Gardening 04

Martha Maria Vallay

February 27, 1942 ~ August 9, 2021 (age 79)

Obituary

Our mother, Martha Maria Vallay (née Bakonyi), passed away unexpectedly on August 9, 2021, just shy of six weeks after our father, and her beloved husband of 61 years, passed away. Her grief was palpable, and we all knew how much she missed her constant companion. We now live with an undeniable loss as our extended families try to realize the void left by their departure. Our only consolation in trying to make sense of this is believing strongly that they are holding hands once again.

Martha was born February 27, 1942 in Keszthely, Hungary. The effects of World War II made living there extremely difficult and her parents made the decision to seek a better life in the United States. They escaped the advancing Russians in 1945 by walking across the country. Their journey took them to the American sector in Salzburg, Austria, where her parents, sister and maternal grandmother lived for the next five years in a single lane bowling alley behind a brewery with three other families while her parents served as tailors for the American soldiers. On a return visit to Salzburg in 1983, we saw remnants of the bowling lane which included beer bottle labels that they had stuffed into the floors and walls for insulation. Begrudgingly accepting that Russian soldiers would not leave Hungary, they secured safe passage by ship to America. She was just a shy young girl of eight when they arrived in 1950 to a bustling New York City.

Martha never lost that young girl innocence and viewed life with curiosity and adventure – she participated in snowball fights in the house, sledding down ski slopes in cardboard boxes in the summertime, hiking through the woods, horseback riding, ice skating, badminton tournaments, and so much more. A graduate of Thorpe Secretarial High School in Manhattan, she was an active member of the Hungarian Scouts and the Voice of Faith Hungarian Choir where she met our father, Jules S. Vallay. They had a short courtship but their love for each other was enduring and they married in June of 1960. She initially worked at cosmetics company Charles of the Ritz in lower Manhattan before starting a family in Jackson Heights, Queens, then moving to Hillsdale, New Jersey to raise their three children –Edith, Jules and Denise.

Our mother (in Hungarian, Edesanya, or "Sanya" to us, and Nagymama to the grandkids), was never happier than when she was in the company of her three children and their spouses (Edith and Frank, Jules and Carol, Denise and Tony) and seven grandchildren (Paul, Nicholas, Jules Thomas, Samantha, James, Lucy and Evan)..playing board games (especially Dominoes), swimming at the lake, cooking and sharing her fabulous Hungarian desserts -- particularly her abundant Christmas cookies which would get doled out in even quantities to each of us.

If we reflect back to the things she taught us and instilled in us, it was certainly, among others, the love of family, good food and entertaining, beautiful flowers, and travel. She was not shy to try new culinary delights, much to the consternation of her own mother who only (but wonderfully) cooked Hungarian food. Our mother could be elegant in an evening gown at an affair and dance all night long, and be just as comfortable in jeans and work shirt digging in the garden. She had an immense talent for growing and cultivating exotic plants. She filled her windows and gardens with unusual varieties of orchids and African violets and proudly displayed them.

As a new citizen of the United States, she was very proud and took an active interest in politics and history. Yet she also carefully nurtured our heritage and found the right balance of actively exposing us to both American and Hungarian culture, customs, language and tradition. For that, we are eternally grateful as we extend those customs to the next generations.

With the support of her family, she went back to work and had a twenty-three year career as a Reservationist at United Airlines, repeatedly earning high praise for her friendly and professional manner. Her work there gave us access to air travel, and our parents flew around the world to over two dozen countries and took us on many trips as well. When they finally “retired”, our parents moved from northern New Jersey to their beloved self-designed home outside of Charlottesville, Virginia. It was there that she and our father took on a part-time position in Customer Relations at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello. From 1999 through 2015, they worked nearly every shift together, where she especially enjoyed meeting people from around the world. Our mother's love for history made her a natural fit as she studied and learned about Jefferson, his family and life, and his impact on our Nation.

When we were young, our mother used to leave us notes -- in our lunch bags, on our dressers, or the kitchen table, and she'd end the notes with the words ''Love you. Bye.''.  Over time, we have come to adopt it, but have shortened it to “Loveyoubye” or “LYB” – said in a tone that is meant to convey “Until we meet again”. It has become part of our family lexicon and we routinely end all of our notes, emails, good-byes with it.

She left us too soon, as we had other adventures already planned and more to make, laughs to enjoy, games to play and cookies to bake. Sanya, along with our father, gave us everything they could, especially their love and generosity of spirit. With her passing, we sadly close this chapter, and end this loving tribute...Loveyoubye.

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