Monica Erna Kakies, a longtime Sacramento resident who ran a private nursery school, died at her home Wednesday after a lengthy illness.
Mrs. Kakies was 94.
Erna Mros was born in Hamburg, Germany to a working-class family on Dec. 25, 1906. She changed her first name to Monica when she became a naturalized American citizen.
Despite suffering bouts of depression throughout her life, she was a warmhearted and generous woman who lived by the motto "Never say never" and pulled herself up by her own bootstraps countless times, said her son, Franklin John Kakies of Sacramento.
"She was a remarkable person," he said.
Trained as a kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Kakies received a scholarship to attend a small rural college in Germany where she studied political thought. She was active in the underground resistance movement in Germany in the 1930s, her son said.
"It was dangerous to speak out. You put your life on the line," he said.
A marriage of convenience with an Austrian citizen enabled Mrs. Kakies to leave Germany for Vienna. When she fled Germany, there was an arrest warrant for her because of her political activities. She was arrested in Austria for smuggling propaganda against the Nazis, and left the day she was released from jail. She fled on foot from Paris the day the Nazis marched into that city, her son said.
Franklin Kakies said both his mother and father, Mrs. Kakies' future second husband, Hans Max Kakies, escaped time and time again.
"What seemed like a miracle happened, and they were snatched from the jaws of fate," he said.
In each country, Mrs. Kakies worked with fellow resistance members to speak out against the Nazis.
She escaped through the south of France to Portugal. In 1941, she arrived in New York City, where her Austrian husband had settled. She moved to Reno to get a divorce, her son said.
In Reno, she worked as caretaker and governess for a wealthy family who gave her money to hire a lawyer to free Hans Kakies, then her fiance. He had been jailed in Cuba on suspicion of being a Nazi and faced deportation to Germany.
The two, who had met while working in the resistance movement, married in 1942. During World War II, they worked in Washington, D.C., where Mrs. Kakies was a teacher at the Sidwell Friends School.
After the war, they lived in Colorado, where her husband was awarded a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Colorado at Denver. The family moved to California in 1949 when Hans Kakies got a job with the California Youth Authority.
In 1953, they moved from Ione to Sacramento. Mrs. Kakies stayed home raising her son until her husband died in 1957.
In the early 1960s, she opened a private nursery school, Happy Corner Nursery School, that drew the children of politicians, as well as children from middle- and working-class families. The school operated for 13 years before Mrs. Kakies retired.
"She believed strongly in encouraging young children to be creative and open-minded," her son said.
Mrs. Kakies was an avid reader, and loved theater and vacations by the sea.
Along with her son, survivors include sister Alida Meyer, niece Doris Rabe and nephew Reiner Meyer, all of Germany.
A memorial service, to feature a Christmas tree, will be scheduled at a later date. Interment will be at the Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno next to her husband.