Rosemarie Willig Nagel Altberg | Passages

Rosemarie Willig Nagel Altberg, born in Bremen Germany in 1937, left us at the age of 84 on Nov. 5, 2021 following complications from a heart attack.

She is survived by Mark (Christy) Nagel, Diane (Ed) Farris, and David Nagel; stepchildren John ii (Beatrice) Altberg, Annie (Chris) Rodriguez, and Mark Altberg. Her grandkids Rebecca and Matthew Nagel; Jennifer, Karoline, and Robert Farris; Stefan (Victoria) and Nicholas Altberg; Miguel, Diego, and Gabriella Rodriguez. Great grandchildren Gunner and Gaia (Farris-Gonzalas)

Rosemarie’s youth was spent in the countryside of St Magnus outside of Bremen. Her love for the ocean began at an early age sailing the Lesum river. While her strong independent disposition was a family trait that was instilled in her at a very early age by her grandmother Emma. These early lessons were carried throughout her life and served her well. She left Germany in 1958 joining her sister Lore working for a short time in San Francisco. After a brief courtship, she married William (Bob) Nagel in 1959, eventually moving into their first home together in Belmont, CA. Her three children (Diane, Mark and David) followed in 2yr intervals, so that by 1964 she was raising 3 children.

In 1968 she followed her artistic passions and began pursuing an AA degree. Soon after, Bob’s engineering career forced a decision to stay in CA to finish her degree while he moved to Virginia. A year later with the AA degree in hand, the family followed. This was a theme in her life where she continued her studies then traveled to the next job site. She taught art in several schools on the east coast and enveloped her life in every art medium she could. By the time she received her BA in Art Education from American University in DC and a Masters in Printmaking and Drawing from NIU. She had applied her talents to; drawing, painting, printing, sculpture/ceramics, jewelry, textiles and photography. In 1980 they made their final move back to family and friends in the bay area. There were some tough times but her ability to adapt and apply a strong work ethic pulled her through. After 37 years together Bob’s passing due to an aggressive cancer was difficult but thankfully quick.

She might not have realized it at the time but she had already met her future husband. This romance was even more whirlwind than her first. She married John Altberg in 1997 in his parish church and started, “a love affair that lasted until the end of his life.” They shared so many things in common that at times it was hard to know where her story ended and theirs began. At first, it was being on the water together, then the joy of travel followed. These two things together brought them to Orcas. Once they established residence on Orcas they realized that it was filled with exceptional people and where they wanted to continue their life. Together, John and Rosemarie brought the joy of life on Orcas to their family. The summer grandchildren visits started in 2003 and never ended were legendary. They always included a to-do list to encourage a good “German work ethic” and a list of outdoor activities to keep them active and engaged with their inner artist.

Rosemarie found the organic congregation of artists and unique beauty of the island inspirational and this allowed her to pursue her many talents to new heights. Her peers, soon to be lifelong friends, were many and diverse. She had spent her life becoming a renaissance woman whose greatest joy was to share her skills and appreciation of art with others. Has the world ever seen a busier or happier dinner table? Although she left an extensive artistic legacy behind, the most important things she ever created were her family and the community she and her late husband John adored on Orcas Island.

We are immensely grateful that she was able to share her final hours in the company of some of the people who loved her most. While she was taken from us too soon, anyone who knew her knows that she filled her days with as much living as she possibly could. Knowing Rosemarie was like the sun – spreading warmth and light to everyone caught in her orbit.

Our families extend their deep appreciation to the community of Orcas island who loved her so deeply. Sharing their support and memories of sweet moments with Rosemarie over the years during this exceptionally difficult time. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the following charities: Opal Community Land Trust, Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival, the Funhouse Commons and the Orcas Senior Center.

A celebration of life will be held on July 23, 2022.