Greatest Obit Ever

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/26/nyregion/26muse.html?_r=1&oref=login

From the New York Times:

February 26, 2006

Emilie Muse, 98, Daredevil Who Dared Not Discuss Past, Dies

Emilie Neumann Muse, who as a young woman exemplified the crazy, flamboyant competitiveness of the 20's and 30's by swimming in treacherous waters, wrestling alligators, jumping out of airplanes and being buried alive, died on Jan. 23 in East Patchogue, N.Y. She was 98.

The cause was complications of a stroke, her granddaughter Loretta Muse Dill said.

In later decades, Mrs. Muse was a dedicated homemaker whose interests included beekeeping and gardening. Her husband, Fred, did not want their children to know of her daredevil past for fear it might prove overly inspirational, and she herself did not share her stories until they were adults.

But the young Miss Neumann (pronounced NOY-man) exuberantly followed in the footsteps of Gertrude Ederle, also a longtime Bronx resident with a German background, who in 1926 became the first woman to swim the English Channel. In an epoch when breaking records and stretching human achievement were national passions, Miss Neumann in 1929 swam across the East River at the treacherous stretch known as Hell Gate and two weeks later swam for 24 hours straight in tidal waters.

Why?

"For no reason at all, except that she wanted to be able to say that she had accomplished such a difficult feat," The New York Daily News said in the caption to a picture on Aug. 12, 1929.

Things quickly got more interesting, pretty much from the moment Miss Neumann met a man who called himself Alligator Jim because of his vocation of wrestling alligators for money.

Ms. Dill said no one in the family knows — if anyone was ever told — how her grandmother met the man. Alligator Jim soon taught Miss Neumann how to fly a plane, to parachute and land on a tiny target, and to wrestle alligators (as proved by a picture in The Albany Times Union on June 13, 1932). He then hit on the idea of burying her alive.

On Nov. 9, 1932, a Wednesday evening, Miss Neumann was buried at a marathon dance contest at the Casino ballroom in Reading, Pa. She weighed 125 pounds; when she was excavated 97 hours later, at 10 p.m. on Nov. 13, she weighed 114 and was very, very hungry.

She was also buried at air shows and other entertainment venues, as attested to by the many clippings in her scrapbook. At these times, she lay in a coffin with a glass window so people could gaze down at her.

Ms. Dill said she believed her grandmother followed Alligator Jim for a few action-packed years. She thinks he was in love with her, but is pretty sure the feeling was not reciprocated.

Romance came a few years later when Miss Neumann met Friedrich Wilhelm Muse, a ship's electrician who, while in port, happened by a bakery owned by family members. She was not initially enamored of Mr. Muse, but her competitive juices surged when her best friend, an attractive Frenchwoman, fell for him.

Mrs. Muse and the man who legally changed his name to Fred had four children and owned four homes when he died in 1975. Mrs. Muse is survived by two daughters, Juanita Fenninger and Diane Tax, both of Mahopac, N.Y.; a son, Robert Muse; eight grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. Her son, Richard, died in 2002.

Emilie Neumann Muse was born on Jan. 14, 1908, in Bremen, Germany, and grew up in the Bronx when horses and buggies were a common sight. "I'll try anything once," she liked to say. "I'll taste it, I'll try it, I'll do it once."

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