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In Memoriam: Beatrice (Kozak) Carasso

Apr. 20, 2018
Category: Obituary


Passed away peacefully on October 19, 2017, one month shy of her 80th birthday, as a result of a previously undetected aggressive form of cancer. She is survived by her husband Alfred, her son Adam, and her daughter and son-in-law, Rachel and Bret Van Nortwick.

Beatrice was born on November 16, 1937 in Czernowitz, Romania. She was the only child of Marie and Marcel Kellner, who sprang from the vibrant German-speaking Jewish community in a city that was formerly part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In 1941, as World War II engulfed Europe, Beatrice, her parents, and grandparents, were deported to a concentration camp in the Ukraine. While almost all of the family managed to survive that ordeal, Beatrice’s father Marcel succumbed to typhus in the camp.

After their liberation by the Russian Red Army, the family became refugees in Italy, where Beatrice’s mother remarried. Beatrice always spoke glowingly of her childhood in Italy, and of the kindness and generosity of the Italian people. The family then emigrated from Italy to the USA, arriving in New York on Thanksgiving Day in 1949.

Despite the tragedies of her early childhood, Beatrice retained an optimistic outlook on life. She had beautiful red hair and was affectionately known as Bea. She attended the prestigious Hunter College High School in New York City, graduated from Brooklyn College with a major in Romance Languages, and won a Fullbright Scholarship for study in France at the University of Bordeaux. Returning from France, Beatrice was accepted for graduate study in French at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

In the fall of 1963, Beatrice met Alfred Carasso, a student from Australia, who was studying Meteorology and Mathematics at Wisconsin. Alfred originated from a French-speaking Jewish community in Alexandria, Egypt, and his family had relocated to Australia in the early 1950s. Alfred was enthralled by Beatrice, and they were married in June 1964. There followed several idyllic years of graduate study, with long afternoon discussions on the famed Memorial Union Terrace, overlooking Lake Mendota. There, Beatrice enchanted Alfred with her discourses on Proust, Anouilh, Flaubert, Montaigne, Carlos Fuentes, and several other favorite authors. Beatrice loved France and Italy, and was fluent in English, French, German, and Spanish.

Following graduate school, Alfred accepted a teaching job at the University of New Mexico, in Albuquerque, while Beatrice employed her linguistic talents at the University’s Library, translating the archaic Spanish text used in some of the original New Mexico land grant documents, dating back to the early 1600s. Beatrice appreciated the warm and welcoming Southwestern culture, the stunning vistas, the Indian Pueblos, each with its own distinctive dances and pottery, the Navajo rugs and turquoise jewelry, and the magical Santa Fe Opera. Both children were born in Albuquerque, and raising them in that environment was the prime joy in her life. These were truly wonderful years.

In 1982, the Carasso family moved to Gaithersburg, Maryland, where Alfred took a position at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and Beatrice, most recently, worked as a librarian at Montgomery College in Rockville. Beatrice was also active in a Gaithersburg reading group for many years, and, as a volunteer, conducted very successful English Conversation classes at the Quince Orchard Library. She particularly appreciated the inexhaustible cultural treasures in the DC area. A visit to the National Gallery, or the Freer Gallery, following Sunday Brunch at the Cosmos Club, was one of her favorite activities.

Beatrice and Alfred have lived in the same house in Darnestown, Maryland, for 35 years. In the early evening, they would often share a drink on their deck overlooking the trees in their yard, especially in the fall, which was Beatrice’s favorite season. Holding hands in their little corner of paradise, they would reflect on the great happiness they had brought each other, the great joy their children had brought them, and they would give thanks to the Lord for the wonderful life with which He had graced them. Her family will always remember Beatrice as the kindest, gentlest woman with an inner strength and toughness born out of surviving the Holocaust.

Her lifetime love of learning filled the shelves of her house with a definitive library of French and Spanish literature, with her notes scribbled in the margins. She never took any good fortune for granted. She liked to quip that life is uncertain, so one should start with dessert.

Beatrice enriched our lives beyond measure, and was dearly loved by all who knew her. She will live on in our hearts and minds, and we will cherish her memory till the end of time.

Graveside services for family and friends were held at the Judean Memorial Gardens, in Olney, Maryland, where Beatrice was laid to rest on Monday, October 23, 2017. In lieu of flowers, it is requested that donations be made in her name to the American Cancer Society.


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