Eloise Niederkirchner, 89, writer, music enthusiast


By Albert Amateau

The friends of Eloise Niederkirchner, a Village resident for more than 50 years who died last July 5 at the age of 89, celebrated her life as a writer, music enthusiast and generous free spirit at a Nov. 18 memorial service at the First Hungarian Reformed Church on E. 69th St.

The author of several plays and a novel, “The Crafty Countess,” based on the life of a remarkable Elizabethan woman, Eloise Niederkirchner was a member of the Pen and Brush Society, the New York Browning Society, the English Speaking Union, the Dramatists Guild and a founder of Washington Square Playwrights, a group of women playwrights who read and produced their works.

She was the widow of Odo Niederkirchner, a fencing champion who emigrated from Hungary in 1947. She met him when she enrolled in a fencing class he was teaching in the Village and they married soon after. He died in 1987.

At the memorial service last week, her friend Alan D. R. Frese paid tribute to her generosity and sense of adventure.

“‘I have plenty of money as long as it lasts,’ she was fond of saying…. If she fixed a meal it was an exercise in generosity; if she entertained friends it was graciously. Eloise needed no persuading to undertake a new language, spend a day at the races, take a new excursion, try a new entertainment, a new drink, different music, different food,” Frese said.

She was born Dec. 2, 1916, in Paintsville, Ky., in the Appalachian foothills, the 10th of 11 children to Laura Lee and Warren Preston, a ne’er-do-well Baptist preacher. She moved as a child with her family to Ohio, where her brothers tried farming. Barely out of her teens, Eloise moved to Cincinnati, where she worked as a secretary and sent money home until she met and married Edmond J. Hetsch and moved with him to New York City.

The marriage didn’t last but Eloise thrived, worked as a secretary in law firms, took piano lessons, developed a passion for opera and indulged it by frequent attendance at the opera house.

After her husband’s death, she liked being called “The Widow Niederkirchner” and devoted herself to her friends and her cultural and neighborhood pursuits, including Amato Opera, the Browning Society and Caring Community’s First Presbyterian Senior Center in the Village.

The English Speaking Union hosted a reading of her play “The Brownings of Casa Guide” about a month before she died in her longtime home on Fifth Ave. and 12th St.

Donations may be made in her memory to Amato Opera, 313 Bowery 10003; The Browning Society, National Arts Club, 15 Gramercy Pl. 10003; and Caring Community, Presbyterian Senior Center, 12 W. 12th St. 10011.