Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Marion Shuman

Last month my Aunt Marion Shuman passed away in Jerusalem Israel.  She was 88.  Leslie and I send our profound condolences to her children, Ellis, Debby and Judy and their families.

I first met Aunt Marion nearly 60 years ago.  It was 1954.  I was three.  Engaged to marry my Uncle Ben, she visited Sioux City, Iowa, where I lived.  That would have been about a month before their wedding.

Don't imagine that I remember her visit.  I've refreshed my memory with old family albums.  Here are two pictures of Marion and Ben dated 1954 and 1955. (The boy in the second picture is me - age 4.)  Those are among the earliest pictures of Marion in the albums.

After they were married Ben and Marion made their home in Sioux City.  They had three children while Ben worked at the local newspaper.  In 1972 Ben and Marion moved the entire family to Israel, leaving the mid-West for the mid-East.  Their hope was to raise their children in a more Jewish environment.

Their departure was covered by that same local newspaper.  The article, Sioux City Family Leaving for New Home in Holy Land, quotes Marion:
I have a very religious feeling about this including the timing.  We were meant to go. The good Lord has been watching over us.  I know we will have hard times ahead, but we are prepared.
Here is a picture showing all five Shumans in 1972, soon after arriving in Israel.

Photo albums tell many stories.  Over time things change - cameras, fashions, people.  One story that the pictures tell about Marion is the strength of her marriage to Ben.  Most of her pictures show them together.  I had to look hard to find shots of her alone.  These are dated 1973, 1977 and 1983.

Once the Shumans were nearly half a world away, communication with friends and family back in the Old Country (i.e. Iowa) became much more difficult.  Many letters were written.  Along with the photo albums I have an envelope stuffed with letters from Israel - spanning more than 20 years - a collection saved and cherished by my Mother.

Early letters, written with a manual typewriter on light-weight Israeli Aerogrammes, were intended for many different State-side readers.  These might begin with a salutation like:
Shalom from Jerusalem to Mother, Edythe, Al, Esther, Jack, family and friends!
Gradually, as people passed on, the salutations shortened one by one.  Later letters are addressed only "Dear Edythe".  After my Mother's death this becomes "Dear David".  The trusty manual typewriter was replaced eventually by a spiffy electric which soon gave way to a mysterious computer with dot matrix printer.  And then the letters stop.  Email had arrived.

The letter writer-in-chief was, quite naturally, the journalist in the family, Uncle Ben.  Letters from Marion were few.  These letters focus on daily life in Jerusalem - schools, jobs (Ben worked for the local newspaper), military service, weddings, births, trips, visitors from America.

Here are a couple more pictures showing Ben with his arm around Marion.  (These are vintage 1974.)

One letter from Aunt Marion stands out.  When my Mother passed away in 1986, Uncle Ben traveled from Israel to Iowa for the funeral.  Marion had to remain in Jerusalem but sent a personal letter of condolence.

Here are two short excerpts in Marion's own words on the subject of the loss of a mother.
Hopefully her children, her children's children and (someday) her children's children's children (when they learn to read) will take some comfort from them, as I repurpose them to reflect back on the woman who actually wrote them.
I guess what I am trying to say is that I really share your loss - but in my way.  A mother can never be replaced and you will remember how much she loved you and took pride in all that you have accomplished.  You surely must know that she shared this pride with us, and we loved hearing about it.
I hope you have been warmed by the respect and love many people had for your Mom, she was vital all her years, never showed her age, and was interested in people - a very important interest!  Keep her wonderful image in front of you always.
Judaism was important to my Aunt Marion.  Family was important to her.  Those two things infused everything she did.  She had purpose and determination, good qualities to have when moving a family with three teenagers half a world away.  Such a move must have posed one new challenge after another.  

Marion knew instinctively that Israel was a better place than Iowa to raise a Jewish family.  Looking back on her life and on the family she raised, it's pretty clear that her instincts were right.

Here's a picture of Marion and Ben dated 2006, 52 years after the first picture in this post.  It's not surprising that Ben still had his arm around Marion.

Ellis Shuman has inherited the mantle of Shuman family writer-in-chief from his father.  He has published a novel and a collection of short stories.  Check out his Amazon page.  Ellis also writes a blog called Ellis Shuman Writes.  

He wrote a blog post called The Comfort of Jewish Mourning Customs which describes Marion's final days and the Jewish traditions her family fulfilled to mark her death and remember her life.  She would have been proud to know these traditions continued after her.  Of course she did a lot to make sure that happened.

Blog posts about the recently departed are not traditional Jewish customs.  However Mixed Meters has been around long enough to make a few of its own traditions.  You can read my 2007 post remembering Marion's husband of over 52 years, my Uncle Ben Shuman, here.  Plenty more pictures of the two of them together.

One more memory ...  in 1992 I married Leslie Harris.  Since both of my parents had already passed away, Ben and Marion graciously traveled from Israel to California to serve as my honorary parents.  Here's a picture of the three of us, taken 37 years after the snap above (the one which shows the three of us slouching on a couch, just about the time of their first wedding anniversary.)


Ellis Shuman said...

David, what a touching, fitting, and meaningful article, one which included many never-seen-before photos, at least never seen by me.

Thank you so much for posting this.

debby said...

David , thank you for a wonderful and warm tribute to my mom and to my dad.
I had never see some of these photos before either.
My parents got to fulfill a dream and live a full and rich Jewish life in their Jewish homeland. But family was so important to them so they did their best to keep in touch over the years with many photos, letters and then emails. What a great collection you have put together!
Thank you!

debby said...
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