Ingrid Low: German-born woman makes new life in new world

ingridlowGerman-born woman makes new life in New World

Ingrid Low,

Ingrid Low has been selling real estate on Hilton Head Island for 35 years.

“Selling is very natural to me, and that’s why I ended up in real estate,” says Low, who sold heavy industrial equipment in the textile industry in New York before settling in South Carolina in 1979. “I love selling and talking to people.”

Though she’s spent three decades helping people find their dream homes, Low knows intimately how it feels to lose one. The German-born Low was younger than 10 when her family had to leave everything behind and scramble toward safety during World War II.

“I was born in an area in the former East Germany on a small island, Usedom, which reminds me a lot of Hilton Head,” Low says. “My family and I had to flee from the Russians in the spring of 1945. We had the usual hardships of people who had lost everything, but we were able to make it to West Germany.

Low remembers the months-long trip on foot seemed not nearly as frightening for her and her brothers as it was for her parents and grandmother.

“It was probably traumatic for the adults, but for the children it was more like an adventure,” she says. “Looking back now I’m not sure how the adults were able to cope with it, to just pick up and leave everything behind, just bring one small little suitcase. As a child you do what you are told. Now that I am a certain age I look back and think ‘Gosh, that must have been tough!’”

After a few months taking refuge in Hamburg, the family returned – again by foot – encountering violent Russian soldiers while staying at a hostel along the way.

“My mother prayed a lot, and that helped her,” Low says. “She found strength in that.”

When the family returned to their hometown they found their home a pile of ashes. Again, Low remembers the excitement of what she found, rather than the devastation of what she lost.

“I found a little cup from my dollhouse under the charred wood, which had been the ceiling. It was partially black but I kept it,” she says. “I said, ‘Look, this is from my dollhouse!’”

The family did their best to rebuild their lives, moving to West Germany, where the outgoing girl made friends fast.

“My new friends, who had stayed in their homes and kept everything, found my life very exciting,” Low says. “We all had to start over. We went to school, we got good grades. We knew we needed to look forward.”

In 1963, Low boarded a Norweigan freighter with 10 other passengers and set off for America.  “I left to explore the New World,” she says. “I had spent two years in London to study the language, and decided now I needed to see the New World.”

When she arrived in New York she met her husband, Gerry, and the two were married in 1966.

“We had a vacation home in the Caribbean – Montserrat in the West Indies. That was our retreat for 10 years. Then my husband had health problems and we decided to buy another house somewhere closer, where it wouldn’t take so long to get to,” she says. “Through friends we came to Hilton Head and fell in love with it.

Gerry Low died seven years ago, the same year she lost one of her brothers. But once a year Low still flies from her island home here to her island birth home in the Baltic Sea, where her other brother still lives.

“I feel very good when I bike the island where I was born,” says Low, who supports the local arts community and is active in her church, Christ Lutheran. “But I have never regretted (moving here). I feel very much like this is home.”