MARGIT MEISSNER (1922 - 2019)

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MEISSNER MARGIT MEISSNER On July 8, 2019, Margit Meissner passed away peacefully at her house in Bethesda, Maryland with family and friends at her side. Margit was born to Gottlieb Morawetz and Lily Tritsch in Innsbruck, Austria on February 26, 1922. Margit Meissner's life was defined by her love of family, her insatiable curiosity, and her relentless pursuit of social justice. She had a deep desire to know people, taking joy from everyone she met, hearing their stories and tracking their progress. This led to deep and durable relationships that often helped people realize new insights about themselves and expand their life's horizons. Margit's wide circle of friends, with whom she diligently stayed in contact, came from diverse countries, ages, and backgrounds. She worked hard to bring and keep her extended family together; last December, she presided over a family reunion in her native Austria attended by more than 60 people spanning four generations from three continents. She had high expectations of those around her, and even higher of herself. She possessed a keen intellect and a genuine thirst for knowledge. She closely followed current affairs and held strong views about politics. She was always outspoken and often impatient, and unafraid to "tell it like it was'. She loved the arts and read widely. She grew up speaking six languages and taught herself others later in life. Margit was raised in Prague, Czechoslovakia together with her three older siblings, Paul, Felix and Bruno. Growing up in the tumultuous period in Europe between the two world wars defined Margit, what she believed in and what she valued. She fled Europe with nothing more than the clothes on her back and built a new life for herself in America. In 1953, Margit married agricultural economist Frank Meissner who predeceased her in 1990. Together they had two children, Paul and Anne, and enjoyed a rich and rewarding life together. They lived in California, Argentina, and New York, before finally settling in suburban Washington. Frank's love and encouragement were instrumental in allowing Margit to be all that she could be. In 2009, Margit found a new love in her life, John Garms, and they married in 2015. Margit's breadth of occupations--dress designer, translator, mother, PTA president, special needs advocate, teacher and museum docent--are a testament to her talents and resilience. Her diverse experiences taught her that life is often not fair, but that simply fuelled her desire to fight for what is right. She was relentless in her battles against inequality and the pursuit of social justice. The publication of her 2003 memoir, Margit's Story, led to her deep involvement with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, where she was a docent for all their major exhibits. It was in her work with the museum that she began to first identify as a holocaust survivor, bringing a new dimension to her life. In her work, she urged people to be participants, not bystanders, in the ongoing struggle to combat prejudice and prevent future genocides. She travelled widely, often visiting difficult places, while carrying her message of tolerance and understanding. In the last 18 months alone, she visited Austria, Prague, Germany, Poland, Denmark, Sweden, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Canada, and many US cities. She had many personal philanthropic interests, and actively supported women in Rwanda and Argentina, with whom she corresponded extensively. She died peacefully at her home in Bethesda, Maryland after a very short illness. Margit is survived by her husband, John Garms, her devoted companion who loved and took great care of her, her daughter Anne, her son Paul and his wife Jennifer, and her two granddaughters, Lynn and Rita, who brought her tremendous joy and pride in the women they have become. A memorial will be planned at a later date.A memorial will be planned at a later date.
Published in The Washington Post from July 11 to July 14, 2019
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