Roanoke Times
                 Copyright (c) 1995, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: MONDAY, January 13, 1992                   TAG: 9201130256
DATELINE: BROADWAY                                LENGTH: Long


BRENDA SCHWARZKOPF, wife of the Desert Storm general, grew up in the Shenandoah Valley. This weekend, she came home.

\ When the Broadway High School Class of '59 held its 20th anniversary reunion in 1979, Pete Ritchie didn't spend much time talking to the military man his childhood friend Brenda Holsinger had married.

"After all, he was a big general and I'm just a meager schoolteacher," recalled Ritchie, now his alma mater's football coach.

Brenda Holsinger had been Broadway High's reigning beauty queen of the 1950s - she was Miss Harrisonburg/Rockingham County Fair and Miss Shenandoah County Fair - and one of its most popular students.

But once she left home to become first a flight attendant and then a military wife, many of her classmates had trouble keeping in touch with her.

"We sort of lost contact," said Sara Wease, who was one of Brenda Holsinger's best friends on the cheerleading squad and one of her main competitors on the beauty pageant stage. "She was moving all around. But we kept in touch with her parents," who lived in the nearby town of Timberville.

All that changed in August 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait. President Bush rushed American troops to the Persian Gulf and the name of the U.S. commander was splashed all over the news.

"A lot of people didn't realize it was Brenda's husband, because they didn't recognize the Schwarzkopf name," said classmate Hilda Blosser.

"Then you'd say `why that's who Brenda Holsinger married,' " said Mary Lou Litten.

Suddenly, folks around Broadway and Timberville started paying more attention to the four-star general who would become known around the world as "Stormin' Norman."

"I know I did," said Ritchie, who was the school's Valentine King when Brenda Holsinger was Valentine Queen in '59. "I don't think I missed a minute of CNN, not so much to see the war itself but the chance to see Norman. Not that I knew him personally, but knowing her, it was sort of like you'd known him all your life."

This past weekend, Brenda Holsinger Schwarzkopf returned home to Rockingham County for the first time since the war. She traveled sans general - she stays at home in Tampa when he travels and he mans the home fort when she's on the road.

This time, it was Brenda Schwarzkopf who was the featured attraction, talking Friday to Broadway High's senior class and speaking to a packed auditorium Saturday about her life as a military wife.

The 300-plus turnout amazed one Timberville resident - Brenda Schwarzkopf's mother, Elsie Holsinger.

"She said she didn't think anybody would want to come. Typical country way of thinking. Don't brag about anybody," said a family friend, retired schoolteacher Phoebe Orebaugh. She taught the future general's wife U.S. history and remembers her as "a conscientious student, the kind you don't see much anymore today."

(Orebaugh is notable in her own right. She's a former Republican state legislator and now a congressional candidate.)

But turn out they did, especially members of the Class of '59. After Schwarzkopf's talk, the crowd surged toward the stage - the same one where she had won many of those beauty pageants thirtysomething years ago.

Some folks waited more than an hour and a half in line for a chance to shake hands, unashamedly ask her to scribble an autograph and exchange a memory or two.

Two old schoolmates, Hilda Blosser and Gloria Stump, shouldered video cameras, moving around the edge of the crowd to record the event for the next class reunion three years off.

"I got Charles and I got Wayne and I got you," Blosser bubbled, as she directed her classmates this way and that to make sure she got everyone in the picture with the guest of honor.

Afterwards, members of the Class of '59 compared notes about how much their most illustrious classmate had changed.

In some ways, not at all, they agreed. "She's a very congenial gal," Blosser said. "I think she's a regular old sweetie pie."

But others noted more subtle changes, such as the way she talked so casually about fielding calls at home during the war from Gen. Colin Powell, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Or the way she tossed off comments about the pre-war travels she made around the world with her husband, stopping off in exotic capitals of Africa and the Mideast for him to confer with officials about military matters.

"She's so cosmopolitan, I can't believe it," Orebaugh exclaimed.

"She was so poised," Stump said. "She's been educated."

It's a change Schwarzkopf herself addressed. "When I'd step off the plane, in Nairobi, Kenya, or Cairo, Egypt, or Islamabad, Pakistan, I'd think `I can't believe this little farm girl from Timberville, Virginia is really here.' "

But, she added, "I don't think being from a small town has anything to do with how you work out in the world. If you have a desire, and the motivation, then I think you can do anything."


Brenda Schwarzkopf talks about life with her husband, retired Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf.

\ ON BEING A MILITARY WIFE: "Before we were married, he knew I knew nothing about life in the military and he sat me down and told me what to expect. One of the things he said would definitely happen would be we would move a lot. The second thing he said was there would be times when he would come home and say, `I have to leave. I can't tell you where I'm going and I can't tell you when I'll be back.' " They were rules, she says, she quickly got used to.

THE SCHWARZKOPFS HAVE MOVED 17 TIMES IN 23 YEARS: They've lived in Pennsylvania,Kansas, Washington state (twice), Hawaii, Germany, Alaska, Washington, D.C. (five times), Georgia and now, Florida. When their eldest daughter graduated from high school, she had attended 10 different schools, three in the first grade alone.

ON THE FAMILY'S WORST MOVE: "When we were living in Washington, D.C., my husbandcame home one day. He always had a different look on his face when he had a different assignment, because he also looked forward to what he was going to be doing.

"He came in one day with that look on his face. I didn't think it was time to move but he had this look. He said we had two weeks to get to Alaska. It was Thanksgiving and we had to be in Alaska by Dec. 11. When we got there, it was 3:30 in the afternoon and it was very dark" and the snowdrifts were taller than her children.

To make things worse on this dreary day, their furniture was delayed in transit and wouldn't arrive until after Christmas.

"I did something I've never done before. I started crying. I said, `I think you've brought me to the wrong place.' " But Alaska turned out to be their favorite tour of duty, she said.

NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF PLAYED A KEY ROLE IN THE 1983 GRENADA INVASION: "When we wereat Fort Stewart, Georgia, one Sunday evening he received a phone call. After he talked on the phone, he came into the family room and said, `I'm leaving and I can't tell you where I'm going or when I'll be back.' Two hours later he was packed and left. I had no idea where.

"Tuesday morning, I turned on the news and found out American troops were in Grenada, so I supposed that's where he was."

HER MOST FRIGHTENING MOMENT DURING THE GULF WAR: "The scariest thing during thatperiod of time was when the air war started. My mother was visiting. We had justfinished dinner and turned on the TV and there it was. We heard the voice of theannouncer saying [incorrectly, as it turned out] "there are five Scuds heading from Iraq to Saudi Arabia, to Riyadh." That's where my husband was.

"All of a sudden, the phone rang. It was Norman. I was yelling into the phone, `Norman, there are five Scuds headed your way.' He said, `just calm down, that's why I'm calling, just to let you know the air war has started. I want you to know, to love one another, and take care of one another.' Hearing his voice calmed me down."

ON THE SCHWARZKOPFS' PLANS NOW THAT HE'S RETIRED: "I really can't tell you because we don't know ourselves." He's writing a book, which should be finished by the fall, and he's on the lecture circuit about six times a month. He has so many requests pouring in, "his agent said he could work the next 50 years."


by Archana Subramaniam by CNB