Enid Mark, A Remembrance

by Peter D. Mark

[Note: I delivered this eulogy at Enid's funeral on October 3, 2008. - Peter]

Enid Mark, born Enid Lois Epstein in 1932, was the daughter of Harry Epstein and Eva Goodman, Jewish emigrants from Russia and England, respectively. Harry started a flooring company, which grew into a general contracting firm, which thrived in the pre-war years and through the 1950s and 60s. The flooring company built the stage of Radio City Music Hall, a claim to fame my grandmother would occasionally remind me of. He was a generous man who always took care of his four brothers and sister. Eva was an accomplished ballet dancer. She died when Enid was a young child, and Harry remarried Miriam Wolf. Miriam grew up in Lenni, Pennsylvania, a graduate of Media High School and the Einstein School of Nursing.

They lived in New York City on the Upper West Side, a part of Manhattan known for its concentration of writers, artists, musicians, and thinkers, many of them Jewish. Enid thrived in this milieu, in particular, in the youth group at Temple Rodeph Shalom. Enid attended the High School of Music and Art, made widely known a generation later by the film and TV series Fame. She attended Smith College from 1951 through 1954, where she majored in English literature and minored in art. Numerous courses made lasting impressions that instilled in her a lifelong passion for literature, poetry, and the arts. More importantly, she developed close friendships that endured a lifetime.

In 1953, relatives introduced Enid to Eugene Mark, the son of Jacob Mark and Anna Segal, who immigrated from Lithuania and Poland, respectively. After serving in the U. S. Army in WWI, Jacob's entrepreneurial spirit led him from pushcarts to opening a full-fledged, flourishing retail business. When Eugene met Enid, he was working in the family business, having already graduated from Harvard College and the Wharton Graduate School of Business, and having served in the U. S. Air Force in the South Pacific in WWII. After his third date with Enid, he proposed, she accepted, and they married a few months later, the Sunday after her graduation from Smith College.

Enid and Gene married in 1954 and built a life together in Wallingford, Pennsylvania, a Philadelphia suburb near Geneís parents and the store. They had two children, my sister Melanie and me, and Enid devoted herself to raising us while pursuing her artistic endeavors, working at home in an art studio in the garage and a darkroom in the basement while we were off at school. Of course, she also took care of the grocery shopping, preparing family dinners every evening, driving my sister and me to music lessons, swimming lessons, Cub Scout and Girl Scout meetings, and Hebrew school. She became involved in the Parent-Teacher Association, served on the board of the local public library, and created and co-taught a course for gifted students in the local elementary school on the connections between art and science. She and Gene had a full social and cultural life too. They were regular concert-goers at the Philadelphia Orchestra and chamber music recitals, attended museum and gallery shows, enjoyed the theatre, and socialized frequently with their many friends.

Enid taught by example the value of hard work and discipline, which she brought to everything she did. She kept my sister and me on the straight and narrow, making sure that homework was finished, musical instruments were practiced, and dinner was eaten together as a family every night. Even when she entertained, she did so with extraordinary attention to detail. Martha Stewart has nothing on my mother's dinner parties. She had a passion for plants and flowers; she relished her time in the gardens around our house and in the sun porch, a virtual jungle of indoor plants. She even brought her characteristic passion and discipline to bear on the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle, which she solved religiously every week. She came by her passion for words and literature, by the way, from her father. Although as an immigrant, he had learned English as a second language and only finished eighth grade, he too completed the Sunday Times crossword puzzle every week, and whenever my mom told her father what she was reading in college literature courses, it turned out he had already read it.

Her discipline was complemented by her great compassion, caring, and generosity. One of my earliest memories is waking up in the hospital after a tonsillectomy when I was four, and finding my mom sitting next to the bed ready to ply me with a dish of ice cream. She also nursed me back to health when I had pneumonia in high school. She was always there to cheer me on at junior high school soccer games and with moral support at high school and youth orchestra concerts and clarinet recitals. In the early eighties, when my newly rented apartment in Cambridge turned out to be in dire need of cleaning, she came up from Wallingford to help me scrub and clean for a few days before I moved in. And if caring can be measured by the great meals she cooked and assorted goodies she baked, she was without equal. Many rave about their own motherís cooking, but I can't count the number of my friends who were also amazed and delighted by momís cooking, or who enjoyed the occasional care package I received with brownies and schnecken. Her culinary creations and her generosity in sharing them were the stuff of legend.

We had many great family vacations to New York City, Atlantic City, Cape Cod and Marthaís Vineyard, Williamsburg, Virginia, the Mystic seaport in Connecticut, the Maine coast, Tanglewood in the Berkshires in western Massachusetts, whale watching near Seattle, and also to Israel. Once when Melanie and I were small, we spent a few days on a family farm in the Poconos that catered to city-folk who wanted to give their kids a flavor of farm life. My dad loves to recall the story of how milk came gushing out of a cow when Melanie pulled its tail. Gene and Enid also traveled together to the Caribbean, California, Arizona, Ireland, England, France, Denmark, Italy, Prague, Budapest, Vienna, Victoria, and Vancouver.

Over the years, Enid both took and taught courses in the local community art center and nearby community colleges. She grew in her range of artistic techniques and expressive powers. Drawing and painting yielded to printmaking, initially with linoleum and wood blocks, and eventually to lithography, in particular, photolithography.

In the early 1980s, a chance encounter at a Smith College reunion with Ruth Mortimer, the curator of the Smith Library Special Collection, set Enid on a new artistic path: artist books, a medium that permitted her to combine text and images in a single work of art. Since the mid-1980s, Enid produced over a dozen limited edition artist books. These were labors of love that would typically take a year and a half to produce. As Enid developed artistically, with Geneís help and encouragement, she also grew a business, making contacts at numerous universities, museums, and libraries around the country, and developed a committed following in the world of artist books. While she achieved a measure of success with her paintings and prints, selling them in contemporary fine art galleries in New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. and winning purchase awards and juried competitions at regional universities and arts organizations, her most enduring artistic legacy is in the world of artist books. The numerous grants and honors she received and the wide range of over a hundred institutions that acquired her work attest to this legacy.

Her most recent book, which she left all but complete, was an exploration of the theme of labyrinth. When Enid was diagnosed one year ago with multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer, she entered an inescapable labyrinth of her own – of symptoms and treatments, hospital rooms and a daily struggle to maintain a normal life.

During these last few days, many people have called to express their condolences, and the spontaneous remarks they've made on the phone have captured much about my mother's character. One of mom's doctors mentioned that no matter how difficult her ordeal was, she always had a cheerful smile for him whenever he walked into the room. An artist friend mentioned how valuable Enid's mentoring had been over the years. A university special collections curator remarked that Enid's work has touched, and will continue to touch countless people she'll never know in person. And a close personal friend noted my momís great courage, for while facing a devastating disease with great dignity, her biggest worry was not being around to look after my dad, sister, and me.

Enid was a devoted daughter, wife, and mother. Her 54-year long marriage with Gene and her relationships with her parents, children, and many friends were marked by deep respect, abiding commitment, unwavering support, and a steadfast love.

Peter D. Mark