuesday at the age of 99, the Associated Press reports. Her younger half-brother, Johannes von Trapp, confirmed that she died at home in Vermont, where her family had settled after escaping Nazi-occupied Austria.

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Maria was the third of Captain Georg von Trapp and Agathe Whitehead von Trapp's seven children. After Agathe died, Captain von Trapp married again, and his second wife, Maria Augusta von Trapp, taught the children music. The family fled their home in Salzburg in 1938 after the Nazi invasion of Austria, and began touring Europe as a family singing group. Following a three-month tour of the United States in the early 1940s, the von Trapp family settled in Vermont, where they eventually opened a ski resort.

In 1949, Maria Augusta von Trapp, who was originally brought into the family as a tutor for the children, wrote a book telling the story of her life with the musical family and their escape from the Nazis. In 1959, Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein launched the Broadway production of The Sound of Music, based on von Trapp's memoirs. The musical was made into a film in 1965, starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. Maria von Trapp's character, called Louisa in the movie, was played by Heather Menzies Urich.

The musical, which was revived in an NBC production starring Carrie Underwood this past December, became a beloved classic, and the von Trapp family were awarded medals of honor by the city of Salzburg in 1998 for their role in bringing so many tourists to the region.

Maria von Trapp sang second soprano in the family group and later played accordion and taught recorder at the music camp the family ran in Vermont. In her biography on the Trapp Family Lodge website, von Trapp fondly recalled the role that music played in her childhood. "Sometimes our house must have sounded like a musical conservatory," she wrote. "You could hear us practice piano, violin, guitar, cello, clarinet, accordion, and later, recorders. We would gather in the evenings to play Viennese folksongs on our instruments with Father leading on the violin."

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