Lucille Pion Huebscher (July 28, 1927 - December 23, 2021)

My mom, born Lucille Blanche Pion, had a modest upbringing. She was born in 1927, but the Pion family was spared the worst of the Depression. Her father had a furniture business that survived the 1930s. They lived in a nice house in Brooklyn.

A story she frequently told of her childhood was of her dad, my Grandpa Benny, who would take her to Ebbets Field to watch the Brooklyn Dodgers play. Her favorite player was Pee Wee Reese, their small but very capable shortstop.

Her father’s business was strong enough to allow her parents to send her to college, to Ohio University, which she attended from roughly 1944-1947. It was there that she met her roommate, Beverly Finkelstein, who my mom later introduced to her brother, Jimmy. Bev and Jimmy married and became lifelong friends with my parents.

As a young adult, my mom contracted polio. I remember hearing stories of how she believed she had been cured, at least in part, by friends who were Christian Scientists who prayed for her. She was spared the worst of the disease but had a limp for the rest of her life as a permanent scar.

While recovering from polio, my mom met my dad on a blind date, and they were married in 1951. Her passing on Thursday was just two weeks after what would have been their 70th wedding anniversary.

There was some tension between the Pion and Huebscher families. My mom’s family had been in the U.S. for a generation and were established, while my dad’s family escaped from Europe and were new immigrants, arriving in 1938 and 1939. But my parents were married in 1951 and soon moved to Kew Gardens in Queens, where I was born in 1954.

My parents moved to their house in New Hyde Park in 1956, where we grew up, just before my brother Eric was born. My mom had started a career as an interior designer, working with her dad through his furniture business. I believe it was in the late 1950s or early 1960s when the furniture business began to struggle. I remember stories that my grandfather was convinced, probably wrongly, to declare bankruptcy, and that his partner committed suicide in connection with that. It was around this time that her parents moved from their house to an apartment, and later to a smaller apartment, where they lived until by grandfather passed away in 1970.

Our family was completed in 1964 when Toni was born. At this point, my mom worked occasionally as an interior designer, but was a full-time mom. She was intimately involved in the lives of her children and volunteered to help in every capacity. She was involved in the PTA and helped in the cub scouts and girl scouts and chaperoned every field trip that I remember taking in elementary school. She took us to all our doctor’s appointments, play dates with friends and sporting events. In short, she was in complete service to her children and her family.

Another memorable aspect of our childhood were our family pets – our cat, Wavy, who was named because of the wavy pattern on his black and white fur, and our dog, HL RET, who my mom named using the first initials of our family members.

Growing up, weekends were often spent driving to Brooklyn or the Bronx to visit my grandparents. I have very vivid memories of going past the landfills near JFK airport (then Idlewild) on the parkway to Brooklyn. I don’t think those landfills exist anymore.

My parents had a comfortable, middle-class lifestyle, and whatever extra money they had was spent on family vacations. We often went to Deer Park Farm, a now-defunct resort in upstate New York. But we had many other vacations, to places that included Lake George, California, Williamsburg, Cooperstown, Israel, and, of course, Hawaii. I can remember my parents taking only one vacation during my childhood on their own, without their children.

My parents were very committed to Jewish traditions. Toni, Eric and I attended Hebrew school – my mom being the one who drove us there – and my parents were members of Temple Emanuel for many years. We observed all the Jewish holidays with family dinners. My dad did not work on the high holidays, and we were forbidden from playing outside or with friends then. Although the Brooklyn Dodgers had moved to Los Angeles, Sandy Koufax became a household hero for his refusal to pitch on Yom Kippur.

Around the time I went to college and then moved to Boston, my mom transitioned her career and taught nursery school at one of the local synagogues. She also became a travel agent, which allowed my parents to travel extensively once their children were out of the house.

My mom’s focus was always on her children and grandchildren. She never forgot a birthday or an anniversary, always sending a card with a gift. She was unconditionally generous, particularly when it came to food. She would rarely take a bite of anything without making sure that everyone else was well-fed. This habit never ended; just a couple of weeks ago, she was enjoying an Ensure drink, stopping occasionally to make sure that I did not want any.

From the time she graduated from college, she never lived alone, and was very dependent on my dad for managing the many aspects of their lives. When he passed away eight years ago, it was the first time in her adult life that she lived independently. I was very afraid that she would become highly reliant on my and Toni’s families for her needs, but that did not happen. She thrived in independent living at NewBridge, making many new friends and establishing a new life. It wasn’t until two years ago that her dementia had worsened to the point where she had to move to memory care. Even then, after a difficult one-day transition, she quickly adjusted and has happy in her new room.

Only the last few weeks were difficult, when she could no longer recognize her family. But those few weeks of difficultly were but a tiny fraction of the 94 and a half happy years she lived (her parents passed away before reaching 80).

The one constant in her life, especially during the last eight years when she lived at NewBridge, was her unfailing love for her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Each time I visited, I would bring my iPad and show her pictures of the children. I had to remind her of their names and relationships, but there was a permanent smile on her face as she looked at the images.

My dad used to say that, as people got older, it often brought out the worst in them. While my mom had her idiosyncrasies – for example, she had a very limited range of foods that she would eat – those were never magnified, even as her dementia progressed. She was always a devoted mother, grandmother and great grandmother, forever kind and generous, never sparing with her love and adoration. We will all miss her very much.

By Toni Huebscher Golen (Bob’s sister)

I suspect that each of you has a set of memories about my mom. I’d like to share a few of mine, and what they have taught me. My mom was born in 1927, graduated high school in 1945, and from college in 1949. My mom’s college experience was a frequent topic of conversation between the two of us when I was growing up. She graduated with a degree in art, and she described classes learning to paint, to sculpt and to draw. She was a competitive swimmer. She also talked with great excitement about her social life, her friends when she was in college, her dorm – Lindley Hall – and of course her freshman roommate, who would become her sister-in-law and lifelong friend, Bev Pion. I grew up not knowing that it was in any way unusual that my mother had gone to college, and it never crossed my mind that it took any guts at all for a Jewish girl from Brooklyn to pick up and go to Ohio for college in 1945, a time when less than 5% of women ever attended university at all.

After college, my mother went to Europe, on her own, and rode her bicycle around the continent for a few months. She sent perhaps a hundred postcards to her parents, took countless photos, and through these it’s clear she had the time of her life, made new friends, and memories that stuck with her until the very end.

And this is how it went with my mom. In an era when she conformed to many norms of the day, she also set an example for me, and I think for my brothers too, of charting our own course, and not paying all that much attention to what people thought.

My mom had polio in 1950. As she was recovering, she met my dad, and they began dating. My mom’s parents, my grandparents, did not approve. My dad, after all, was a foreigner, with an accent – and my grandparents were wary of foreigners. As my mother told the story, there was no arguing, no negotiation, she just told her parents what she was going to do, and eventually, who she was going to marry. In 1951. My parents would have celebrated their 70th anniversary just a couple of weeks ago.

For her wedding, my mother wore a pink dress. I have no color pictures of my parents’ wedding, but I know the dress very well, because my mother, never a lover of material objects, thought it perfectly reasonable that I play dress-up with her wedding gown when I was a little girl. I have that gown, in tatters from so many afternoons of pretend weddings in the late 1960s, in my closet at home. A reminder that the greatest gift you can give your children is a happy memory of their childhood.

When I was in kindergarten, we were required to drink milk for snack. I always disliked milk and resented that anyone would tell me to drink it. My mother sent me each day with a little bag of cocoa powder to make it chocolatey, and told me if anyone asked, to say that was the way our family drank milk.

And when I wanted to play with the Black girl who lived down the street, and no one else did, she sent me on my way and told me to have a good time.

My mom and I were very different people and actually shared little in common – and this is perhaps the most powerful thing my mom taught me – the importance of seeing the good in other people, particularly in those who have different beliefs and ways of life. She would say to me, “stick to your guns.” I don’t really know what that means, but I’m pretty sure it was a way to tell me to believe in myself, and don’t compromise.

My mom led a full life, and without a doubt, the one that she wanted, that she chose. And for that I am grateful, for without even realizing it, she showed me how to find happiness of my own.

We want to thank those who cared for our mom over the last eight years, particularly Ben Velazquez and Cathy O’Connell, as well as the CNAs at NewBridge. We also want to thank our brother, Eric, for his support. We want to thank Bob’s wife, Sally, and Toni’s husband, Jimmy, for the patience, care and love they gave to Mom.

Read more articles by Robert Huebscher, Toni Huebscher Golen