A bright and beautiful soul took flight on June 2, 2010, as Oktavia Carstarphen left her earthly body at peace at last. Her keen intellect, lively wit and loving presence among us will be sorely missed by all of her family and friends.
Carnes Brothers Funeral Home
Oktavia was born in Berlin, Germany in 1939, to Maria von Neuenstein Dertinger and Georg Dertinger. What follows is a brief biography in her own words:
“Georg Dertinger, my father became the first foreign minister of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), East Germany in 1949, when the 2 Germanys were established. Despite his position, I attended Catholic school in West Berlin, routinely crossing the border between East and West Berlin on foot, without fear of the Soviet guards. The Soviet soldiers who guarded the border were our friends, so I thought. But already I got mixed messages - one from home, where my parents kept up the appearance of being good East German citizens.
“At school, my class mates repeated anti-Soviet statements they heard from their parents. East German papers wrote about the poverty in which capitalism kept most of the people. On the way to school, however, I saw the grocery store owners set up their displays of oranges and bananas, items not available in the East. I saw housewives buying the fruit. I saw construction workers in West Berlin erecting new buildings. The rubble that was left from the war disappeared rapidly in West Berlin and made way for new apartment houses and shops. In contrast, the scars of the war remained largely untouched in East Berlin.
“As foreign minister, my father was entitled to body guards. In truth they were Stasi spies who watched his every move. Stasi is short for Staatssicherheit or State Security. The Stasi bodyguards followed my father everywhere. I am sure my father’s chauffeur was a Stasi spy, as well.
“On January 15, 1953, my father was arrested in the middle of the night by the Stasi while at his official home in East Berlin. My mother, grandmother, 2 brothers, 2 housekeepers and I were also arrested that same night.
“I spent my 14th and 15th birthday in prison, in a converted interrogation room. I was glad it was not a real cell among the other prisoners. Of course, I was still a child. There was a narrow bed, a simple table and a chair. To the right and left of me were interrogation rooms. I could hear the interrogations at night. It was not pleasant.
“I was treated correctly, but inhumanely. Nobody was allowed to talk to me.
Each morning somebody brought new underclothes and accompanied me to a shower and back. Silently. Three times a day I got food. Silently. Once a day I was allowed to walk outside for an hour. Silently. Although I did talk to the watch dog that ran on a wire along the outside wall. I would bring the dog the fatty clumps of alleged meat from my lunch. This vicious dog and I became friends. This creature was my only contact with another live body.
“I was released at the end of August, 1954. My grandmother had been released the day before and sent to a small town on the southern border of Czechoslovakia. I was brought the next day. We did not know where my brothers or parents were. We found out my father had been sentenced to 15 years and my mother to 12 years hard labor for espionage.
“I was not allowed to return to Berlin. I was not allowed to continue my education, but I was allowed to become an apprentice. I became an apprentice machinist and passed my journeyman exam 2 years later. I was now 17. I was still not allowed higher education and continued to work in the factory where I had been an apprentice. Six months later, in January, 1957, I fled to West Berlin and from there to West Germany.
“I went back to school on a scholarship I received as a political refugee, majoring in psychology with a minor in philosophy. I married a Houstonian, had 2 children, and came to the United States in 1965. I worked as machinist or draftsman for several companies in Iowa, Oklahoma and Texas.
“I continued my education in 1972 first at Alvin Junior College, then at the University of Houston where I earned a BS in psychology and a Doctorate of Jurisprudence. I passed the bar exam in 1979 and have practiced law ever since. Although I did not set out to, I primarily practiced criminal law.
I see my mission to uphold the constitutional rights of my clients. What is not practiced daily is lost.”
Oktavia was also an avid member of the Galveston Lions club for many years. She served in several district level positions in Lions Clubs International, twice as a delegate to the International Convention and in a number of officer positions including president of the Galveston Lions Club. She was also a member of several professional organizations, and served as president of the Galveston County Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, and the Galveston County Mediators Association.
She is survived by her husband John Carstarphen; their daughter Nike Carstarphen and her life partner Alexandra Gardner, of Washington DC; their son Chapel Carstarphen, his wife Sung Hee and their son Timothy of Farmington, NM; Sister-in-law Louise Carstarphen, of Houston; brothers Rudolf Dertinger, Taunusstein, Germany and Christian Dertinger, Leipzig, Germany; their families and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.
A memorial Service with reception to follow will be held Tuesday, June 8, at 6:00 pm at Carnes Brothers Funeral Home, 1201 Tremont, in Galveston.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests a tax deductible donation to the Texas Lions Camp, P.O. Box 290247, Kerrville, TX 78029-0247 or at www.lionscamp.com