Ema was my grandmama, on my mother’s side. Born August 27, 1911, she died April 5, 2005, after a brief bout with pneumonia and failing kidneys (she had kidney cancer). She was born in Prague, Czech Republic, and married for over fifty years to Gustav Nevenko Reif. (This picture was taken by a street photographer on their first date.) Together they hid Jews in their home during World War II, faced down Nazis, escaped Communists, and started building a new life in Australia. After two years they moved to Texas, and later lived in Italy and Thailand before settling permanently in Texas.
Grandmama had a wonderful wit, and an elegantly inclusive "such as we make manners" attitude that charmed friends and strangers. She taught me sewing and embroidery, and contributed significantly to my stubborn streak.
Like my mother-in-law, Billie Page Odom, she was a strong woman with a great sense of style and self. She also had a sly sense of humor, and was not above using her age for humorous effect. When she was a little over eighty, and still moving around pretty easily, a friend of Grandmama’s fell and broke her hip. After surgery she used a walker, and finally a cane. Grandmama was living with my mother at the time, and got Grandpapa’s old cane out of the closet and started using it. Mother, concerned, asked if she was having trouble with her leg. Grandmama said no, she just wanted to practice. After Mother put up the cane, Grandmama spent the next couple of weeks cheerfully complaining about how her daughter took her cane away. Of course the entire thing was a joke.
She loved animals, and found one of Mother’s cats, Mitzy, particularly intelligent and multilingual. "No matter what language I speak, Mitzy understands perfectly."