"People find a way to persevere no matter what is thrown at them."
Dan Levine says that is one of the most important lessons he learned from his cousin, Ruth Median.
Median, a 40-year resident of Marin County, died April 26 of COVID-19 at the age of 90.
"She was fiercely independent," Levine said.
Median was born in 1929 in Vienna, Austria. Her family later fled the city after Nazis confiscated the family's property
Median detailed what happened next in a letter she wrote in 1999: "Unfortunately, we were unable to come to the US before WWII, and spent the war years in semi-hiding in Belgium. My father was arrested by the Nazis on a street in Brussels and sent to a concentration camp."
"They never saw him again," said Levine.
"Ruth would not talk about it," said Paul Levine, who married Median's cousin in 1960. "We would ask questions and she would just shake them off. It was apparently very tough for her."
Median eventually made it to the United States where she graduated high school and college in New York. She began working for the United States Foreign Service in 1965 and spent the next two decades traveling the world as a sought-after high-level assistant to US ambassadors. Her beloved poodle, Pierre, was always by her side.
"She got things done," Paul Levine said. "She was a stickler for details and fluent in many languages."
"She never married, never had kids," Dan Levine said. "She traveled the world in an era that women didn’t get career opportunities. She never held back.
Both Paul and Dan Levine describe Median as a person who had strong opinions and was never shy about sharing them. "She was a presence," Paul Levine said.
Median retired to Marin County in the 1980s, treasuring walks in Muir Woods and on Mout Tamalpais. She was a shrewd investor who enjoyed collecting stamps and coins.