Family History

Eulogy for Henry Marx

Saturday, November 11th, 1995

Welcome and thanks for coming today, on behalf of Lise, Henry’s wife, Jan his daughter in law, Joe and Claire, his grandchildren. I’m Steven, his son.

We’ve been amazed by the magnitude of the public tribute to him and the outpouring of sympathy and appreciation–from Denver, where he lived for fifteen years before moving to San Luis Obispo, from New York, from all around the world.

He was a little guy with a large presence; Paula Huston said to me the other day that he’ll be missed by the whole county. Another colleague, Barbara Hallman came up to me yesterday to express condolence with tears in her eyes. I asked her how she knew him. “His letters to the paper, I’ll miss them,” she said.
Grief makes you want to retreat and hide to nurse your wound. Its hard to share with so many people in so public a way.The good and pure memories we want to hoard, the jealous and critical feelings we want to hide, and the stupefying mystery of death itself we want to deny.

But Jan and Lise and I nevertheless decided on the day he died to hold this gathering. For the immediate family, it’s a way to distribute the pain, it’s asking for your comfort, it’s an antidote for our tendency to withdraw into isolation

For all of us, its a chance to make up for some of the loss we feel to our community by pooling our regard for Henry and building a lasting monument to him in our memories.

The reason we’re in the Y today is not only because of the graciousness of the managment and the fact that it has a large room and lots of parking space. Henry used to say that going to senior aerobics at the Y twice a week was his religion. He was only half joking.

Since his adolescent involvement with the German youth movement, he believed in worshipping the temple of the body. Fitness was his credo. He treasured his health, and he saw that maintaining it was his own business. Working out here made him feel good and counteracted his tendencies toward depression about current events. The idea of senior aerobics fit his attitude toward old age and the approach of death in general–affirming what you still have, rather than regretting what you’ve lost.

The first tolling of his bell occurred here. Heading home for lunch after his workout on May fifth, he drove out of the parking lot, down Southwood, Laurel Lane and Orcut to the intersection and then made a left turn instead of a right on Broad street. An hour later, the Park Rangers found him disoriented, spinning his wheels near the ocean in the Nipomo dunes.

After they brought him home, he had a series of seizures, but with medication and a couple of weeks rest, he was recovered enough to be back in this room on a regular schedule, and in July, he insisted that I join him one day to exercize and to meet his friends.

I came back here with Henry in mid October. Two weeks after being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, he was staying in the Cabrillo nursing home, a block away, on Augusta Street. It was a warm afternoon and I took him out in a wheelchair to the nearest place one could appreciate the air and see some green. It was the park right outside. We sat together in the shade of the Eucalyptus trees and talked about native and imported plant species, about medicare, about the privilege of living in this town. It was our last sustained conversation, the last time he was out of bed.

I felt blessed to be able to take many farewells from my father during his monthlong departure from this world. One of the most memorable occurred when he talked about his grandparents, and how their presence was so strong with him during those last days. Then he cried bitterly and said he didnt want to die. Without thinking, I replied that he would remain, just as his grandparents existed in him at that very moment. He nodded and pulled me to him. With all of us here now I say, goodbye Henry, and I say you are still here in the memories and the legacy of the good you leave behind.

My Story by Louise Marx

Thursday, December 15th, 1994

My earliest recollection seems to be when I was three years old sitting on my potty on the floor and the earth shook. It was a Sunday morning and there were several members of our family in our apartment in Stuttgart, Seestrasse 65.  It increased my vocabulary by the word, “Erdbeben,” earthquake.  That late in life, at age 80, I would live in earthquake country, California, nobody could foresee.

My48A0DF1E-A848-476E-9715-D8EC4C6628AD_1_105_c next memory is of when my father returned from the office with a bulletin distributed on the streets.  It was August 2, 1914, the beginning of World War I.  There existed no other news media, except for the newspapers delivered a few hours later, going into detail of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria in Sarajevo.  Many of my friends’ fathers were conscripted for military service at the front.  My father was in uniform but not recruited to serve in the trenches, as his health was not good enough.  He suffered from asthma and bronchial conditions. He was employed by a large company which manufactured “Schiesbaumwolle,” used in shooting the cannons on the front.

As the war continued, we had to prepare for aircraft attacks every night by putting warm clothing on a chair next to our beds and toys to take down to the cellar where we spent many evenings.  Anti-aircraft was close to our section in Stuttgart.  As soon as one heard the siren one was supposed to enter the nearest house for shelter.  At home we went to the cellar.  Father had a wine cabinet down there and took the key along to open a bottle for the grownups.  Children got apples which were also stored downstairs.  For us kids it was lots of fun.

8A9831B6-DEAF-4E28-BA4D-BF9D35CB32F0_1_105_cAdolf went toboganning with me, we took long walks, and sang together.  The Stuttgart zoo was not far from where we lived.  On one of our visits, I came close to the monkey cage.  I had two pigtails with rust-colored satin bows, and before I knew it, a monkey had grabbed a bow and disappeared with it.  Another day my father asked me what I would prefer, either ride a donkey in the zoo or attend a concert in town.  My answer was, “on the donkey to the concert.”

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Für Elise

Saturday, February 28th, 1976

The summer after the second grade (1948), we moved from Inwood to Riverdale, and my grandmother moved into our old apartment on Arden Street. The neighborhood was getting rougher: Irish and Italian blue collar families were moving up the street from Nagel Avenue, and the German-Jewish rising middle class were heading for the suburbs. My father was getting a raise, and my parents felt that I needed my own room and wide-open space to roam in. But I missed the old block terribly: the solid row of four story houses and stoops, the street that belonged more to children and dogs than to cars, the people screaming out the window, marble season in the gutter, open hydrants in the summer, mountains of snow and garbage in the winter, Abe’s candy store on the corner.

And I missed the old building: 28 Arden, a walkup with three apartments on a landing, their front doors adjoining each other. My closest friends lived right upstairs–Frankie Pershep and Ralphie Rieda. My more distant playmates lived on the top floor and in the basement. But most of all I missed the cramped three room apartment on the second floor, old 2H. Behind its sheet metal coated front door, painted to look like wood grain, was a dark, narrow entry containing a painted linen chest, a full length mirror, an umbrella stand, with a bear carved on it, a small closet and a huge door to a dumbwaiter which took the trash out every morning. The kitchen had two features which nothing in the new apartment could match: a clothes drier over the stove that could be raised or lowered with a rope and pully, and a door under the window that opened into a little cave for storing potatoes and onions. (more…)