Our Society mourns the passing, in mid-May, of Laura Mausner, 93, who with her husband, Marvin, joined our Society in the 1950s. Her son, Dan, provides this biographical information about his mother:
She was born in the Bronx, went to the High School of Music and Art and Brooklyn College and in the ’60s earned a master’s degree in early childhood education. She married Marvin and they moved to Bergen County, where she was an activist, a musician, artist, teacher and tutor, and was involved with the Ethical Culture Society, including serving as Sunday School director, and in the community.
She had a long career as a teacher in Hackensack schools. Laura, who played cello in orchestras and chamber music, was a founder of the Teaneck Commu-nity Chorus. She was active in organizations fighting nuclear weapons proliferation, supporting fair housing, and other causes. She and Marvin traveled widely, visiting China, the Galapagos, Europe and the Caribbean.
Susan Lesh: ‘I would like to be like Laura’
“Laura was family to us. She lived two doors up the street and was always a part of our life. She employed Ben for his first job, weeding her irises; she was exacting and wanted it done correctly, so he learned perseverance doing a task he didn’t really like.
She was Rachel’s cello teacher and they developed a loving bond through music. She thoroughly enjoyed our children, delighting in their successes and always asked about them as they began to grow into a young man and woman. She loved Rachel’s and my food, which we shared from time to time, and always exclaimed appreciatively when we delivered some.
I always admired her energy and her curiosity and her desire to learn something new; she had these aspects up to the very end, so while her passing was shocking to the rest of us, I believe she lived life the way she wanted to. I have often thought, and still feel, that I would like to be like Laura when I grow up.”
Joe Chuman: ’Everyone knew Laura and Marvin’
Social justice warrior, civic activist, cellist, world traveler, educator, culture maven, volunteer, friend, dedicated Ethical Culturist, Laura Mausner was a person of boundless energy who remained active to almost her last day in a lifetime of more than 93 years. When Laura suddenly died in May, she was in the middle of intensely rehearsing for a cello recital. Death came as a rude inter-ruption and seemed so discontinuous with her spirit, which was powerfully life-affirming.
In years past, when I would officiate at weddings in Bergen County, having identified myself as the leader of the Ethical Culture Society, someone almost invariably would come up to me and ask, “Do you know the Mausners?” It seemed as if everyone knew Laura and Marvin, who had been her inseparable partner until his own death about 12 years ago. Their being widely known in the county was an index not only of their numerous relations and friendships, but also of their involvement with a long list of organizations and movements. This was a distinguishing characteristic of their marriage and of the values around which Laura and Marvin centered their lives.
Laura’s commitments to civic life are too numerous for me to completely recall. Teaneck was a focus of much of hers and Marvin’s activism, for which they were duly honored by the Township. Among other things, they had been instrumental in establishing the Teaneck Greenway, but there was much more. Laura had been active in Fair Housing initiatives and in the Teaneck Peace Center during the Vietnam period. She served for several years (as did I) on the board of the Matty Feldman interracial summer camp for high schoolers held on the Fairleigh Dickinson campus.
She was deeply involved in the education and welfare of children well after she retired as a kindergarten teacher. Within an extremely busy life, Laura still put aside time to do volunteer tutoring each week with young children and provide music lessons in her home. And she, along with Marvin, had been a very active member of our community. In the 1950s and 60s, Laura was the director our Sunday School, when it had more than 200 students, and her last appearance at the Society was shortly before her death when she played a cello solo at a Sunday platform. Also at the time of her passing, Laura had been organizing our greeters. No assignment was too small.
But Laura’s civic commitments were matched by her cultural activities. There was global and domestic travel, folk dancing, hiking, bicycling, and photography. Laura and Marvin traveled around the world together to folk dance, cycle, and explore unusual places. Laura kept a calendar on her refrigerator where she penciled in her daily and weekly activities, and it always struck me that there was very little empty space in those squares. Laura was always on the move, not because she was driven but because she naturally valued a rich and fulfilling life.
Laura Mausner was an extremely intelligent, thoughtful and well-informed person. She was also a lifelong leftist. In that regard she was outspoken and a woman of very strong convictions, and from my perspec-tive she often voiced her convictions with courage. Her opinions were very much her own, born of her experience and independence of mind. It was not uncommon at public meetings for Laura to voice her views that stood in opposition to prevailing positions. Some found this a source of annoyance. I contend that Laura was not a contrarian by nature, but rather a person inspired to speak the truth as she saw it, even if her truths were not fashionable. Again, it was courage and not self-aggrandizement that motivated her.
I want to end my remembrances on a personal note. I got to know Laura better in the last years of her life. After Linda’s death, in order to cope, I decided to take up something totally new. Inspired at one of our platforms, I was profoundly moved by four young musicians who comprised a cello quartet, who happened to be playing the Bach “Air.” It was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard, and a light went off! I said to myself, “I will learn to play the cello.” I happened to mention my wish to Laura one day over lunch, and she said that she would be happy to give me cello lessons. For more than two years, each week I went to her home and Laura fulfilled her promise. Given that I am totally unmusical, it was not an easy assignment. But she took it on with diligence and a great deal of patience. She was a wonderful teacher, who gave me a most generous gift for which I will always be thankful.
So many people have known Laura and have been the beneficiaries of her friendship, her life of good deeds, and commitment to the disadvantaged. Laura was an extraordinary person who lived an extraordinary life, who touched so many lives, and her energy and deeds will continue to inspire.
As mentioned, Laura was 93 years old. She leaves her daughter, Claudia, and her son, Dan. A memorial will be held for Laura in the fall.