Obituary of Helen Mazar
Helen Zarovich Mazar
Born in 1936, during World War II in Luxembourg, Helen fled Nazi persecution as a child to southern France. She grew up and spent most of the War in the region of Bordeaux, France.
After the War, she moved to New York City, attending the prestigious Hunter College in Manhattan. She graduated with a Masters in French and Education from Columbia University. Early in her teaching career, Helen taught at East Carolina University, and in numerous other schools in the Northeast, South and Southwest of the United States.
Helen was married to Ory Mazar, a historian, author and publisher of books, mostly about the Bible, the Holy Land, archaeology, and biblical history. A teacher, an artist, a lover of classical music and the literary arts, Helen was a dedicated mother and a loving wife. She entered the world alone, struggled and burdened by the harsh and turbulent circumstances of her childhood, but left the world better off than when she entered it.
Helen is survived by her two sons, Dan and Joseph, her daughters-in-law, Olga and Clarinda, and her three grandchildren, Sophia, Samantha, and David to which she dedicated much of her life.
All those who knew her will miss her. She will not be forgotten.
“Our dead are never dead to us until we have forgotten them” – George Elliot
The Following was a eulogy read by Joseph Mazar at his mothers funeral
Good morning everyone and thank you all for coming.
Today we are gathered to celebrate the life of Helen Zarovich Mazar, my mother.
On December 25th of this year, Helen celebrated her 87th birthday, here in Winter Haven, her home for the last few years.
The path that led my mother here was a long one, certainly filled with ups and downs.
From her youth in the south of France during World War II, her immigration to the US in her early teens, her education at Columbia university, teaching at the University of North Carolina, and meeting my father in New York city.
But my memories of Helen came later since I hadn’t entered the picture yet.
My first memories of my mother were of her rushing to the rescue after I had run my bike, along with my head, into a wall. I was 4 or maybe 5. It wasn’t the last time.
Or it might have been around the same time, when I was out playing with friends, I felt something in my hair and reached up to find out what it was.
I got stung by a bee! There were A LOT of tears, but again, my mother was there. And when all was said and done, I survived. The bee did not. I had the better mother.
But my mom was also there for the long hauls.
While in the 2nd grade, living in Houston, my family moved to a house outside of the city.
But my mother knew how much I loved the school I attended; a Montessori school called School in the Woods.
So, for the next two years, she drove me to school in the morning and picked me up in the afternoon, 50 miles each way.
And after two years, we only had two accidents.
Never fear, my mother put her arm out, protecting me.
So, I survived, even if the car did not.
I offer these stories because our life often had unexpected turns.
When I graduated high school, my family decided to move to Israel, whereas I stayed behind.
My mother spent the next twenty-five years of her life there, with my father and brother.
I mention this because the next accident she was in was not through any fault of her own.
You see, one night driving though the desert on the way home from Jerusalem to Kalya, a little town off the Dead Sea, my brother missed a key detail on the road: a camel.
To be fair, he had no reason to expect one, although the Bedouins to whom it belonged were none too pleased with the results.
My mother wasn’t either. I would like to imagine that Danny put his arm out to protect her, because she survived. “Death By Camel” was not to be.
After her husband passed and my brother moved to Cyprus, Helen was content to live on her own, remaining in Israel.
This allowed her the time to embrace painting, sculpture, and writing, which she very much enjoyed.
In 2019, for her birthday and the holidays, my mother wanted to visit me back in the states.
But age had caught up with her and she was afraid to fly on her own.
So, I arranged to fly over to Israel and fly back together.
I had no idea what I was in for.
You see, Helen had misplaced her passports.
A discovery we only made checking in for our flights at the airport.
I quickly switched our seats for the late flight, giving us only 12 hours to resolve the situation.
We raced back to her place and stripped it bare looking for them to no avail.
We had only one chance, head to the US Embassy and arrange for a temporary passport.
We hired a taxi to take from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, got to the embassy, filed through security, filled out all the documentation and waited for our turn…and waited…and waited…
You see, it was the 23rd of December and the embassy was closing for the holiday.
Even after the doors closed and the staff started to go home, we sat and waited.
Then the computer system went down…and still we waited.
We were the only ones left, just us and two staff members…waiting with us…
After four hours, the computer systems went back online!
In 15 minutes, they had printed her pass and we raced outside.
Our taxi, with all our luggage…was still there!
The taxi driver had waited for us.
If that isn’t a holiday miracle, I don’t know what is!
He then received the largest tip I have given in my entire life!
We made our flight and celebrated her birthday in Orlando.
But I also came to understand that my mother needed my help.
Not just part of the time, but all of the time.
I needed to move her back to the states…to be there for her like she was for me.
Coming back to America was hard.
But more difficult was the realization that her days of independence were gone.
That she would have to rely on others more and more as time passed by.
I watched pieces of my mother slowly fade and disappear over the last two years.
But thanks to the care givers who treated her like family, even dubbing her “Queen Helen”, she still had moments of joy, distracting her from her condition.
Over the course of her life, Helen did more than survive.
With some coaxing, she would often speak to me of some of her more impactful memories:
From life at the orphanage in Bordeaux to her time working at Time magazine, substitute teaching in the burrows of New York, and her years spent in photography with her friend Anita.
Helen had seen a lot, experienced a lot, long before I ever came around.
But given the way that her life started, I believe what she really sought over the course of her life was family. Belonging.
Family meant myself, my brother, and our father.
But it also meant the people she met along the way.
I have no doubt I know only a fraction of the people that impacted her life, even in the time I’ve been around.
I know that Helen meant many different things to many different people. But for me, she was mom.
On December 25th, the day of Helen’s 87th birthday, we arrived with flowers, birthday gifts, and a birthday card.
We stayed for a few hours, though she was tired, and fell asleep while we were at her side.
We left, intending to return in the morning.
Just a few hours later, in the early evening, we received a call. My mother had passed.
Perhaps it is coincidence, but I believe my mother stayed…until she heard the things she needed to hear: that she was loved and that her loved ones would be okay.
One of my mother’s favorite writers, George Elliot, once said: “Souls live on in perpetual echoes.”
I believe my mother’s soul will live on in the echoes of those who cared for her and for whom she cared.
Thank you all for coming.
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