My Mom, Celia Honig, died Sunday, January 17th, 2010. She was 65 and had been struggling with Lewy Body Syndrome* for about ten years.
Though the disease made her final years difficult for her and our family, Mom had a tremendous amount of joy and love in her life and certainly lived her life to the fullest possible. She rarely complained and always told me that she was a ‘happy person’.Celia was born in 1944 to Jack and Geraldine Newman in New York City. She grew up with her brother Harvey in Washington Heights and then later Douglaston, Queens. According to Karen Wasserman, one of her friends back then, “she was the prettiest, sweetest girl in the neighborhood.” After high school, Celia attended classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan, but did not graduate.
How her eventual husband, Alan Honig, managed to date her and eventually marry her in 1964 is still a mystery. Celia and Alan moved to Long Island and had me in 1967 and Nol and 1970. For over twenty-five years, Celia lived in the Wincoma area of Huntington, Long Island. Celia and Alan loved to travel, dance and enjoy hosting and attending parties. Here they are at a one of many costume parties they enjoyed:
Celia started two entrepreneurial ventures. Her first business was arranging and selling dried flowers. Turns out that this was quite popular in the 1970’s. Many years later she would start a cosmetics business called Color Theory Concepts. Mom used her artistic background to create custom shades of lipstick for her customers. Color Theory Concepts eventually expanded to selling all forms of cosmetics, handbags and accessories at the Gizay Michaels Salon. Color Theory Concepts operated until Mom moved to Manhattan in 2003.
From her earliest days, Celia was quite artistic. Celia started studying painting and drawing in the 1970’s, first under Mary Rose Palau and later under Lorianne Kulik. Mom’s works were initially representational, focusing on still life, landscapes and portraits. Here is an example of a oil painting of peaches:
Over time her work became progressively abstract with an emphasis on color over form. Here is an example of her more advanced work:
Mom had numerous shows around Long Island and her work is in private collections in the US and abroad.
After my father’s death in late 2002, Celia realized her dream of moving back into New York City, where she lived with her dog Lucky. When she was able she took classes and enjoyed programs at the 92nd Street Y, Broadway shows and galleries around the city.
When I think of my Mom, I often think of all the things I learned from her. She taught me to drive, to enjoy David Bowie’s music and to cook. She advised me on girls — not that I listened well enough. We spent days, hours at The Metropolitan Museum, where Mom was my art history professor. We walked all over Manhattan on Sundays while Nol was rehearsing or performing with the Metropolitan Opera Company. She took me to visit Cornell University where her cousin had attended and advised me to apply early decision.
For Mom, the most fun was always sitting down and having a cup of coffee and really catching up. She was an excellent listener.
In the end, that is the most important thing I learned from her: really how to listen and connect with people. Most people seem to listen as if it is the polite thing to do before talking again. Mom listened because she really wanted to know, to truly understand where you were coming from, to connect.
Celia was always the person that you could call up and just talk to. No problem was too big or small; she had a large well of patience, and she gave wise counsel. This what I miss the most. God, it sucks to have lost her so young.
Now that they’re gone, I’m not going to focus on the lost, last so many years. In my mind, Alan and Celia are young, strong and unencumbered by disease.
The consensus, first suggested to me by my cousin Amy, is that Celia and Alan, wherever they are right now are having a drink, probably a smoke, and getting ready to dance.
*Updated: The official autopsy report came back with a different result — Alzheimer’s. I’m not sure I believe it, as it would have to be very early onset Alzheimer’s… like from when Mom was 50.