DAVIDSONVILLE, Md. — Frieda Schneider came to nudism late in life.
But at 65, when she made her first visit to a nudist camp, she found a home. Literally.
Twenty-five years later, the 90-year-old native of Germany lives a quiet life in the wooded seclusion of a nudist camp just off busy U.S. 50, surrounded by friends she calls the nicest people in the world.
Seated--clothed in slacks and a top for an interview--at a small table in her comfortable cottage on the grounds of the Maryland Health Society, Schneider's face crinkled into a broad smile as she described her first visit to the club.
"I was at home right away. I said, 'That's the place I want to be,' " she recalled.
She soon bought a tiny cottage, which she expanded into two floors of living space. She is one of the few year-round residents of the small club situated on 100 acres of dense woods near the Patuxent River in Anne Arundel County.
Schneider was introduced to nudism by her chiropractor, who told her, "I have a place in Maryland I usually go to on Sundays, and I would like to take you along."
But there was a catch.
"He said, 'I tell you right now, it's a nudist club,' " Schneider said.
"I said, 'What? You can't get me out there,' " she said, breaking into an infectious laugh as she recalled her response.
But her chiropractor was persistent, and after about a year she relented and went along.
Members of the club such as Irmi Spieker, who lives two houses away and keeps a watchful eye on Schneider, made her feel at home, but she didn't doff her clothes right away.
"They asked me to undress. I said, 'No. I can't.' And I didn't,' " she said. "It took time. It took time to really change my attitude."
Schneider tends to her cherished garden in the nude, but does not wander around the camp much anymore without clothes.
"I would be embarrassed because my body is 90 years old," she said.
Schneider has slowed down a bit. But she takes care of herself and her house, tends her garden and exercises daily.
She retains a zest for life that Spieker and Cornelia Jensen, a visitor from Holland, say make her a joy to have as a friend.
"I like to be with Frieda every day because she's such a big source of inspiration. It is wonderful to have somebody around you like that, especially at her age," Jensen said.
Schneider's path from her native Bavaria to Maryland was not always an easy one.
In her early 20s, she worked in Berlin for an uncle who had a moving-picture business. When that failed, she came to the United States, settling on Long Island in New York, where she worked as a nursemaid.
"I was so lonely," she said.
Then she met William Schneider at a German Club dance.
"He was very handsome. He was very much in love with me, which I liked very much," she said.
After marriage, the couple bought a chicken farm in New Jersey. Her husband was happy, but Frieda Schneider did not like the isolation of farm life.
But she stayed on the farm, rearing three children.
Then, in her 60s, at an age when most people are ready to retire, Schneider decided to leave her husband and the farm and start a new life.
"I told my husband that I cannot live like that any longer," she said.
She packed up her old station wagon and headed for Miami, where she enrolled in a one-year course and learned to be a masseuse.
That led to a job in Washington, an appointment with her chiropractor, and her introduction to nudism and the Maryland Health Society.
Schneider has found the peace and calm that eluded her for so much of her life. She loves her friends, her house, the dense woods that envelop the swimming pool, clubhouse and small cottages that make up the nudist camp.
"Isn't it beautiful?" she said. "I don't even want to go and travel. It's so beautiful here."