Remembrances: The Herczog Family

Bianca Arvin:

I met Mary when I was 11 years old. We watched Grease, and she pointed out Danny and Sandy’s crow’s feet. I was thrilled – no one had ever showed me anything like that before! And from that moment, I was hooked on her.

I read the books she loved, wore the clothes she let me have, and started a fascination with cemetaries. I don’t remember who I thought I was before that summer I spent with my new family in LA, but by the time I left, I wanted to be Mary. I had found my first real-life idol, and what’s better was she liked me too, and wanted to share everything she knew with me.

As the years progressed, that never changed. Mary took my education seriously, and I gobbled up anything she would teach me. From clubbing out in Hollywood years before I was legal to my first Sephora make-over to my first sushi dinner, Mary showed me life was for trying new things and taking chances.

Last year at my first Jazz Fest, Mary continued to tutor me. Cochon de lait, yes. Ducking into the tents purely for a reprieve from the heat, yes. Leaving a John Boutte set before he’s finished, never. Life’s too short to miss a note of John Boutte. More than anything, I’m happy I learned Fest from it’s reverent mistress.

I know, forevermore, if I want some Mary I can find her in my Viva Glam lipstick and in every cemetary I pass. She’s in Zankou Chicken, Central Market muffalettas, chocolate donuts, fried pickles, and Cadbury Creme Eggs. She’s in my dark purple nail polish, the word “plucky”, and every Golden Retriever I see. Mostly though, she’s in me – I wouldn’t be the person I am today without her guidance, love, and inspiration.

See ya at Jazz Fest, Mary.

Rich Herczog:

So Thirty-something years ago, Mary had a sign posted on her bedroom door that said simply… “Collie Lovers Only”. Right next door, a similar sign said: “Collie Exterminators only.” I wish I could tell you I was only steering her toward Golden Retrievers, rather than being a bratty older brother.

Good morning everyone… I’m Mary’s very PROUD older brother, and on behalf of Mary’s immediate family, I’d like to first thank everyone for coming out today, it means a lot to us. Also, a lot has been said about the dedication of two prominent men in her life, Steve and Rick. As far as I’m concerned, it CANNOT be enough, and it was a great comfort to know Mary was always well cared for. And to Dr. W, I must thank you so much for giving us an extra 13 years.

I must also give special recognition to Mary’s high school and lifetime friends. Not many people can say they are still close with the same group of friends for 30 years, since high school. A long time ago I noticed that Mary sometimes had trouble looking people directly into their eyes to express her inner feelings, even though her writing did that so well… so please let me channel her still living spirit to look directly into the beautiful souls of Caroline, Debbie, Jeanne and Michelle, and say on her behalf: I LOVE YOU ALL.

One of Mary’s first moments in the public eye was when she danced on stage with Bruce Springsteen in the early 80s. You could say she’s been on stage ever since, but it seems to me they gave the nickname THE BOSS to the wrong person. But it took that kind of person to battle cancer before a large audience for as long as she did, and there are a lot of newspaper and Internet readers out there that drew strength and inspiration from that.

Lastly, though it wasn’t Mary’s specific goal to receive a Master’s Degree in Philosophy of Religion and Theology—- we all knew that if she were healthy she could have written her Doctoral Thesis in her sleep. I hope she’s writing it now. But I’m comforted to know I was able to tell her recently that she had already completed several Doctorates in my eyes:

Her Doctorates strength and courage… pretty obvious to everyone. OK let’s be fair… I suppose she did minor at one time in monopolizing dinner time conversations… BUT… she also earned a Doctorate for her sense of humor in the face of extreme adversity, and it never ceases to amaze many of us that this child who refused to eat anything but cream cheese in a bun when she was two years old somehow aced food appreciation (more specifically chocolate appreciation). I lost count of how many times I wanted to jump on a plane to fly to wherever she was at the time and order whatever thing she was describing so well.

But for now I’ll just sum it up by saying she deserves a Doctorate for living life to its absolute fullest.

I decided to close with a quote from To Kill a Mockingbird, because that book meant a lot to Mary, who read more books in a week than most people would in a year, and because I gave her her first copy of the book many years ago:

Atticus Finch said something that seems very appropriate here today;

I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.

Here’s to you, Dr. Herczog.

Deborah Herczog:

As many longtime family & friends know, when I was 12 and my brother was 10, our parents took us on a mini-vacation to the mountains near Lake Arrowhead to tell us in a special way the exciting news that they were pregnant.

That night I went to bed and was silently saying my secret good night prayers, which I had said habitually for as long as I could remember: “God bless Mommy & Daddy & Dickie & Debbie, and God please send us a baby”.

I jumped out of bed, ran downstairs, reported my very private longterm wish come true to our parents. Dad paused, cleared his throat and said “that’s ok, but don’t EVER do it again!”

I wrote to Mary a few weeks before her death to make sure she knew that I didn’t really want a baby, I wanted a SISTER. Our parents let me choose her name, but I will remain forever serendipitously stunned that she was so intelligent, talented, quick witted, funny, with an unbelievable zest for life, the Merry (Mary) of Merry Maladies.

Her favorite cereal as a little girl and ever since, was “LIFE” cereal. Isn’t that just ironically & happily telling?

Our Dad used to always say “Let Joy Reign Supreme!”

How right he was and how well she did that almost everyday.

My sister, my inspiration, I love you, we love you, & thank you.