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First ever SOS mother dies aged 92

Maria with children from SOS Children's Village Hinterbrühl, Austria
Maria with children from SOS Children's Village Hinterbrühl, Austria

Maria Weber was one of the first SOS mothers when she arrived at SOS Children’s very first SOS Village in Imst, Austria, in 1951. Throughout her life, she was mother to 20 children, grandmother to 36, and great-grandmother to 20 children.

Maria was born into a farming family in Burgenland in Austria. After she completed her education, she became a postal worker, but did not enjoy the job and wanted to work more closely with people. She re-trained as a parish assistant in Pfunds, a village in the heart of the Tyrolean Mountains. Whilst working here, she heard about the SOS Children's Village in Imst for the first time. She even made a donation to the charity’s first ever SOS Village, buying a ‘brick’ for 3.60 shillings. A year later, she moved into the very same house as an SOS mother.

When Maria arrived in the Village, eight boys and girls made up her SOS family. In an interview two years ago she admitted that it was not always easy caring for such a large family. "Each day presented a challenge: cooking, washing, cleaning, and ironing for nine people. I went to the doctor's with the children, to see their teachers, supervised homework, and held their hands when they were sick."

For 25 years, Maria brought up 20 children Maria Weber - first ever SOS motherto become independent adults. She affectionately recalled Franz, or "little Franzie" as Maria called him, who "was not one of the most well-behaved, but one of the sweetest." (see photo of Maria and Franz, right). After losing his parents in the war, he came to live at the SOS Village with Maria. Maria brought him up for 10 years until he reached independence. He went on to become an engineer, travelling the world before starting a large family of his own. Franz has now reached the ripe old age of 73.

Until her death, Maria lived in what is known as the 'Mothers' House' for retired SOS mothers at the SOS Children’s Village in Hinterbrühl. Her children and grandchildren visited her regularly. She enjoyed being surrounded by the next generation of SOS Children, and in a previous interview said "It was a good path to take. As far as I was concerned, the children were always my own children."

Maria was featured in our  latest edition of Family Matters, which takes a look at the role of the SOS mother. You can download it now.