Eulogy for Ursula Markovich

by Claudia Markovich with help from Patricia Markovich and Nika Hedges

Thank you all for coming today and honoring my mother, Ursula Markovich. I would like to take a few moments to share some of my memories of her, and pay tribute to her life.

Ursula was born towards the end of 1931 in Germany, and experienced bombardment from the age of seven. My image of war will always be colored by her child's-eye view of a missing father and moving constantly from town to town and school to school. She described being frustrated because she could not complete even the simplest tasks, like washing dishes, without interrupting herself to run for a bomb shelter. She often talked about the war during thunder storms. The roar of thunder reminded her of the bombs.

After the war, she emigrated to France with only the promise of a job that was necessary for her visa, a promise she never expected to be fulfilled. Being fluent in German, French, and English, my mother was able to find administrative jobs in import/export companies, and airlines like Luftansa. She lived cheaply in Paris in a "chambre de bonne", and ate at the student cafeteria at Sorbonne University. It was during one such inexpensive lunch that she met my father Michael. Within the next two years of their relationship in Paris, she edited and typed my father's thesis, and saw him get his PhD. They had both already applied for visas to this country before they met, and his arrived before hers, so Michael set sail for America. Seven months later Ursula got her visa as well, and she arrived in the U.S. in December, 1956.

At my father's insistence, they got married immediately, at City Hall with two friends as witnesses. They lived in Manhattan on Madison Avenue with my mother working as a secretary, and my father as a pastry chef, while he learned the language well enough to use his degree in Economics. Six years later, my father had a position as an Instructor at Long Island University, and with my birth, Ursula became a full-time mom. 

Patricia arrived two and a half years later, and Mom was with us almost every moment until my sister and I went to school. In those years, she taught me reasons for all kinds of simple household things: like why aluminum foil has a shiny and dull side, in a way that caused me to seek reasons behind everything else as well. She forced me to think: when I asked which way the ironing board went back in the closet, she asked me, "What do you think?" so I was forced to consider the situation and finally let go of the board to see which way it fell. She practiced reuse-recycle always, and in the most creative ways. When the varnish on one of her favorite trays started peeling, she re-painted it with her unused nail-polish in an assortment of colors, carefully following the pattern engraved in the wood, and creating a jewel-like effect. She was still using that same tray over thirty years later, and the colors are still bright. I remembered that scene when I washed it last week.

As soon as Patricia started Kindergarten and full-time motherhood was no longer necessary, Ursula sought a way to pursue her life-long dream of getting an education. She was able to take classes at LIU without paying tuition, and she started studying her passions: French Literature and Psychology. She got her Bachelor of Arts degree four years later, graduating summa cum laude, despite arranging her study around everyone else's schedules. Two years later, she got an MBA. 

After that, at the age of forty-five, my mother went looking for employment. She persisted, despite being sent on interviews for secretarial positions, until her talents were recognized. In 1976, she started as a Financial Analyst with the German technology firm Siemens, and continued working there for the next seventeen years. I don't think she realized how much of an inspiration she was to me and many of my girl friends. She often told me stories about being the only woman in meetings and having to walk to another floor to find a ladies room. When I worked in Manhattan we often met for lunch, usually at a new restaurant she found in the Zagat Guide, and she was always open to new cuisine. I was very proud of my executive mother, who looked fabulous in her formal business suits.

Ursula rose to the level of Director of Cash Management in the Siemens North American headquarters in Manhattan, and then she was trusted with a very special assignment. Siemens upper management decided to set up a holding company in Wilmington, Delaware and entrusted my mother with the job. She became President of Sicap Investments, Inc. and opened and managed the Wilmington office. She rented an apartment in Wilmington and commuted to Queens on weekends to be with my father.

Weekends in our apartment in Queens often included food from Zabar's and philosophic or political discussion. My parents regularly went to ballet and opera performances, bringing us when we were children, and on their own once we'd moved out. My childhood was also filled with museums, both those in New York and in Europe. We traveled regularly, to visit relatives abroad and also to see the world. My mother loved to travel and traveled extensively, both on her own and with my father.

I am glad that she lived long enough to see her daughters become accomplished, independent women and to meet her three grandchildren: Bradley, Samantha and Nathaniel. I would like to end with a poem I wrote about motherhood that describes our relationship perfectly. It was on the Mother's Day card I gave my mother three months ago, and she told me that she liked it:

You taught me to walk and then danced with me,
You taught me to talk and then sang with me,
You gave me your love and then set me free,
And because of your love, I am free to be me.

Thank you, Ursula, for being the supportive mother, and remarkable woman that you were. The world is a better place for your time here. We'll miss you.

Ursula Markovich Photo Collage

Photos chosen by Patricia Markovich, Layout by Patricia and Claudia Markovich


Related links: Michael Markovich     They Met in Paris     ClaudiaM Biography