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Originally published February 22, 2014 at 7:49 PM | Page modified February 22, 2014 at 8:12 PM

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Maria von Trapp dies at 99; ‘Sound of Music’ based on family’s life

Maria Franziska von Trapp was the last surviving member of the seven original Trapp Family Singers made famous in “The Sound of Music.”

The Associated Press

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STOWE, Vt. — Maria Franziska von Trapp, the last surviving original member of the musical family whose escape from Nazi-occupied Austria was the basis for the film, “The Sound of Music,” has died.

She was 99.

Miss Von Trapp died at her home in Vermont on Tuesday, according to her half-brother Johannes von Trapp.

“She was a lovely woman who was one of the few truly good people,” he said. “There wasn’t a mean or miserable bone in her body. I think everyone who knew her would agree with that.”

Film won Oscar

The story of the Trapp Family Singers was turned into a Broadway musical in 1959 and the 1965 film, which won the Oscar for best picture. She was portrayed as Louisa in the film and musical.

She was the third child and second-oldest daughter of Austrian Naval Capt. Georg von Trapp and his first wife, Agathe Whitehead von Trapp.

After the death of her mother, Miss von Trapp and her six siblings were taught by aspiring nun Maria Kutschera, who quickly fell in love with Capt. von Trapp and married him in 1927.

“The Sound of Music” was based loosely on a 1949 book by his second wife, also Maria von Trapp, who died in 1987.

It tells the story of an Austrian woman who married a widower with seven children and teaches them music.

In 1938, the family escaped from Nazi-occupied Austria and performed concert tours throughout Europe and then a three-month tour in America. The family eventually settled in Vermont and opened a ski lodge in Stowe.

A family friend, Marianne Dorfer, told Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper that she was “surprised” Miss von Trapp had been the last of the family to survive.

“It was a surprise that she was the one in the family to live the longest because ever since she was a child she suffered from a weak heart,” she said.

Performed at lodge

Miss Von Trapp played accordion and taught Austrian dance with sister Rosmarie at the lodge.

She wrote in a biography posted on the Trapp Family’s website that she was born in the Austrian Alps after her family fled fighting in World War I and that she was surrounded by music growing up.

“Father played the violin, accordion and mandolin. Mother played piano and violin,” she wrote. Her biography also said she worked as a lay missionary in Papua, New Guinea.

Capt. von Trapp and his second wife had three children: Rosmarie von Trapp, Johannes von Trapp and Eleonore Von Trapp Campbell.

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