In Memoriam: Sophie Breer, 1957-2018

On August 24, 2018, Sophie Breer suffered a cardiac arrest in her hometown of Minneapolis and passed away peacefully surrounded by her loving family and devoted husband.

What to say about Sophie? If you didn’t know her, you wanted to. With her understated intelligence, humility, and wry wit, not only was Sophie an irreplaceable sister, daughter, wife and friend, she was a true people whisperer. Her ability to disarm and charm both colleagues and strangers alike established an immediate respect and mutual trust that would ultimately prove invaluable over her life-time.

Born December 3, 1957 in Paris, France to Franny and Bob Breer, Sophie was the eldest of four daughters raised in Snedens Landing during the 1960s and 1970s, first in the gray house on Washington Spring Road next door to the manse, then in the yellow house on Ludlow Lane in which Franny still resides.

Sophie attended local elementary and middle schools, including The Project School run by Palisadian Alice Gerard, before completing high school at a Quaker boarding school, The George School, in Newtown, Pennsylvania. She continued on to Vassar, also Franny’s alma mater, where she studied English.

A great love of the arts landed Sophie in New York City in the late 1970s at the center of the glamorous Punk Rock and Avant-Garde art scene, bartending at the iconic Peppermint Lounge, waitressing at historic East Village pubs, and playing drums at clubs such as CBGB with her band “The Big Ones.” With close friends the likes of artist David Wajnarowicz and recording artists The Ramones, it was a colorful and formative chapter in Sophie’s story.

Relocating to Minneapolis in the late 1980s, Sophie’s career path led to research positions for two major institutions. The National Jury Project of Minneapolis relied on her valuable people skills to research, interview and form ‘mock juries’ allowing prominent attorneys to obtain crucial insight into their pending cases. Sophie was subsequently offered a position at The University of Minnesota in the Cancer Research Department, overseeing numerous research studies in which her recruits not only contributed invaluable data to the studies, but also were often affected personally. “Today a participant told me I saved his life,” Sophie announced proudly one afternoon, having had convinced a man in a single call to enter the study and get to his doctor. She was uniquely good at recruiting. In her own words, “Never had a hang-up in 20 years.”

Compassionate and empathetic, especially to the disadvantaged, Sophie also saved the lives of several pooches over the years through adoption, and most recently worked in Elder Care, both in private facilities and as a visiting aide for the homebound.

Those who remember Sophie, and it’s apparent from the recent outpouring the number is expansive, remember her distinctive, throaty laugh and joyful dance moves. Her wicked sense of humor was a gift from her late father, Bob Breer. From her mother, Franny, she inherited her love of literature. Sophie was a generous Auntie to her nieces and nephews, a loving daughter and a “fierce protector of her sisters.” Her devoted husband of eighteen years, Vhannes Koujanian, has lost “my best friend. My Sophie.” We miss her very much.