BALTIMORE -- Agathe von Trapp, the eldest daughter of the von Trapp family made famous in "The Sound of Music," died of congestive heart failure Tuesday at Gilchrist Hospice Care. She was 97 and lived in Brooklandville, Md.
For the past five decades, after she and her siblings stopped performing as the Trapp Family Singers, she lived a quiet life as "a virtual recluse" in Glyndon, Md. She was a kindergarten teacher's helper at a private Catholic school affiliated with the Sacred Heart Parish for many years, said a friend, Mary Louise Kane, with whom she lived.
"She was 43 before she stopped relying on someone older and wiser and went to the grocery store and the bank herself," a 2003 Sun article said.
The article noted that in the movie that dominated the 1965 Academy Awards and broke box-office records, she came out of her shell at "16 going on 17," but the reality of her life was different.
"It's very strange for me; I've been living a very quiet life. All of a sudden, these people want to see me," she said at the time she published her autobiography in which she sought to set the record straight between fact and fiction.
She wanted people to know that her father, Capt. Georg von Trapp, a widowed Austrian aristocrat who was played by Christopher Plummer in the film and Theodore Bikel on Broadway, was not cold, unfeeling and distant. She insisted he was a kind and loving father.
"Agathe von Trapp cried when she saw the show at its Broadway opening in 1959. She would have been just as enchanted as the rest of the audience had the characters' last name been Miller. But this was her family's name, and it was not her family's story," the 2003 Sun story said.
Among other changes, the children's first names and sexes had been changed. In real life, Agathe von Trapp had an older brother, but in the musical, the eldest child was a girl, Liesl.
As the eldest daughter, Agathe von Trapp had assumed that was her. But as a teenager she never had a boyfriend, much less a telegram-delivering Nazi.
Agathe von Trapp said the nun who became her stepmother was not a governess. She was a tutor for one of the von Trapp sisters, who was too weak from scarlet fever to make a 45-minute trek to school. And the children were quite well-versed in music by the time they met Maria, who went by the nickname Gustl.
Agathe von Trapp said the family did not cross the Alps to escape Austria. They crossed the street and boarded a train.
In the 2003 interview, she said she "could have lived with" all the inaccuracies "had it not been for the musical's portrayal of her father." She insisted "he was nothing of the sort."
In the 1980s, she began writing her version of the family history. She was initially weakened by a muscle disease and suspended writing for a long while. Once recovered, she went twice to Europe to dig through archives for the genealogy completed in 2000.
Dozens of Agathe von Trapp's hand-drawn maps, portraits and other illustrations from the past half-century are interspersed throughout her book, which is 211 pages plus a glossy section with family photographs.
The book, "Agathe von Trapp: Memories Before and After The Sound of Music," chronicles the Trapp Family Singers, who toured for 20 years.