ABOVE: Petra Frehse

Johnsons Landing slide victim was at home in Kootenays

Hans-Hubertus Vogt’s birthday always had special significance. He shared it with his 64-year-old sister Petra Frehse.

Hans-Hubertus Vogt’s birthday always had special significance. He shared it with his 64-year-old sister Petra Frehse — one of four people trapped in last week’s massive landslide. She remains missing.

Vogt and Frehse grew up in the forest outside of Stuttgard, Germany.

“Our family raised dogs,” Vogt said in a phone interview from overseas.

“Sometimes we had almost 20. I remember my sister pushed one dog around in a baby carriage. She was 12 then, I think. The dog would be dressed in baby clothes. She was always very funny.

Frehse loved animals from a young age, Vogt said, something she carried into her art work, making stuffed bears.

“The teddy bears and drawing and hand work made her happy,” Vogt said. “She was always making something and made so much by hand.”

Behind the counter at Figments in Kaslo sits Neewa, the only bear left from Frehse’s Teddy Bear Cottage.

“She loved it [in Johnsons Landing],” said owner Ruth Thomson. “I saw here this spring. She came in for her annual hug. She was a very nice lady.”

Thomson has set Neewa — whose birthday according to a certificate made by Frehse was July 12, 2007 — aside for her family.

Vogt remembers travelling to Johnsons Landing with his sister when Frehse and her husband Jurgen were looking for their home.

“I went in 1989 with Petra to look for a house in BC,” he said. “We saw this house in Johnsons Landing and I said to Petra that it was perfect for her.”

Petra and Jurgen travelled all over North America from Alaska to Mexico, but Vogt said his sister was truly at home in the Kootenays.

In 2007, Jurgen was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and doctors in Kaslo told him he likely had only a few months to live.

“Her husband died five years ago in Johnsons Landing,” said Vogt. “He died in the place that he loved with the person he loved.”

Afterward, Vogt said Petra talked about selling the property.

“She came back and said ‘No, it’s my land and I want to stay here,”’ he said.

Petra wanted to be apply for permanent residency but because she didn’t have a full-time job, lived six months each year in Johnsons Landing and six months in Germany.

For many years after Jurgen’s death, Petra grieved his loss, but Vogt said he remembers during a visit in 2011 she seemed to be herself again.

“She was very funny, and happy to go back to Canada,” he said. “She looked good and was very optimistic.

“She was very well liked in Johnsons Landing. Everyone liked her, and she had a lot of friends there. It’s a huge tragedy, because she came back to Canada and said okay, this is her life now. She was at home in Johnsons Landing.”

Vogt said keeping Petra’s land is important to their family and he hopes it can be kept as a memorial to her.

“Maybe if my sister is not found, and they say we can’t look anymore and leave her there, we want to keep her land. It’s ours and we want to keep it to remember her. In two years, there will be grass, shrubs and trees and I think it’s a nice place for her. She wanted to live in Canada and die in Canada.”

Vogt heard from his sister for the last time on July 12, the day the landslide hit.

“My mother talked to her from 10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.,” said Vogt. “We knew that she was in the cabin. My mother said ‘Okay, we’ll talk to you tomorrow,’ and two minutes later the landslide came down. She said, ‘I want to drink a coffee and smoke a cigarette,’ and that’s the last we heard from her.”

Next week: A tribute to Valentine Webber, a Johnsons Landing fixture.

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