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Obituary for Vanessa Fleischmann

Vanessa Fleischmann was born in London, England in a beautiful area of Belgravia called Sloane Square and grew up in Knightsbridge, just opposite Harrods.  Being descended from English and Scottish kings and nobles, she was born into an aristocratic society and culture rarely seen at present.  Despite her birthright, however, she did not agree with the class structure of England, the lack of which in America appealed to her greatly. 


Schooling in England at that time was regarded very differently than it is now so it was not necessary for aristocratic girls to attend school and obtain formal education with formal qualifications.  As such, she was schooled at home by her governess and was taught to dance by Madam Vacani herself, whose school was attended by London’s elite. 


Although the “Coming Out” Season was the way in which a young aristocratic girl entered Society, Nessa regarded this entry as being far less vital to her than realizing her childhood dream of building a career for herself in business.  Indeed, from the age of four, her driving ambition had been to be “a big success in an office.” 


After three years of getting a good grounding in office basics she began her hotel career as a reservationist at the London Hilton in Park Lane.  She was given a series of promotions while she worked there which was unusual because at that time hotels were almost exclusively male oriented in their staffing.  Nessa loved her seven years at the Hilton and rose to the highest position a woman could hold at that time, working for the regional director of Hilton International.  Her favorite times, however, were when she was taking care of the “business houses” and other dignitaries, including famous actresses such as Liz Taylor and Zsa Zsa Gabor, of whom she had tremendously colorful stories. 


After then becoming a Public Relations Officer for an African diplomat, Nessa decided to work in Advertising, as a related field.  Although she had no experience, she managed to obtain an interview with Lever Brothers, a large firm of property consultants in London’s fashionable West End, having read a book on advertising the night before the interview and using some advertising “jargon” to bluff her way into the position of Advertising Executive!  Within six months she was promoted to Personnel Manager and shortly thereafter the role of Public Relations Executive having responsibility for all three areas simultaneously. 


She then earned the educational qualification of Member of the Institute of Employment Consultants and was head-hunted by a large firm of recruitment consultants based in the Law Courts of central London to be the CEO of her own company, Dove Recruitment Planning.  At that time it was unusual for women in England to be regarded seriously for senior positions in business and, as such, the idea of being instrumental in placing women in worthwhile jobs appealed so greatly to Vanessa that she accepted.  In the beginning, Nessa had one room with one desk and the use of one telephone.  She had learned whilst in pubic relations that image creation was essential at the start of any new area of operation and she decided to give an impression of running a department that was larger than just one person so she would use one kind of voice for answering the telephone, another kind of voice when pretending to be her own secretary and a third voice being her own!  Occasionally she would sense businessmen were feeling awkward with dealing with her as a woman but she had a way about her which effortlessly put them at ease and she would joke that they were to “treat her as one of the lads.”  With her business expertise, intuition and charm her business became immensely successful. 


Though she worked hard, as a young woman in London she also had tremendous fun.  After work she would go out on the town with her friends and dance until the wee hours of the morning, her favorite club being Park Lane’s famous Saddle Room, of which she was a member.  Her movement had such grace and she danced so beautifully.  Indeed on one occasion, in London’s prestigious Savoy Hotel, she “cleared the dance floor” as everybody parted way in order to admire her elegant dancing. 


On March 18, 1977, she met her future husband, Dr. Alan Fleischmann, and for both of them it was love at first sight which blossomed from a chance meeting without which they would not have met.  Alan, at that time, was working 36 hours on, 12 hours off, as a resident but one of the thrills of the time was that one got every second weekend off.  He was in his apartment at Guy’s Hospital at the beginning of his weekend off and an Irish nurse called him and asked him to come back to the floor, which he initially graciously declined as he was no longer on call, but she was insistent.  When he inquired as to why she refused to answer but said that he would regret this the rest of his days if he did not.  Curiosity got the best of him and he was told to introduce himself to a patient for whom he would not be caring.  He walked into the room where he found Nessa, the most gorgeous and delightful person he had come across in all his days.  He spent his weekend off charming her at the hospital and Nessa thought this was amazing personal service!  When the weekend was done he said goodbye and asked if he’d see her in the morning, to which she replied that her mother was collecting her at 6 am (a complete fabrication!).  Alan went out the door and thought that if he didn’t say anything now, he’d lose her, so he opened the door, not quite knowing what to say.  She looked at him straight in the eye with a smile and asked “What do you want?”  He took a deep breath and tentatively asked “Any chance for a cup of tea sometime?”  And she said “Yes”…


They were married on November 18th of the same year.  At that time Nessa sold her business and worked on a free lance basis doing recruitment assignments until the birth of her daughter, Diana, in 1982.  Nessa then immersed herself in the pleasures of bringing up her baby daughter and gave up all her business associations, concentrating on making life wonderful for Diana and, later, James who was born in 1985.  By this time Alan had finished his medical residencies and built a family medicine practice in North London where they lived until 1987, when Alan was invited to join the Franciscan Health System in Caledonia, Minnesota.  At this time they all visited Caledonia and Nessa fell in love with the people and the area feeling that this was a place she could truly be at home for the rest of her life.  They signed the contract that very week and Nessa’s business skills were extraordinarily useful as they sold the practice and their home and moved across the Atlantic. 


Nessa became highly involved with her adopted home, her two biggest contributions to the community being the foundation of both the Scottish Heritage celebrations and Caledonia Green, as a result of which Caledonia reclaimed it’s heritage and was adorned with beautiful splashes of color as flower beds erupted all around the city.  She also had many leadership roles, including being president of the Chamber of Commerce, being on various school committees, and being appointed to the Community Education Advisory Council and the Community Foundation.  On March 23, 2002, Nessa was honored by Caledonia by being made Scot of the Year in appreciation for all of the work that she had done for Caledonia.


Nessa’s true passion in life was her family and she dedicated herself wholly to nurturing her husband, daughter and son.  The effort and creativity she put into Diana and James’ childhood was astounding, her real love being helping her children build their imaginations through playtime activities at home and creating magical family traditions and celebrations.  She, along with her husband, created the most loving home atmosphere imaginable and shaped her children into the people they are today.


Nessa was a truly remarkable woman with an extraordinary presence that truly touched everyone with whom she came into contact.  She radiated love, warmth, compassion, and true goodness, all of which was coupled with a colorful personality, a taste of feistiness, and a little bit of mischief thrown in.  Her aura was such that, even as her Multiple Sclerosis progressed, one hardly noticed it and she handled everything with incredible inner strength, positivity, and grace.  Our darling Nessa was the most beautiful being we have ever encountered and we will love and cherish her always.



~The family is going to be establishing donations in memory of darling Nessa, therefore please send any memorials to them directly.