Sad News About Our Dear Friend, Maria Gomori

It is with much sadness that we pass on the news of Maria Gomori’s death.  Maria was a key teacher at the Haven since the very beginning.  She had met Ben and Jock at a seminar in Winnipeg in the early 1970s, and came to study with them on Cortes Island.  She was already deeply involved in the work of Virginia Satir, and she brought Virginia to meet Ben and Jock.  The four of them became fast personal friends, and travelled together and visited each other through the years until Virginia’s death. Maria loved being at Haven, noting that “Ben and Jock established a community for people to connect with self and other, growing within and between.”  She saw Haven as a created container that brought forth learning opportunities where people could be validated in their human-ness.  She loved the experiential aspect of the Haven workshops, and she incorporated this into her own work, which involved a synthesis between Virginia Satir’s methods and the Haven approaches. 

Maria passed away Friday, December 10th. She had planned to give a talk with her long-time friend Linda Nicholls about their friendship, hoping to help the Haven during a difficult year.  When she was making final preparations to depart, Maria spoke to Linda and asked her to go ahead with this Chinese-English fundraiser.  Linda will share warm, heartfelt stories about their friendship, passing on those that Maria wanted to share with her Haven, Satir and Chinese friends.  Linda’s talk will take place on Saturday, December 18 at 6 PM PST, and registration and information can be found here

From the Haven Community

This picture is of Maria in Cathy and Ernie McNally’s living room in Kelowna in fall of 1999. This is the time when Graemme Brown did the audio recording, Ernie did the video recording, Wendy Huntington provided stimulating history prompts, and we all joined in with questions, fun, and laughter. What was generated over this week became Maria’s first book. 

Maria had always asserted that she “could not write”. We challenged her to let us support her getting her stories told — a different way. And Ernie (a great cook) promised to make sure she had great food and great fun. She accepted!  And this project was born.

The day before she died, Maria thanked me again for this wonderful week: “We had SO much fun!” ❤️ – Cathy McNally

YaFang Linda Maria August in Jock’s home on Gabriola Island 2016

REMEMBERING MARIA GOMORI
Jock McKeen

Maria Gomori was a remarkable being.  In the five decades that I knew her, there was never a dull moment.  My deceased partner Bennet Wong and I met her in a professional context in the early 1970s, and we were both immediately engaged in the dynamic sphere of human existence that was Maria. We taught with her, we travelled with her, we bumped up against her, we laughed with her, we learned with her. She was one of the best friends that we both had in our lives. She loved being at the Haven, and considered the Gabriola centre her second home.

Maria was a pragmatic humanistic philosopher.  Ben and I wrote the following for the Foreword of her book Passion for Freedom:

Maria’s life is a living testimony to the principles addressed by existential philosophies—freedom, authenticity, responsibility, and moral agency.  She also lives the existential challenges of angst, loneliness and paralysing uncertainties.  Maria does this with balance and courage.

She was a multi-faceted diamond, and some of those facets were sharp!  She did not hesitate to speak her mind. Sometimes her words were soothing, sometimes difficult, but usually to the point.  She adored Ben, and was a loyal and true friend to Virginia Satir.  Indeed, she was the connecting link that brought Virginia to Haven, beginning a four-way friendship between Virginia, Ben, me and Maria that lasted throughout the rest of their lives. She liked to share her friends by connecting them with each other.  It was through Maria’s travels to Asia that Ben and I first began our teachings in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and other parts of Asia; later, she accompanied us to Europe where we co-taught with her and Linda Nicholls.

She was one of the best students I have ever known.  She read avidly, and reveled in philosophical discussions.  She was deeply curious about the meaning of human life, and she became a strong advocate for individuals and families.  Although she was a dedicated and insightful teacher, she always saw herself as a student of life.  This was somewhat problematic between us; she insisted to the end that I was her “teacher” and would not listen to my response that I had learned so much from her.  She did the same with Ben and Virginia, attributing the source of her learning to Ben’s ingenuity and Virginia’s excellence.  She stubbornly refused to see that she herself had developed her own unique “Maria way.”  Ben and I wrote this about her in 2000 when she was eighty years old:

Her life is what she teaches.  She is a living existential philosopher.  She is a pragmatist and a prophet, a realist and a dreamer. She is an inspiration.

Hungarian by birth, she was fluent in a number of European languages.  She mastered English quickly when she immigrated to Canada.  She retained her Hungarian flair, her words interspersed with inter-language “Maria-isms” that were charming, yet laced with intelligence and insight.

Scholarly and bright, she continued her penetrating thoughtfulness into her advanced years.  She embraced learning as a study of life and people, which she approached with a “beginner’s mind.”  I taught a seminar with her on the occasion of her 101st birthday.  Our preparation was rigorous, and very stimulating.  Rather than resting on platitudes that we both might report, she worked with me on the telephone for hours on end, through many days, to hone in on exactly what she wanted to say.  While she was clarifying her own point of view, she continuously probed me with questions that invited me to go deeper into my own assumptions.  I was fascinated and very engaged with this arduous process, and there were many stages and levels to our discussions.  To distil our conversation would take many pages. 

In a recent conversation, she told me she had done everything she wanted to do in her life.  As we mourn her passing, this passage that Ben and I wrote two decades ago reverberates more deeply:

Maria Gomori’s legacy is in her human contact.  Countless lives have been influenced and shaped by meeting this singular individual.  Clients, family, friends, and associates all have been stimulated, inspired, humanized, by their wondrous contact with this remarkable personwoman. She has crafted a living philosophy, which she courageously evolves as she grows.  Indeed, she is continually growing, becoming more of the being she is.  She has found self-realization in the real world. She has made the world a better place.

One of Morag and Cheryl’s jeep rides for coffee with Maria after a swim in the Haven pool!

Maria was such an inspiration to so many.  Cheryl and I attended her programs at a difficult time in our lives and Maria’s caring and straight talk (I call bullshit on you!), along with our amazing family sculpt, was the beginning of me learning to speak up.  I had my eyes opened to my role in my family and relationships so that I could see my way forward.  Over the years I have been privileged to be one of Maria’s ‘go-to’ people in helping her make her stays at The Haven comfortable and smooth.   She always took the time to stop in at my office for a visit at some point during each stay, and she loved taking a ride to MadRonas for coffee in Cheryl’s ‘sexy’ yellow jeep.  I cherished our friendship and will miss her dearly. – Morag Ruckman

Maria was an extraordinary person.

I got to know her taking her Satir courses, as well as assisting her in those same courses and I became friends with her throughout the years. Since the first course “Journey to Self” and subsequent “Family Reconstruction”, our whole group continued to meet once a year – usually at the Haven to enjoy her teaching and training us further in the Satir model.

One year we met in Gimli, Manitoba. Maria had had an accident at the Haven the previous year and was unable to teach for awhile after being in the hospital for several months. She told me, while we were waiting for others in the airport in Winnipeg, “Vicky – I was so depressed and scared that I almost gave up! Then I remembered what I teach – and I got up and started to live again.”

Maria lived her life congruently, giving and loving in the principles and philosophies of her good friend Virginia Satir to the very end of her life.

She will continue to inspire me with memories of her teachings, mentorship and loving friendship!

She will live on in my heart and that of many others. – Vicky Frederiksen

Maria’s Obituary

(Maria’s family has posted this obituary on Maria’s webpage)

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Maria Gomori. She was predeceased by her husband Dr. Paul Gomori in September 1979. She is survived by her son Andrew (Karen), grandsons Paul, Steve (Amber) and great granddaughters Freya, Elise and Laurel.

The world has lost an influential and special woman who touched the lives of many people during her life’s journey. She will be mourned by her loving family, close friends and students around the world. She impacted the lives of many people through decades of work as an educator and family therapist.

Maria was born in Budapest, Hungary on May 25, 1920. She received her initial education in Hungary followed by studies at the Sorbonne in Paris. When World War II broke out in 1939, she cut her studies short and returned to Hungary to be with her family. In the spring of 1942 she met and married Paul and in January 1943 their son, Andrew, was born. Following the war, she worked in Hungary as an economist in high level government planning. Maria received an Order of Merit, presented by the Hungarian Government in 1950 for outstanding organizational work in the field of planning.

Through many painful and miraculous events, Maria, Paul and Andrew survived the tragic experiences of the war. Amidst the great political upheaval, she and Paul had decided to search for greater security, education, and freedom for their son, Andrew. The Hungarian Revolution in 1956 led to their harrowing escape, leaving everything behind. In 1957 they arrived in Canada as refugees to begin a new life.

Maria continued her education in Winnipeg and obtained her Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Manitoba. She founded and built the social work department at the St. Boniface General Hospital in Winnipeg as its first director from 1966 to 1991.

In 1969, she met Virginia Satir, a pioneer in Family Therapy, who became her teacher, mentor, and later her colleague and friend. She studied with Satir, whose theory and practice in helping people and families change, stimulated Maria’s work, her approach to people, and her professional career. She was determined to learn how Satir’s magic worked and began attending workshops and seminars in many parts of the world where Satir was teaching.

Maria became an important stimulus for advancing the knowledge of her colleagues at the hospital by bringing in teachers and writers in all areas related to therapy. Social workers became part of the treatment team and their role was to be the advocate of patients in the complexity of the hospital setting. High self esteem and standing up for their principles were important criteria for Maria in teaching her staff. In the 1970s working with the entire family was a breakthrough in the field of psychotherapy in Manitoba.

As well as immersing herself in Satir teachings, Maria was also deeply influenced by the integrated body and mind approaches at the Haven Institute on Gabriola Island, B.C. Her curiosity for learning took her to many great teachers in her field of work.

As a result of her ongoing development, her role at St. Boniface Hospital changed from Director of Social Work. Starting as an Assistant Professor of the Medical Faculty of the University of Manitoba, she established a family therapy teaching program in a hospital setting for Residents in Psychiatry and students of other health disciplines.

After Satir’s death, Maria continued Virginia’s work and became known internationally. Maria dedicated her work in the last 30 years to sharing her learnings. With a unique way of creatively integrating her own life wisdom with that of Satir and other great teachers, she conducted workshops throughout Canada, the United States, Europe, South America, Thailand, Chinese Mainland, Hong Kong SAR, and Taiwan Region, teaching, demonstrating and applying her interpretation of the Satir Model. She was instrumental in helping to develop Satir Institutes in Australia, Chinese Mainland, Hong Kong SAR, Taiwan Region, Thailand as well as in Winnipeg. Expanding the teaching, she developed a group of teachers in Chinese Mainland, Hong Kong SAR, Taiwan Region and in Canada. These people are now teaching this work themselves within their own countries and communities.

Maria was the Founder of the Manitoba Satir Institute and co-founder of the Hong Kong Satir Institute. She was an Emeritus Faculty member at The Haven Institute, B.C. in Canada, a Faculty member of the 2017 Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference (clinical member and retired), an Approved Supervisor with the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy and a Retired Faculty member of the Aurora Family Therapy Centre of the University of Winnipeg in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Maria co-authored “The Satir Model” and was author of her autobiography “Passion for Freedom”. Her professional books include “Personal Alchemy” (with Adaskin), and “Satir Family Therapy in Action”. All are translated into the Chinese language. Her books include Satir based workshops, building on the works of Satir and adding her own learnings and her unique story, perspective and style.

In 1977 she was the recipient of The Governor General’s Canadian Silver Jubilee Medal. Maria was also presented with a Special Recognition Award by the Board of Avanta, Satir’s worldwide learning network and in 2005 was given The Living Treasure Award from the Global Satir Network. She received the YMCA-YWCA Women of Distinction Award in the category of Health and Wellness in 2003 in Winnipeg. The Key to the Centre Award was presented to Maria by Aurora Family Therapy Centre of the University of Winnipeg in 2016.

Maria faced numerous challenges throughout her life, escaping death on several occasions. She needed to draw upon her strength and courage to survive. Her passion for life and freedom, as well as her determination to protect her family gave her the will to push through each of these challenges. Yet along the way, she never stopped loving and helping the people who were close to her. Her life story is an incredible journey that is inspiring to all that knew her.

While there will be no official ceremony, Maria’s wishes are for people to celebrate her life and remember the unique and special way that she touched so many people. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to The Haven Institute, Gabriola Island, B.C. at https://haven.ca/giving

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