Marianne Somogyi, beloved mother and grandmother, died Thursday, December 3, 2020 at her home in West Hurley, NY. She was 98 years old.
Marianne, née Ménő, was the daughter of Jules (Gyula) and Margit and was predeceased by her husband John (Janos) Somogyi. Marianne is survived by her son, Ronald Somogyi of Buffalo, NY; her daughter, Karen Somogyi Howenstein of Mount Tremper, NY; and her grandchildren: Michael Somogyi of Chapel Hill, NC; Allison Somogyi of Washington, DC; Benjamin Somogyi of Brooklyn, NY; Siena Howenstein of Mount Tremper, NY; and Zachary Howenstein of Mount Tremper, NY.
Marianne lived an extraordinary life and died, fittingly, on her daughter’s birthday in the midst of a pandemic. Born in Vienna, Austria in 1922, Marianne spent her childhood in Czechoslovakia until 1938, when Nazi Germany annexed the Sudetenland. In reaction to this development and in an attempt to escape Nazi persecution, the Mero family fled to Hungary, which was not yet under Nazi occupation. Although anti-Jewish laws prevented Marianne from attending school, she nevertheless cultivated her skill for language and acquired fluency in German (her mother tongue), Hungarian, Slovak, French, English, and Spanish. Although always self-conscious about her lack of education, her family considered her to be exceptionally intelligent.
Marianne survived the Holocaust in Hungary in hiding. After the war, she utilized her impressive language skills to obtain a job working as a secretary for the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA). Marianne’s postwar work for the UNRRA and later the American Friends Service Committee proved crucial in helping her to resettle in the United States.
In 1948, Marianne and her husband fled Soviet-occupied Hungary for the United States, one year before the People’s Republic of Hungary sealed its borders. Upon arrival in the United States, Marianne and her husband were briefly detained on Ellis Island. Even after they were released, as is often the case for immigrants, their struggles continued. Despite the fact that Marianne and her husband fled both Nazi and communist persecution, they did not qualify for asylum based on the United States’ Displaced Persons Act of 1948. Eventually, her husband’s case would be recommended for an adjustment of immigration status, but Marianne’s could not until Representative Katharine St. George introduced H.R. 911, a private bill for her relief, on January 3, 1953. Marianne became a naturalized American citizen on April 22, 1958.
Marianne and her husband eventually purchased a modest home in Stony Point, NY, where they raised their two children and a succession of much-loved dogs. She worked as a secretary in a doctor’s office, but her most cherished role was as a mother and grandmother. Later in life, Marianne moved to West Hurley, NY to live closer to her devoted daughter.
Marianne is remembered for her easy laugh, her sharp wit, her love of dogs, The Sound of Music, fluffernutter sandwiches, and anything with chocolate, as well as her late-in-life obsession with her granddaughter’s COVID-infected wedding. She loved fiercely and, fortunately, knew just how much she was loved in return.
Due to the current pandemic, Marianne’s family will host a memorial to celebrate her life when it is safe to gather in person.