Anna Maxwell Levin-Ware Obituary, 2012

“Whoever saves one life, saves the World entire.” The Talmud (as referenced in Schindler’s List) Anna Maxell Levin-Ware survived the Holocaust. Her survival made possible nine new lives. Anna is survived by her four children: Maxine, Eleanor, Robert (Bobby),and Susan Marie (Suerie). The marriages of Eleanor to Neil Gesundheit and of Suerie to Sam McNeill brought five grandchildren: Michael, Scott, and Mark Levin-Gesundheit and Ian and Naomi McNeill. Anna is also survived by her husband, Robert Ware. Anna Maxell (Mordchelewicz, Fenyo) Levin-Ware was born January 31 1922, in Grodno, Poland, to Russian Jews Maximillian and Liuba Mordchelewicz. Her Russian name was Niura, which in English is “Anna.” At the age of 3, her family moved to Krakow to expand the family leather business. There, brother Sienia (Simon) and later a little sister Felicia were born. The family had a German governess who taught Anna the essentials of sewing, a skill required of all women of quality at the time, and German. No one anticipated how valuable these skills would become. September 1, 1939, the Nazis invaded Poland. Her life and that of her family changed forever. In 1940, at the age of eighteen and anticipating an unknown future under the Nazi occupation, her family permitted Niura to marry Janos Fenyo, a young Jewish Hungarian who had been her boyfriend for some time already. When the Germans set up the Krakow Ghetto, Anna’s family was sent to Ghetto. But because Germany and Hungary were allies at the time, Anna did not have to go to Ghetto. Instead, Anna went to live with the Fenyos in a small, cramped apartment. During the next couple of years, Anna, Janos, and friends engaged in various enterprises including smuggling to gain money for food, as well as some resistance activities in an effort to sustain their loyalty to Poland. When Germany nullified their alliance and marched into Hungary, the Fenyos were arrested. After perhaps six weeks in the Krakow Jail, they were placed on a third class train and trundled around Poland for weeks. Anna said it was as if the Nazis were trying to figure out what to do with them. Finally they wound up at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Anna was made to sew German uniforms. Months later the family was transported to Auschwitz/Birkenau. While a prisoner, Anna had some traumatic encounter with the infamous Dr. Mengele. She braded ropes from rags, participated in the building of some brick structures, and sewed more uniforms. In January 1945, Anna was transported back to Bergen-Belsen. Then she contracted the typhus that left her with very poor hearing. All Anna’s immediate family, her husband and in-laws perished in the Holocaust. Anna was the only survivor. Her New York cousin found her in Bergen-Belsen, and brought Anna to Paris in late 1945 to await a visa. There she learned French with L’Alliance Française. When she came to New York in 1946 to live with her cousins, she Americanized her name to Ann Maxell. She went to Julia Richmond High School in New York where she learned English and completed her high school studies in one year. Then she entered Hunter College. 1948 brought her the opportunity of independence. She moved to Dallas, Texas, for a job as an au pair. Transferring to a new college, she applied to be a lab assistant for a medical research project at Southwestern Medical College. The man in charge of that project was to become the first love of her new life in America – Manuel Levin, M.D. They married and moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan for his surgical residency. Ann completed a BS and MS in Microbiology studies at the University of Michigan in three years. In 1952, they moved so that Manny Levin could join Lee Snyder in medical practice in Fresno. Finally settled, they began their family. One day in 1960, Manny came home and enthused to Ann, “You know that property up near Sequoia Park, the one we were looking down on from the highway? Well, I bought it!” This is the way the family’s beloved Deer Park Ranch entered their lives. From then on, the family was at the Ranch every week. The children thrived in the open spaces, riding horses, and helping their father keep things working. Ann loved to ride her horse and the Ranch quickly and permanently became one of the new treasures of her earthly life. The addition of nanny Margarite Tate allowed Ann the opportunity to pursue her passions in the arts. As a youth Ann had studied piano. But after several months and a few teachers, her mother–herself a graduate of the Moscow Conservatory and a noted pianist-realized it was not the teachers’ fault. Anna just wasn’t to be a pianist. Anna did shine, however, in dance and theatre. She had studied ballet and acting, appearing in many youth productions in the State theatre in Krakow. So now in Fresno, Ann began courses in theatre on the old campus of Fresno State College, acted in plays, built and painted scenery under Professors Dick Arnold and Gus Graham, sewed costumes under Professor Jan Bryon and soon earned a Masters Degree in theatre with Professor Philip Walker. Ann appeared in many plays, both in the University Street Playhouse on the old campus and in the new John Wright Theatre on the present university campus. She was quite an actress and a true all-round theatre person. She designed the setting for Fresno Community Theatre’s production of “Inherit the Wind” together with several other Community Theatre and University productions. She had a wonderfully innate sense of comic timing and loved to play the “Gracie Allen” role in conversations with friends and family. This sense of timing provided Fresno audiences with many a good laugh. When she played Albert’s Mother in “Bye, Bye, Birdie” she knew just how to bring down the house as she made the most of her thick Polish accent in delivering her line, “It’s enough to break a true American mother’s heart.” For Fresno State College she played Hecuba in “The Trojan Women, ” joined by her children Suerie and Bob alternating as her dramatic children. She also starred as Mother Courage in their production of Brecht’s famous play. Here, with the tutelage of Fred Dempster and Dorothy Renzi, the fact that she could not carry a tune to save herself fit right in with the Brechtian style of performance. Beyond the demands of family and theatre, she found time to develop her fine arts talents as well, mastering sculpture, painting, ceramics, jewelry making and more. This led to her pursuit of a Masters in Art from the Fresno State College Art Department. She found inspiration in her Holocaust experiences for her thesis project. As a prisoner, one’s enamel bowl was the source of life–lose it and one did not get fed. Ann set about to create a series of unique bowls that had no utility–only beauty. To create these she invented a process of bonding precious metals to porcelain. In the 1970’s, several were chosen for galley exhibition around the world. Now the family hopes to place these bowls on permanent exhibition with a prominent Holocaust museum in Anna’s honor. Among the founders of a twenty-five member Fresno women’s art collective., Ann helped in establishing Gallery 25 as one of Fresno’s must see galleries. For a time, Ann regarded herself as a “radical feminist.” But in reality she was much more; she was a woman who accepted no boundaries. During the early 1970’s she taught sections of “Elementary Art Education” for the Fresno State College Department of Art. This became yet another means by which she broadened her range of friends and kept her creative juices flowing. Ann’s beloved husband Manny, by then President of Community Hospital, died of Cancer on May 7, 1977. The love of her life in America, the father of her children, and her security anchor was gone. In February 1978, she became supervisor of the costume shop at California State University. This led to her meeting the second love of her American life, Robert Ware. He was interviewing to become the next professor of scenic design. At 2:00 p.m. of Friday April 28, 1978, they met in the costume shop as Robert was touring the production facilities. Neither forgot the others face. Fortunately, Robert accepted the position. That Fall, Edith Waters, a senior graduate student and long-time volunteer in the costume shop gave Robert tickets to a fundraiser for the Central California Shakespeare Festival that was just being formed, suggesting he take Ann. That date began their life together. From then on, finding it easier to cook for two than each for one, they soon became inseparable. In February, as they sat discussing something of controversy in Ann’s car, Robert said, “But honey!” Both stopped short, looked at one another, did a double take-and laughed. They discovered that without knowing it, they were in love. Ann and Robert were secretly married the weekend Eleanor received her M.D. from U.C. San Francisco, becoming the second Dr. Levin in the family–May 26, 1979. Early in their marriage Robert discovered that Ann’s real English name was “Anna” and insisted she return to that name. Thereafter she was Anna Ware. They loved to travel. Twice a year they went to London for theatre. Whenever possible they took in something new: France, Italy, Israel, Egypt to name but a few. For several years in the 1990’s, Anna and Robert spent a good part of each summer in Krakow, reviewing the world of her childhood and renewing old acquaintances. They collected Polish texts on the Holocaust and related events. Two they translated. One on the making of Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List” was published internationally in 1998. A second, on the Nazi death camp Belzec, was used for the English captioning at the new site memorial dedicated in 2004. Anna was Robert’s muse, constant companion, and reason for living. They were deeply in love every day for the last thirty-three and-a-half years. Sitting out in the yard, Thursday, October 13, 2011, Anna said to Robert, “You wonder how I smile when there is so much misery and sadness? I just don’t look at the bad things; I look for the good and I can always smile.” A memorial concert is being planned with the California State University, Fresno Music Department for later this year. The Family requests that donations in Anna’s memory be made to the Philip Lorenz Memorial Keyboard Concerts, Post Office Box 14162, Fresno, California 93650 or to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of Central California, 4411 N. Cedar Ave., Suite 102, Fresno, Ca. 93726. NEPTUNE SOCIETY OF CENTRAL CALIFORNIA 1154 West Shaw Avenue Fresno, California (559)222-7764
Source:   Fresno Bee on Jan. 29, 2012

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