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Edith L. Duenk Volterra
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Obituary for Edith L. Duenk Volterra

Edith L. Duenk Volterra, 101, passed away peacefully in Austin, Texas on June 3, 2017. Edith was born on March 3, 1916 in Cedar Grove, Wisconsin, the third of six children to Dr. Arnie and Leta (Chaplin) Duenk. She was the descendant of early colonists who settled in Massachusetts from England in 1638. Her ancestors are recognized for their service during the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and the Civil War; as 19th century pioneers in Wisconsin; and as dedicated civic leaders and public servants.

Edith attended the Wisconsin Memorial Academy, Cedar Grove. She was an accomplished violinist, one of the youngest members of the McDowell Club Women’s Symphony Orchestra in Milwaukee, and attended the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, where she was a student of the violinist and conductor, Miss Pearl Brice.

Edith earned a B.S. in Sociology and a Nursing Certificate from the University of Wisconsin - Madison in 1942 and pursued graduate studies at Columbia University, New York. She enlisted and served as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps in the Mariana Islands, Pacific Theater, during World War II, and, at war’s end, with the Occupying Forces in Tokyo, Japan. While abroad, she learned of the international relief work done by the United Nations Rehabilitation and Relief Administration (UNRRA) and, following her honorable discharge in 1946, Edith was hired by UNRRA and served as an administrator in the British Zone of Germany, where her hospital administration work included the provision of food, shelter, and medical services to patients of 17 different nationalities who had been displaced by war.

Edith returned to the United States in 1947 to attend the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Law School, from which she graduated in 1950.

In 1952, she was united in marriage to Enrico Volterra, Ph.D., Professor of Engineering Mechanics and son of renowned mathematician, Professor and Senator Vito Volterra of Rome, Italy.  Enrico’s distinguished career included Professorships at the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York, where their two daughters were born, and The University of Texas at Austin, where Edith lived from 1957 until her passing.

Edith was a devoted wife and mother, and she and Enrico enriched their daughters’ and their friends’ lives with many memorable cultural and educational experiences. After her daughters were in school, Edith taught Social Studies in the Austin Independent School District for many years. A lifelong bibliophile and avid reader, Edith continued to pursue interests that included literature, art, music, history, current events, and travel during her retirement years. She was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Austin Chapter.

Edith will be remembered for her remarkable life, her prodigious intellect, her boundless curiosity and love of learning, her courage in the face of adversity, her proud service to her community and country, and her devotion to family. She was an extraordinary woman who lived a fulfilled life of significance and who deeply affected the lives of those who knew her.

She is survived by her beloved daughters, Virginia Volterra (Rome, Italy) and Angelica Volterra, M.D. (Palo Alto, California), and grandson, Alexander Agostini (London, England), by many nieces, nephews and their families, and by cherished and devoted friends.

She was predeceased by her husband, her parents, Dr. and Mrs. Arnie Duenk, her sisters, Jean Ruslink Braun, Dorothy Rauwerdink, and Miriam Ramaker, and her brothers, Everett and Dr. Homer Duenk.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to UNICEF, CARE, or Doctors without Borders.

Family and friends are welcome to attend the graveside service with military honors to be held on Wednesday, June 14 at 10 a.m. at the Union Cemetery in the Town of Holland, Wisconsin. Rev. Jon MacDonald, Edith’s grand-nephew, will be officiating.

Condolences may be sent through Wenig Funeral Home, Oostburg, Wisconsin:

To send flowers or a remembrance gift to the family of Edith L. Duenk Volterra, please visit our Tribute Store.


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