Hermine von Sonnleithner was born on February 9, 1939, in Berlin, Germany and passed February 6, 2023 at the age of 83. Her father was named Franz and her mother was also named Hermine. She was the second of four children in her family. Dolores was her sister; Gerd and Michael were her younger brothers. Hermine’s family moved to Salzburg, Austria when she was a small child where she experienced a challenging but loving and happy childhood in post World War II Austria.
Hermine’s parents instilled in her a love of languages, travel, education, and dance. Her mother took her to a ballet show at a young age and she became mesmerized by dance which became the first love of her life. She convinced her mother to take her to ballet lessons and became very focused on ballet dancing. She was a performing ballet dancer all through high school and took pride in her recitals.
Hermine’s second love of her life was language. That love prompted her to study French, Italian and most importantly English in college. She excelled and majored in Foreign Languages and graduated from Ingelheim am Rhein University in Meinz, Germany in 1963. Hermine wanted to become proficient and fluent in English. Her courage and adventurous spirit gave her the idea to travel to America as a post graduate exchange student to immerse herself for a year in the English language. She was only 24 years old but so “thrilled and excited” to be in Detroit in 1964 to enroll in Wayne State University.
It was a wonderful time to be in Detroit and she met many friends while studying and working in her new world. One of the people she met during that time period became the third love of her life. Hermine met Vernell (Jimmie) Barnett and fell in love. They were from different worlds but he was “strong, proud, decent, and honest” and those values are universal. They soon became a couple.
Hermine applied for United States citizenship and made the difficult decision to leave her family behind to build her life in America. Soon after, sons Thomas (1967) and Andreas (1969) were born and they became the fourth love of her life.
Hermine immersed herself in the role of a fierce and devoted mother while working full time to support her family. She found employment she enjoyed and worked for the United States Post Office for over 30 years until she retired in 2006. She made many lifelong friends working for the USPS and learned the cultures and customs of what it meant to be an American. She was proud to be granted United States Citizenship in 1974. Hermine lived with her family in Detroit until 1999 when they made the decision to move to Farmington, Michigan.
Hermine made new friends of the neighbors in Farmington and enjoyed the more peaceful and serene setting of suburban living. She spent time gardening, cooking, knitting/crocheting, and enjoying life in her retirement. In 2013, the love of her life, Vernell, died in a tragic car accident. Hermine was devasted by his death and lost an enormous part of herself when he died. She was devastated but somehow found the strength to carry on because he knew that’s what he would “want her to do”. She found some solace and respite from the pain of his death by being in the presence of her granddaughters whom she loved so dearly.
Hermine was diagnosed with Acute Myleoid Leukemia in July of 2022. It was a fast moving cancer and she battled it with everything she had but alas cancer won the fight. Hermine died peacefully in her sleep at her home. She was preceded in death by her parents, her sister Dolores, her brother Gerd and the love of her life, Vernell.
All who knew her are deeply saddened by their loss but glad to know she is now at rest.