Nellie H. Friedrichs
New Rochelle, N.Y. November 10, 1994
7, 1994. On November 10, 1994, a memorial service was held in New Rochelle. The following text of what was said
at the service is based partly on a recording made at the time and partly on notes prepared by the various speakers.
I want to thank all of you on behalf of the whole family for coming to this memorial service for my mother Nellie H.
Friedrichs. Nothing would have given my mother more pleasure than to see all her friends and family here. At this
service each of her five children will speak. So at this time I will ask that my sister Liska first say a few words.
When I tried to think of what I would say I realized that I could talk for an hour, a day or a month about all the
wonderful things to say about my mother. So I decided that I just want to mention three things. The first thing is
something that a lot of you may know but some of you may not: that is that for the last three weeks of her life she
was in the hospital but I was with her every day all day long for those three weeks, and I am so grateful that we had
those three weeks together. And I want you to know that she was never in any pain and she never suffered. She
was almost relaxed about it. She was very at peace; she once even said, â€œyou know, this is really very niceâ€”I
am being waited on, I donâ€™t have to do anything, I just sit here and twiddle my thumbs...â€� She always looked
at everything with a positive attitude. She was very much at peace and I want you to know that her ending was very
peaceful, with no suffering and with her family there. We are very grateful for that.
The second thing I wanted to tell you is that the last years of her life she lived with Martin and Randye, and she was
so happy there. Every time I talked to her she said she couldnâ€™t imagine a more wonderful place to be and she
loved it with the children there running in and out. I especially want to say that Randye was the most wonderful
daughter to her, more than words can express. She gave my mother the most incredible love and devotion and
attention. It means a lot to the family, everything that Randye did for her.
We all now have a big empty place in our hearts. But I think we have to fill that place. We need to fill it with
memories, with beautiful warm loving memories. All she ever wanted was for us to be happy, and we need to keep
those memories in our heart and we need to let them just float out and envelop us and think of her with happiness,
just as she would have wanted. She just wanted us all to be happy. Her life was very happy and her ending was very
You may find that all of us say things that sound quite similar. But when I sat down to try to compose something-- Iâ
€™ll tell you, when I was about my son Kyleâ€™s age and I had to sit down and compose something, I would sit in
front of a blank sheet of paper, sometimes foreverâ€”somehow the words didnâ€™t come-- All of a sudden I found
myself in the same situation here; somehow I couldnâ€™t quite put down the words. This is certainly something I
inherited from my father, not from my mother. Obviously all of you who received her incredible letters, and others,
knew that she could do that so incredibly well.
It made me think, when I was sitting at that blank sheetâ€”and that is why I donâ€™t really have a sheet here, I
couldnâ€™t quite put things down--it made me think of what she did for my father. He had the same problem, and
when he would go off on trips she would actually write his letters for him; she would write: â€œDear Nellie, Iâ€™m
having a ___wonderful/___ terrible time; I had lunch with ____;â€¦â€� She had it all pre-addressed and pre-set up
and he just had to check it off. She understood that he couldnâ€™t compose it. I guess she did everything but
And then I realized that sheâ€™s not there to help me do that. Sheâ€™s not there anymore--and I was not sure I
could actually get up and say anything about my mother at this service. Only a few days or perhaps a few weeks
ago my mother said that she wanted her family and friends to be here, to â€œthink of trying to find something
positive to say about herâ€�â€”so we have to try to do that. But you know, the incredible thing, when I was thinking
about it, is that itâ€™s not an issue of finding anything positive--and Liska used the same word--itâ€™s the
complete lack of anything negative that you could say about my mother. And I canâ€™t think of anyone else who
quite fits that category. Of course this is the kind of occasion where you say positive things, but throughout my
whole lifeâ€”and Iâ€™m sure this goes for the other people who have known her--I would suggest that this was a
person who did not have a negative side. And that is quite, quite remarkable, because Iâ€™ve never met anyone
else quite like that. Probably her leading characteristic was being positive: this incredibly positive person, who
always saw everything from the positive side, and never saw the reverse, and always felt that she was lucky and she
was the fortunate one. And we used to have an argument--she would say how lucky she was to have five, and then
ten, children, who all seemed to love her, and seemed to like her, and how lucky she was to have those twelve
grandchildren, and how lucky she was to have all these friends who were always so nice to her--so we used to have
this running argument--we did this at least a dozen times over the yearsâ€”when I would explain to her, â€œMom,
this has absolutely, unequivocally nothing to do with luck. This has nothing to do with luck.â€� And she didnâ€™t
quite grasp that: â€œWhat do you mean, itâ€™s not luck? All these wonderful people...?â€� And she in the end
would say, you know, she was lucky that she lived in this house with us, and lucky she had this relationship with
Randye these last eleven years-- And I said these things arenâ€™t â€œlucky.â€� But she didnâ€™t quite
understand that. And why was that? Because she was somebody whose fundamental issue was making other
people happyâ€”that was where she derived her joy; her joy was making other people happy, and she derived it all
Three weeks ago, when she was being taken in to have her operation, the last words she said to me--and I was very
conscious of that, because I realized it might be the last words I would ever hear her speakâ€”were â€œso lucky...â
€� And that was when she was in the hospital, going in for an operationâ€”that was her view. An hour before she
died, I came up and visited her and held her hand; she held my hand strongly; she was weak then, but her face lit
up and her eyes lit up and I saw that expression on her face that I have known so well: â€œAch, thank you for
coming, itâ€™s so nice that you want visit me...â€�--sort of surprised that someone would want to visit her!
Of course what we all know is that we were the lucky ones, we were the fortunate ones: her children, her
grandchildren, her friends and all those who knew her. And I have to say--and now I speak for Randye and myself
and my children--particularly we were very lucky, because Natasha, Kyle and Tamara got the pleasure for the last
eleven years of her being part of our immediate family.
Of what my mother liked to call her ten children, the only one who is not here is my wife Rhoda, but I know that
everything I say is something she would share in saying with me. Just about twelve years ago, in this very same
building, there was a small gathering a few days after my father died. It was a small gathering because we knew that
later on there would be another occasion at the Courant Institute. But at this gathering the five of us spoke about
my father, and then, a bit to our surprise, my mother stood up and said that she wanted to say one thing--and of all
the things she could have said about my father, she selected the one thing that she wanted to say at that particular
moment: that things he had said and things he had done had made it possible for her motherâ€”Didi, our
grandmotherâ€”to live out the fullness of her whole life in her own home right to the very end. You have heard this
already in another form, but remembering that my mother had said that, I think I want to say something similar: that
the other four siblings--or, as my mother would have said, the other eight of usâ€”have a very special sense that
things that were said and done by Martin and Randye, and especially, really, by Randye, made it possible for my
mother to live out the fullness of her days in the happiness and comfort and warmth of her own home right until the
Some of you were there twelve years ago at that occasion. I remember that at that time I spoke at some length
about my father. I tried to talk about his career and his values and his interests. It may have seemed as if I was
speaking to everyone there, but in my heart I knew I was really only speaking to one person, because I wanted my
mother to hear on that kind of occasion everything that the wonderful person she had been married to for forty-five
years had meant to me as a son. But today neither of my parents is there, and I donâ€™t really know whom I am
talking to. So for that reason and others I am not going to speak for very long. If you knew my motherâ€”and almost
everyone here didâ€”nothing the five of us can say will tell you something you didnâ€™t know. And if you didnâ
€™t--and I know there are a few people here who have come for very kind reasons who didnâ€™t know my mother--
nothing we can say here will really be able to capture her unique personality.
I have been trying in the last few days--as I am sure almost all of us haveâ€”to call up memories of my mother, and I
have a very first and a very last memory that I want to mention. It is hard to try to formulate your first memory of your
mother, but I think I have a very clear picture of something that happened when I must have been about three years
old. I must have had a routine that every time my mother drove out from our old house on Mount Joy Place to go to
the store I would stand at the window and from the car she would wave at me. But one day I was standing at the
window and she drove out and she didnâ€™t wave at me. I fell apart. I burst into tears and I went tearing up to my
grandmotherâ€™s apartment--which was the wonderful thing about our home, that my grandmother was there--and
I must have tried to tell her the story and she eventually figured out what had happened and why it was such a
tragedy. So when my mother came home from the store, the whole thing was explained to her, and after all the
groceries had been brought in, she went back out to the car, pulled out of the driveway, waved at me, drove around
the block and came back home. And I felt the right thing had been done.
That is my first real vivid memory of my mother. As for the last memory, I was here with my son Jeremy over the
summer, but really my last memory is from last Sunday, the day before my mother died. I phoned the hospital and
reached my mother and asked how she was doing, and she said: oh well, she had no pain and everyone was being
so good to her; but then right away she turned the conversation around and asked how I was and how the family
was and how everything was with us and so on. So this is really what was on her mind the day before she died: how
were her children doing?
Those are very characteristic stories. They are not really particularly remarkable stories. But I have to tell you that if
I try to take everything that happened between that first memory and that last memory--and I have been thinking of
countless experiences and conversations and family events and so on--I simply havenâ€™t been able to isolate any
one or two or three or any number of particular things that happened that could begin to convey in any meaningful
way even part of my motherâ€™s energy and enterprise but also, and even more importantly, my motherâ€™s gifts
of love, support, sympathy, understanding and above allâ€”and I wanted to emphasize this--her gift of wisdom.
There is just nothing I could tell you, nothing I could describe to you, that would call all those things up adequately,
and I decided that I would not even try.
My mother was Jewish. She was very proud of her Jewish ancestry and her Jewish heritage. She was not a religious
person in any of the conventional senses of that term. But she had all the qualities that every religion tries to instill
in human beings. Ordinary human beings really need something--they need a religion or an ethical system or a set
of moral ideas or a philosophy of lifeâ€”in order to point them in the right direction, in order to help them know what
is right and what is wrong, in order to make sure that they continue to go on the right path. But my mother really did
not need that. I believe that God has placed a few people on earthâ€”only a very, very fewâ€”with an inner, inborn,
intuitive, unfailing gift of knowing not just what to say or what to do but what, and when, and how to give. I think there
are really just a handful of human beings like that who walk the face of the earth--and my mother was one of them.
I am the middle child, David; I am speaking on behalf of myself, my wife Jeanne and my two children, Jessica and
Bryan. The deep and loving relationship that my mother had with my wife Jeanneâ€”and she rarely missed an
opportunity to tell me how much Jeanne meant to her and of course that was fully reciprocated on Jeanneâ€™s
partâ€”as well as, of course, with our with our two children, was something very important and very special to me.
Jeanne and I both feel that our daughter Jessicaâ€™s rich sensitivity to other people and our son Bryanâ€™s
special capacity for enjoyment in some important way come from Omi.
Just before my mother went into the hospital, I spent the day with her, and at the end of that day three weeks ago,
as I was leaving to head home, I said that I hoped all would go well at the hospital. She looked up to me and said
with a big smile on her face, â€œOh, Iâ€™m looking forward to â€“â€œ
Well, I think itâ€™s been already conveyed that this was something that absolutely identified her spirit. The physical
decline of the last three years was sometimes very difficult for her and it was painful, sometimes, for her loved ones
to witness, but the wonderful thing is that to the very end it never broke this indomitable spirit of hers. As Martin has
pointed out, to the very end she could smile, she could enjoy--and that was the most important thing.
That is a last memory. Christopher invoked a first memory. One of mine is of getting lost with a little friend, Roger
Kress, and being found by some fireman who asked who we were and Roger said: â€œWe belong to Nellie.â€�
That didnâ€™t help the fireman too much--but we, all of us-- all children, really, in some special sense--belonged to
Of course everybody here knows that family and friendship were utterly central themes in my motherâ€™s life. Her
deep devotion to our father and to the institution of marriage were certainly a model to all her children and instilled
in all of us a profound commitment to marriage and family. She took great joy in our marriages, in her in-law
children, and very obviously in the grandchildren. I think it is not too exaggerated to say that she had a real genius
for friendship. My father had many special qualities, and one of them, mathematical ability, is particularly celebrated
by the larger world; he was honored, and my mother, as many of you know, was immensely proud of that. This
special capacity, this genius for friendship, is less formally recognized. But many of you will know, of course, that
she sustained many of these relationships over a period of thirty, forty, fifty, sixty, seventy and more years--and this,
I think, is something extraordinary. We celebrate today a very long and wonderful life, despite some adversities, and
by her own criteria, as Liska has stressed, an enormously happy life. She radiated happiness. She radiated love
with a capital L.
This is in certain ways a difficult job for all of us because we drew strength from this sunshine, this radiance. This is
something we will have to live without, but we owe it to her memory to be joyful and to cherish an endless stream of
wonderful memories of her and to celebrate life in her stead. Christopher has noted, as most of you know, that she
did not have a formal affiliation with religion, but no one whom I have known in my life ever lived more fully in accord
with the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Do unto others--that was the prevailing
theme in her life.
Before I close my brief remarks, I also want to personally acknowledge three very special gifts of Martin and Randye
and in a special way of Randye. The first gift was, twelve years ago, to make the arrangement which we would agree
was the most ideal living arrangement for my mother, to live in a familiar environment where her children could
easily visit her, where she had young grandchildren coming in and out of her apartmentâ€”that was a very special
gift to her. The second gift was to the other siblings and their spouses, and that was a gift of peace of mind--that
our peace of mind through the years was so greatly enhanced by the fact that we knew that my mother was always
close at hand to loving relatives. The third and final gift, which was especially on Randyeâ€™s part, was the
extraordinarily devoted care in these last, sometimes difficult circumstances.
Let me close by saying that we all should be happy with the memory of a life that was lived with pure joy.
I would hope that everyone here was fortunate enough to have a mother that they considered special. But I know
that everyone who is here and who knew my mother would agree that she was a very, very special mother.
I would like to talk a little bit about my motherâ€™s background. At the time she was born in Lyon, France, her
parents were fairly well off and one could easily have expected a normal and contented childhood for her. But this
was not to be. When she was three years old her parents got divorced and Didi, my beloved grandmother, moved
back to Germany where my mother had to make the adjustment of learning another language and living in a
household as an only child with just a mother and a grandmother.
No sooner was that adjustment made than the First World War started, causing all kinds of economic hardship for
my motherâ€™s family. Didi told us many stories about these hardships. One that sticks in my mind is that my
mother had outgrown her shoes, and it was simply not possible to buy or find any shoes that would fit her, so Didi in
her desperation had to cut off the toes of my motherâ€™s shoes and sew some kind of fabric on so that the shoes
were long enough for my mother to use. Needless to say, this was uncomfortable and in wet weather quite
impossible, and Didi suffered terribly because of this problem. But my mother, in all the years I knew her, never told
any such stories or complained about these conditions.
Things were further complicated because in the 1920s Germany went through all sorts of economic hard times
which also caused problems for my motherâ€™s family.
My grandmother Didi, who was born in the 1880s and was a very intelligent woman, was rather bitter that she had
such limited opportunities due to the fact that she was a woman. That was the situation at that time. But she was
determined that my mother would not be raised only to be a housewife and mother, but would get a university
It was while my mother was a graduate student in the 1930s that she met my father. At the same time, the Holocaust
period started, and the next four years were very complicated. All this finally ended with my mother and father
escaping from Europe and coming here to New Rochelle in 1937 with absolutely nothing but each other.
At this point one could easily have understood if my mother had become self-centered and only interested in
achieving some kind of success for herself. But my mother was not that way, as you will understand. She had one
ambition, and that was motherhood. That for her was the highest calling of a meaningful life.
I was the first child, and I too have tried to recall some of my earliest memories of my mother. What I remember most
is that when we were living on Mount Joy Place it seemed my mother was running up and down the staircase all day
long from morning to night, taking care of the children. The few times she was not running around the house taking
care of us she was taking us out to the park or someplace and we were having wonderful times together.
Everything was for the children. Her own clothes were very simple, and she never indulged on herself Ours was the
house that all my friends used to love to come to, because my mother always made them feel welcome and she
never complained at all about the mess that we children made.
Coming as she did from Europe, with a different culture, and 1 being the oldest, from time to time there was some
cultural difference and I would have to explain that other kids didnâ€™t do things like that. My mother would listen
very carefully and quickly make the adjustment.
I, like my siblings, had a very, very happy childhood. This was not an accident. This was because my mother was
determined that her children would have a happy childhood.
For most people raising five children would be a full-time job and more. But not for my mother. Some of her other
activities I can easily remember. Starting right after the Second World War, I can recall that she would spend hours
shopping and preparing large food packages that she would send to her needy friends and relatives in Europe. She
was also extremely active in the P.T.A. and in the Cub Scouts. At a later point there was a Campership Fund here in
New Rochelle. It was my mother who organized a block party with the five of us kids, and we had everybody come
over and we would raise considerable sums for the Campership Fund. Around the Christmas period my mother
would always find some family with children who needed some extra help and she would arrange that those children
would have an enjoyable Christmas.
All of this extra activity was done from the goodness of my motherâ€™s heart. Never did she ever receive or intend
or want to have any kind of reward or be a member of a board or something like that.
But first and foremost came her children. When I was doing some of my projects and needed some part that I
couldnâ€™t find, my mother without hesitation would hop in the car with me and go from store to store so we could
find exactly what I needed. And once when I was a newspaper boy and had some legitimate reason why I couldnâ
€™t deliver the newspapers, who did it? My mother.
As I got older, I also realized what an important role she played in my fatherâ€™s life. My father was a wonderful
person. When we had any kind of problem we could turn to him for excellent advice. But for the ordinary day-to-day
activities and social functions my father was very dependent on my motherâ€™s assistance, which she always
gave. My parents had a wonderful marriage, largely due to my motherâ€™s efforts.
As every parent knows, raising children is a major time-consuming effort--and with five children even more so. But I
would like to add a personal note. As fate would have it, I was born with a rather severe communications and
learning problem. The schools at that time did absolutely nothing about it. It soon became clear to my mother that if I
were to have any hope of achievement in life, she herself would have to spend considerable time helping me. And
she did. She, with Didiâ€™s help, spent hours and hours working with me on my schoolwork. And whenever I, or
any one of my brothers or sister needed my mother, she was always there to help. In my case I know that without
this help I would never have achieved what I have.
Many other parents might have been uptight about having a child who was such a weak performer as myself. But
not my parents. They were always clearly very proud of me and they always made me feel good about myself
When we were all grown up and out of the house, my parents were fortunate enough to have a number of years
when they too could finally do what they had always wanted. And after my father died, my mother still had many
more years of a very active and enjoyable life.
But always the most important thing in her life was her family. She became very close to her four daughters-in-law
and to Dick. But most of all she enjoyed her twelve grandchildren.
In the last few years, when she couldnâ€™t get around so easily and I would visit my mother, she never
complained--all she wanted to know was: how is the family doing? And she always made it clear that she was so
happy when I came aroundâ€”even if I was just sleeping on the couch.
For my mother was a true Jewish mother, who clearly understood that the best thing in life is the family. And I, with
my brothers and sister and the whole family, will truly miss her.
As I already indicated, my mother was blessed with twelve grandchildren, and we are very fortunate that nine of
them are here today. I will ask the oldest of those grandchildren, David Snyder, to say a few words, and then a few
of the other grandchildren will also be coming up to say a few words.
For those of you who may not know me or remember me, I am David Snyder, the son of Liska and Dick. I would like
to speak briefly for myself and perhaps for my cousins as well. Omi was, of course, a wonderful grandmotherâ€”as
good a grandmother as she was a mother. What stands Out most for me when I recall her is her extraordinary
personality. I believe that she possessed a combination of qualities that is very rare among any of us, myself
included. And I feel very, very lucky that she was a part of my life for 25 years. She was always cheerful, kind, and
always brought out an aura of positiveness and cheerfulness wherever she was. I think I even knew this as a small
child. She always showed the highest concern for us, delighting in all of our accomplishments, no matter how big or
how small they were. The respect that she showed for each one of us is far more important than whatever gifts she
may have given to us over the years. I say this because when I look at my own personality and when I look at all of
my cousins, I realize that each one of us shares some of those qualities that she had. Perhaps these came from her
directly or perhaps through her children, our parents. This is not so important, but what is important and what gives
me great gladness is that while all of us, her twelve grandchildren, have unique personalities, we all share her
respect for others, her honesty, and her concern for the world around us. I think she knew this and delighted in it.
Omi may no longer be with us in the physical sense and she will be missed, but I honestly believe that a part of her
does live on in each one of us, and this wonderful legacy will be carried on for generations to come.
NATASHA and JESSICA FRIEDRICHS spoke briefly.
I just remember Omi as - well, she was a great person and a great grandmother.
Omi was a good grandma. She helped me with a lot of things. She was a mother to all of us. I loved her a lot.
I love Omi very much. (Added privately â€œI hope Omi is happy being deadâ€�)
I am Ellen, Christopher and Rhodaâ€™s daughter. On behalf of myself and my brothers Jonathan and Jeremy who
couldnâ€™t be here, I just want to say this. I remember when I was younger 1 had friends who used to say, â
€œWell, Iâ€™m definitely my grandmotherâ€™s favorite grandchild.â€� That always struck me as the most absurd
thing to say, because I could never fathom Omi having a favorite grandchild, because she wasnâ€™t that kind of
person; it always seemed the most absurd thing to me that someone should have a favorite because I always knew
that all of us were equal to Omi.
Friends were one of the very important parts of my motherâ€™s life. She had incredibly many friends. Some were
famous people, others led simple lives, most were somewhere in between. But it did not matter; they were all her
friends. When we first went to Germany shortly after the Second World War she introduced us children to the very
first friend she had met at the age of three when she first came to Germany. When she took us to her old
elementary school the first thing she did was to show us the tree where on her very first day of school she made a
new friend. All of these things were very important to her. And so it went on for the rest of her life. Once you became
a friend you always remained a friend. She was always calling them, having them over for tea, and when she had a
few spare moments she would immediately pull out her letter pad and write another letter. Her friends in times of
need always knew that they could call on my mother and find comfort and good advice.
If we were to have all her friends speak today, we would be here the rest of the day and probably all night long. So
therefore we have asked only two friends to speak.
Dear ten children of Nellieâ€™s, family and friends--
Iâ€™ll go back to the summer of 1948 when I first met Nellie. It was somewhere up the Hudson. I believe it was Cold
Spring. A group of us from the Institute were trying our hand at rock-climbing.
Iâ€™ll always remember my first glimpse of Nellie--she was walking along the riverâ€™s edge with three kids in tow
and in a row, all dressed alike in blue jeans--and all looking extremely happy. What impressed me at the time was
this striking combination of discipline and joyousness.
After that first encounter, Nellie drew me into her circle of friends, and as I started a family of my own our bonds
grew ever stronger.
Weâ€™d visit back and forth. Nellieâ€™s visits were always a welcome event for the whole family, and Iâ€™d look
forward to being invited to Nellieâ€™s famous teas. Weâ€™d sit in her living room, in the alcove, where the tea was
laid out--and talk by the hour. Nellie was a fascinating conversationalist and intelligent listenerâ€”a rare combination.
Nellie had an exceptionally wide range of interests, but her main focus was on people, especially children, hers and
others. Iâ€™d go home, filled with Nellieâ€™s wisdom, and with fresh insights into my relationships with my own
family. I canâ€™t tell you how helpful, what a good friend Nellie was to me. She invariably gave good advice and
All my recollections of Nellie are extremely clear and vividâ€”more so, I think, than of any of my friends. I canâ€™t
explain it except that it must have been due to her personality, and to her unique way of communicating her
thoughts about people and events.
My children share these vivid memories. They still speak of the annual Easter egg hunts--how all the kids, big and
little, searched together. The big kids, of course, found more than the little ones, but Nellie made sure that
everybody got their fair shareâ€”all the eggs were laid out on a large table and equally divided. Eggs were also
mysteriously thrown out of a window, something that nobody could ever explain!
Then there were events such as the summer fair for the Fresh Air Fund which Nellie organized. And Christopherâ
€™s puppet shows.
There was the time, vividly recalled, when the family was anxiously waiting for Davidâ€™s return from the South,
where he was campaigning for civil rights at a most dangerous as well as critical time. Or Walterâ€™s trip around
the world when the first thing that would confront you as you entered the house was a huge map with little pins stuck
in it denoting Walterâ€™s progress. His letters were eagerly read by the family and shared by friends.
Nellie loved to give parties, all of which were filled with fun and friendship.
From all of this there emerges a picture of a warm, generous, caring, eminently reasonable family where, as one of
my children expressed it, â€œthere was always something happening there.â€� And the center of it all and the
prime mover was Nellie.
Iâ€™ve lost a dear and valued friend to whom I shall always be grateful for having given me so many warm and vivid
memories and for the very positive influence she has had on my life.
Again, to you the childrenâ€”although you have suffered an irreplaceable loss, at the same time you have inherited
a great legacyâ€”one of caring, of dedication, of warmth and of high intellectual achievement--a legacy of which you
can be justly proud.
ELEANORE (LORE) JONAS
Dear children of Nellie, dear children-in-law, dear grandchildren of Nellie, dear friends of Nellie,
When the Jonas family came to America in 1955, it was Nellieâ€”a stranger--who was among the first to telephone
and invite me to her house. I came then with my babies, and I have enjoyed the afternoon get-togethers ever since.
There were always many friends gathered there, and as a newcomer to this country I remember those teas and big
parties the Friedrichses gave with gratitude, as we would not otherwise have become part of her mathematical
crowd, which meant a great deal to my husband and me.
Nellie had a copious gift for friendship, and she had many friends--so many that, as Wilhelm Magnus once said, â
€œThey could fill Carnegie Hallâ€�--which, by the way, they did, when, one time, Nellie asked them to come hear
one of her proteges perform in that hall.
There are reasons why she had so many friends. For one, her enthusiasm for other people never flagged, and in
the early stages of our acquaintanceship, I even asked myself, â€œCan there really be such a person who never
finds fault with anybody?â€� But there was. It was Nellie. I never heard her say a bad word about anyone. Nellie
taught me a very important lesson: that people should not be judged by preconceived notions of ability or
achievement, but that everyone should be judged by his or her strengths. The weaknesses she always overlooked.
It was a great example for me, which I tried to emulate.
She relished her friendsâ€™ successes in life as if they were her own, and she was happy for you, as few people
can be happy for others. But I was happy to hear her news one day: that her memories of Professor Geiger
appeared in a sociology journal even before her son, a sociologist, got published there!
Nellieâ€™s virtues were many. The warmth of her heart. Her consideration for others, which made you into the most
important person the moment you entered her house. I remember the glow she imparted to nearly every afternoon
teaâ€”and there were many. You felt her warmth, you felt interesting because she thought you were interesting, and
she made you feel as if you were a better person than you in fact were.
The glow of her enthusiasm warmed many of us who are here now, and the world is colder because she is gone.
SARKA FRIEDRICHS, Walterâ€™s wife, talked briefly about her relationship with Nellie and described how, after her
own motherâ€™s death, Nellie had become a second mother to her.
Walter then introduced Nellieâ€™s cousin Traute, explaining that both Nellie and Traute had been only children and
as a result they were almost like sisters to each other.
Thank you, Walter, for your kind and thoughtful introduction. I would like to add a few words, since Nellie and I knew
each other a very long time--three-quarters of a century! For seven decades Nellie has been my role-model in most
of my various stages of development. She was my only and dearly beloved cousin. I could look up to her, find
consolation when needed, and always get advice or help and support in whatever I planned to do.
From the time I was four years old, I spent many summers at our grandmotherâ€™s in Braunschweig with my aunt
Ella (Nellieâ€™s mother, called Didi by her grandchildren) and Nellie. Nellie generously shared her room with me,
giving up her bed and using the couch for herself In the early 1920s bedrooms were not usually equipped with
running water but had was hstands, basins and a huge jug of water for the â€œmorning clean-up.â€� Nellie would
get up first and hang a folded bedsheet over the metal headboard of â€œmyâ€� bed with the very sincere
admonition: â€œYou must not peek while I am getting washed!â€� No, I did not dare, although by the time I was
eight the temptation became too much and despite Nellieâ€™s repeated question during that ceremonyâ€”â
€�Traute, you are not peeking?â€�â€”I once stole a very quick and furtive glimpse. I could not see anything,
Since Nellie already went to high school and did not have any siblings, she proudly introduced her little cousin from
a foreign country to all her friends--and there were many. Many years later in 1937 when Nellie visited us in
Czechoslovakia and I was in high school, I hardly could contain my excitement to introduce my beloved big cousin
from Germany to my classmates.
Due to the political circumstances and World War II, we were not to see each other until 1948 when we finally
embraced in New York Harbor after years of Nellieâ€™s urging, financial help and support. In my early years as a
domestic and later as a nursing student, Nellieâ€™s and Friederâ€™s young and lively family became my refuge
from the rigors of studying and trying to pass tests. It was through Nellie and her loving family, where I found the
warmest welcome and acceptance, that I had such a beautiful beginning in the country that would become my home.
Another important aspect of my motherâ€™s life was music. She loved to listen to chamber music played by her
friends, mostly at the Courantsâ€™ house. So I am pleased that one of the Courantsâ€™ daughters, Lori
Berkowitz, will play a concluding piece.
LORI BERKOWITZ spoke about her relationship with Nellie and described how in recent years she had often visited
Nellie and played for her. She then brought the service to a conclusion by playing two movements from one of
Nellieâ€™s favorite pieces:
Bachâ€™s C major Sonata no. 3 for solo violin, transcribed for viola: Largo Allegro Assai
But the last word should belong to Nellie herself Shortly after her death, her sons found in her desk an envelope
marked â€œImportantâ€�. Inside was a note dated April 29, 1973 which read as follows:
"When I die nobody should mourn. I had the richest, happiest and most wonderful life, due to my marriage and our
children. I lived with an exceptional mother and was blessed with an unusual number of close friends. I saw the
world. I did what I wanted and I fully realized that I was a very fortunate human being.
I want my ashes strewn to the winds at Turtle Trickle."
Later on she had changed her final request. After Frieder died and the urn with his ashes had been laid to rest at
Turtle Trickle, Nellie asked that the urn with her ashes be placed next to his.
On November 11, 1994, her five children and some other members of the family went to Turtle Trickle to fulfill this