Klara Elfriede Muller, a longtime Provincetown resident, died peacefully of natural causes on Oct. 8, 2021 at Seashore Point in Provincetown. Her death was confirmed by her old friend Raymond Duarte. She was 90.
Born on Aug. 12, 1931 in Homburg, Germany, a small town in the Saar on the French border, Klara experienced the deprivations of war. She recalled frequently running from school to bomb shelters at the sound of air-raid sirens, climbing over rubble, and huddling in a dark cellar until the bombs stopped falling and the all-clear siren sounded. Twice, bombs destroyed her family’s home and all their belongings, forcing them into homelessness.
Shortly after World War II ended, Klara’s only sibling, Irmgard, died of scarlet fever at age 14. Her childhood war experience, combined with the death of her sister, left Klara traumatized. Nevertheless, she looked for ways to care for others.
She became a registered nurse, specializing in newborn and infant care at a children’s hospital in Germany before moving to Paris, where she worked for several years as a private nurse and governess. She developed a lifelong passion for medicine and a fondness for infants.
Klara later worked for the Norwegian Cruise Line, which allowed her to travel widely in the Caribbean and the Americas. She spent the mid-1960s in New York City, where she studied at the New York Institute of Photography.
During that time, she first traveled to Provincetown, fell in love with its beauty, and moved here in 1967. Not long after her arrival, Klara purchased the Mayflower Colony cottages on Beach Point in North Truro and the Mayflower Apartments on Bangs Street; she ran both until 2018, when she retired at 87.
Few of Klara’s neighbors knew of her childhood, according to Duarte, and found her directness hard to take. “She had high standards,” he said. “Everything had to be just right.”
Duarte, who said he was “like her little brother,” helped Klara care for her properties for 35 years. He brought her fresh fish whenever he could, and, in the off season, she often visited his house, where they talked over dinner into the evenings. “She would sing to me in German, and I would sing to her in Portuguese,” Duarte said. “She would talk about all the bombings and things,” he said, but declined to elaborate. “I don’t want to discuss what she went through,” he said.
Klara did not suffer fools, and if she decided you were a fool, she let you know it. Duarte recalled with some wistfulness how she would fetch him from the VFW bar, scold him for having had too much to drink, and ensure that he got home safely. “She was a tough lady,” he said, “and many people couldn’t deal with her toughness.”
Those who took the time to look beyond Klara’s temper found a well-educated, intellectual, and fiercely independent woman. She had a curious mind, a sharp sense of humor, a keen aesthetic sensibility, and a generous nature. She was fluent in three languages.
Klara had mixed feelings about Provincetown; she loved its natural beauty, its art scene, and some of the longtime residents and visitors she met over the years. But there were many times when she was harassed or belittled for her strong German accent and national origin.
Others were kind to her. They looked after her in her later years, escorted her home at night, brought her dinners, drove her to appointments, and chatted with her when she visited shops on her daily walk. Klara always expressed gratitude for these kindnesses.
Klara was predeceased by her father, Johann Muller; her mother, Margarete (Krauer) Muller; and her beloved sister, Irmgard. She leaves many dear friends.
A private burial will be held for her in Provincetown Cemetery. A memorial service will take place at a time to be announced.
In lieu of flowers, contributions in Klara’s name may be made to Helping Our Women, 34 Conwell St., Provincetown 02657.