Fembio Special: Women from North and South Tyrol and the Trentino
Elsa Giacomelli Habicher
born 22 September 1924 in Brixen
died 5 August 1991 in Nals
South Tyrolean pediatrician
20th anniversary of death 5 August 2011
Born on 22 September 1924 as the oldest daughter of an Austrian mother, a teacher, and a civil servant from Rovereto, she grew up in Brixen with a brother and sister. She was so intelligent and musically gifted that she earned her Abitur (high school diploma) by the age of 17 and a year later received her diploma in piano from the conservatory in Bolzano, with distinction. Since the study of medicine was made difficult for women at the time, she began her university studies in mathematics; after two years, however, she shifted to medicine. In 1951 she received her doctorate in medicine with distinction in Padua. After two years at the University Clinic in Padua she completed training for a specialty in pediatrics, once again with top grades. In 1951 she wed her colleague Bruno Habicher from Graun/Vinschgau; the couple had four daughters.
At first both of them worked in the Sarn Valley; then they settled in Nals, where she opened her own pediatric practice and he served as a community doctor (Gemeindearzt). Far ahead of their time, the couple shared responsibilities as partners and were both professionally active. Their competent housekeeper was an essential support to the family; she remained with them for over 30 years.
After a national search Elsa Giacomelli Habicher took over as head of the state OMNI-Mother and Child Counselling Centers for the entire province of Bolzano. Later this prophylactic service was taken over by the Health Assessing Agency (Gesundheitsassessorat) and further developed in collaboration with the then South Tyrolean Health and Social Services Administrator (Landesrätin) Waltraud Gebert-Deeg. The goal was to provide a comprehensive preventive medical service for mother and child – even in the most remote vallleys. In addition to this primary responsibility, Elsa Giacomelli Habicher committed herself until her retirement in 1987 to the development of important social and professionally relevant institutions; she was a co-founder of: “Lebenshilfe für Behinderte” (Life Assistance for Disabled Persons), the Diabetic Association, the diocesan Marriage Preparation Courses and the “Dienst für Genetik” (Genetics Service). In 1976, given increasing social changes in family and married life, she founded, together with her biological and spiritual brother Pietro, the first family counselling center of South Tyrol, “Pater Maximilian Kolbe” in Bolzano. This essential service was soon expanded to branch centers in Brixen, Merano and Leifers.
Despite her many varied abilities and responsibilities, Doctor Giacomelli Habicher was extremely modest and at the same time possessed of a maternal warmth and an unshakeable calm. Her profession was her calling; she was truly there for people, concerned not only about their physical condition, but also their overall social and mental well-being. Her many colleagues in the social services and maternal counselling centers continue to think of her with admiration, in part because of the many small signs of appreciation and encouragement she gave them for their challenging work. An important element in her life was the Christian faith which she put into practice and from which she drew her strength.
Just as strong was her love of music; she volunteered for years as organist in Nals. Her musicality and her social impulse have survived in her offspring, to whom she is an enduring example.
Elsa Giacomelli Habicher cared for her ailing husband; after forty years of marriage his early death affected her so deeply, however, that she unexpectedly followed him after only half a year.
(Text based on an interview with the daughter Almuth Egger on 14 April 2008 in Nals)
Author: Christine Baumgartner
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