Internment will be private. A memorial celebration will be held at a later date to be announced. Those wishing to make a donation in Ursula’s memory, please choose an animal shelter, pet rescue or favorite charity or church near you. For inclusion in a special Celebration of Ursula‘s Wonderful Life, please write us your fondest memories and send to: Beverly Wittner Traa Or Therese Wittner C/O Riverview Funeral Home 218 2nd Avenue Troy, NY 12180 Include your phone number if you want to attend the memorial celebration being planned for a later time.
Obituary of Ursula Rickenbacher
A real woman. By Beverly Wittner Traa, BFF People would often ask me, is there really an Ursula of Switzerland? In this world of catchy phrases, and words that mean the opposite of what words are supposed to mean, is it any wonder that people would ask. Is the Colonel real? What about Aunt Jemima? And Uncle Sam? Well, I can answer “yes” to two of them and “I don’t know” to the other two. Because I know that Uncle Sam Wilson and Ursula Rickenbacher are for sure real people. Born in Einseideln, Switzerland in 1933, she is celebrated for her keen sense of “what women want” and her ability to design it. Ursula was renown as the designer and leader of an iconic international fashion house that outlasted most other designers, including St. Lauren. Starting with only 48 cents, Ursula, the real woman, built her startup to a multi-million dollar internationally recognized company known for its customer service, stunning designs and exceptional quality in petite to plus sizes. Located in Waterford, NY., Ursula of Switzerland celebrated it’s 50th anniversary in 2015 and recently was closed when COVID-19 left bridal shops and boutiques, and wedding venues shuttered all across the country and around the world. Ursula, the woman, was renown for other attributes beyond fashion. She was a woman of grace and style. Quite the opposite of putting on aires, she was self-effacing and modest. She was compassionate and soft spoken. And generous with her friends, her employees, and even strangers. Working for Ursula was like working for Mother Earth. She would bring in homemade soups, fresh vegetables and all sorts of nutritious things for her family of employees. Ursula was a marvelous hostess with much care given to details from table settings to holiday decorations. Everyone felt instantly at home, even though she would rarely stay up past nine-thirty to enjoy the party herself. An early riser at four or five each morning, and a sound sleeper, she would go to bed while people gathered around the piano just below, singing loudly and even dancing. Her early rising allowed her to enjoy the forest-full of critters she would feed regularly. Families of deer, squirrels, fox and raccoons, rabbits and more. Oh, yes. And turkeys. When her large raccoon family would have a new litter they often would knock on her window to show them off to her. Commenting on how cute they were, she said, “they’re showing me there are more mouths to feed.” And indeed more food would be supplied. Ursula was charming in so many ways and loved nature, and little children and creatures of every description. She was generous with her time, talent and treasure always. Rarely, if ever, did anyone go away empty-handed. A lover of all things beautiful, it was natural for her to think in terms of dressing women beautifully. She was especially celebrated for her ability to fit and drape garments in a way that flattered all body types, shapes and sizes. She was beloved by mothers of the bride and groom, most especially, and in later years it became a cornerstone of her business. As a young designer in New York City, and a recent immigrant from Switzerland, via Canada, she would hand deliver her forward looking fashions to small boutiques along 7th Avenue, and her hand crocheted hats and berets to Bergdorfs and Saxs 5th. When Yves Saint Laurent models hit the runway in pants for both daytime and evening wear, 1966 ushered in a new era. The next day, even before the ink was dry on the cover story of Womens Wear Daily, featuring Yves’s famed femele tuxedo smoking suit, the shops on 7th she’d visited earlier with her own collection featuring pants, were calling her. And the new fashion house, Ursula of Switzerland, was about to flourish. No one, her customers will tell, could create a pant that flattered a woman’s hips and flared or fit better than Ursula of Switzerland. And it remained so throughout her years of design and manufacturing. Ursula was a loyal adopted daughter of the USA. When other manufacturers fled its border for China and beyond, Ursula steadfastly manufactured here at home. Her profit margins were smaller, but her designs proudly displayed “Made in USA”. She strongly disagreed with the reasoning manufacturers used for taking jobs from Americans. She saw it as both shortsighted and harmful to America. She often warned of “isms” and “ists”. She’d grown up in the dark shadow of Adolph Hitler’s brutal Nazi regime. When she was four her father gathered the family around the radio to hear what he called “what evil sounds like“. Hitler. She was no stranger to fascism, communism, and socialism, or the oppression they wrought. Immigrating to the US in 1964, Ursula adopted America and in 1984 she pledged her allegiance. She remained a strong advocate for freedom, the Constitution of the United States, and a patriot. She would argue convincingly that before people are willing to give up their freedoms and rights here they should first live under those regimes, or go to Hong Kong and Taiwan. Ursula was a quiet and humble person. Most unassuming and gentle. And although quite out of character, because her world view had a wide lens, she willingly shared her life experience. Inside the walls of the historic building on the Hudson River in Waterford that housed her business she was at her energetic, creative and compassionate best. There, at home, or out in public, Ursula was always gracious toward others and sincere. She honestly saw herself as nothing special and was never comfortable in her celebrity. Given an honor, or a compliment, she would quickly turn the spotlight toward someone else that they might shine in it. Ursula died on Wednesday, September 1 at Samaritan Hospital. Her care in both the emergency room and ICU was tended by exceptional caretakers and doctors. Her family and close friends are most grateful. She will be missed most by them, and those who were employed at Ursula Switzerland. Beloved and missed by many, we will long celebrate the woman who was the Real Ursula of Switzerland. Ursula Garreau Rickenbacher Elegant to the end. Internment will be private. A memorial celebration will be held at a later date to be announced. Those wishing to make a donation in Ursula’s memory, please choose an animal shelter, pet rescue or favorite charity or church near you. For inclusion in a special Celebration of Ursula‘s Wonderful Life, please write us your fondest memories and send to: Beverly Wittner Traa Or Therese Wittner C/O Riverview Funeral Home 218 2nd Avenue Troy, NY 12180 Include your phone number if you want to attend the memorial celebration being planned for a later time.