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Samuel Marein-Efron died peacefully surrounded by his family after a long life defined by genuine kindness and inextinguishable curiosity even in the face of significant challenges. He was 89 years old.
He was born in Budapest, Hungary to Russian-Polish immigrants, David and Dwojra Marein-Efron. After being excluded from a German school due to his religion, he became a self-taught learner.
Due to the kindness of strangers (including the President of the Mexican Senate, Lic. Davila), his father and then his mother, sister (Shari, of blessed memory) and he escaped Hungary to Mexico in 1941.
After rebuilding their life in Mexico City, Sam went on to add Spanish, English, Italian and French to the German and Yiddish he already spoke.
Despite enrollment quotas for Jews and great distance, he matriculated at Harvard College in 1951, where he earned a degree in Mathematics. With interests in physics and mathematics, he stayed to pursue a doctoral program with the aim to apply learnings to real life problems. He worked on early calculations that would later contribute to the development of the F-14 fighter plane. During that time, he also enjoyed working at the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton, NJ), with its mission to be “a leading center for curiosity-driven basic research” representing a perfect match for his intellectual pursuits. While there, he especially appreciated the opportunity to meet Albert Einstein.
After a devastating fire decimated his father’s textile mill, he showed his commitment to his family by putting his degree on hold and returned to Mexico to help his father rebuild once again.
With a desire to continue to be involved in academics and to inspire others, Sam taught university-level mathematics at the Instituto Politecnico Nacional.
In 1963, on his way to Europe for a business trip, he stopped in New York City to visit his sister. On this trip, he was introduced via a blind date to Deanne Rothstein. After a short courtship via international mail, he proposed and they married in 1964. They established a home in Mexico City and welcomed three children: Andrew, Daniel and Gabriela.
As a loving father, Sam shared his love of learning, travel and food with his children.
While running textile mills, he dedicated himself to innovation, engagement and kindness. He was ahead of his time and demonstrated his ingenuity when he established a mill in the 1980s that recycled wool clothing into new cloth.
He served as president of the wool section of the Mexican textile chamber and led annual labor negotiations. He participated in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) discussions and had a letter on the subject appear in The New York Times. After more than 40 years in the business, he retired and split time between Bethesda, MD and Mexico City, enabling Deanne and him to spend time with their children and grandchildren in both countries.
He was an avid gardener and demonstrated an ongoing love of learning and curiosity through his participation in seminars and online courses. He also contributed to his community, serving on the board of the Montgomery County Housing Partnership helping low-income residents secure homes.
Sam felt strongly it was important to share his story of escape from the Holocaust and the kindness of strangers. His story is archived at the US National Holocaust Museum, as well as a seminar at the Holocaust & Intolerance Museum of New Mexico in Albuquerque, New Mexico and several visits to his grandchildren’s classrooms.
In his last years, he rejoiced in time with his large family, including six grandchildren and extended family stretching across all of North America and Israel.
Samuel is survived by his wife, Deanne, children Andrew (Olga), Daniel (Melanie), and Gabriela (Evan Fieldston), and grandchildren, David, Natalie, Isabel, Shelly, Nathan and Eli.
Funeral services and interment will be private. In lieu of flowers please donate to HIAS Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society https://act.hias.org/page/6048/donate/1
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