October 6, 1927 - October 7, 2017
Marie Lorraine Poniatowski-d’Ermengard
Marie Lorraine Poniatowski- d’Ermengard, age 90, passed away quietly on October 7, 2017, in her home in Tigard, Oregon, of a lymphoma brain tumor while surrounded by family and friends. Marie Lorraine Brettrager was born on October 6, 1927, in Chicago, Illinois, but moved at a young age with her family to the Portland area, where she lived most of her life. Marie received her First Communion at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Portland on May 19, 1935, and subsequently attended the Mount Angel Academy Boarding School established by the Benedictine Sisters of Mount Angel where she completed high school and earned a college undergraduate degree. She entered the monastery in 1945, made her final profession in 1953, and was stationed as a teacher in Albany, Oregon, in a school established by the Sisters. Although she was dispensed of her vows in 1962, a part of Marie never left the monastery, as she became a frequent visitor and consistent supporter of the Sisters throughout her life. One of the Sisters recalled Marie as having a fanciful mind, being a dreamer who dreamt the best into everyone she met. She had a desire to go, see and engage with people. Marie said on numerous occasions that she never made any decisions herself; she would listen for God to tell her what to do. When God told her that she should learn about Judaism, she visited a local temple in 1964, and responded to an advertisement posted by a Jewish family seeking a nanny. A doubtful Ed Fain brought Marie to meet his young, energetic family where they discovered his boys chasing about the house while his very young daughter, Deborah, was crying loudly–a scene of total chaos! Marie beamed widely and exclaimed, “What a lovely family you are!” They all immediately took to one another and Marie moved in to become a permanent member of the family as a nanny, second mom and loving friend–an association that was mutually treasured for over fifty years.
Over the next twenty years, Marie departed on several excursions, yet always returned to the Fains. In 1973, Marie traveled to the Philippines to seek alternative treatment for breast cancer, which Marie credited as the cure for her cancer. After returning home, she traveled into Mexico to learn dietary strategies for cancer prevention. In between all of this, Marie picked up enough credits to earn a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from the University of Oregon in 1976. From 1977 through 1979, Marie traveled to Iran and taught Kindergarten at a private school for the children of the supporters of the Shah of Iran, leaving only when conditions became unsafe. Returning home, Marie signed on with the Portland Public Schools as an elementary school teacher and substituted for many years.
The third major era for Marie’s life began when she enrolled in a French class held at the Benedictine Sisters of Mount Angel monastery that happened to be taught by Mieczyslaw Joseph Poniatowski-d’Ermengard, who became known simply as “the Colonel.” Marie became friends with the Colonel and his wife, and, eventually, after the Colonel’s wife passed, Marie and the Colonel were married in the Benedictine Sisters of Mount Angel Chapel on October 27, 1985. The Colonel, having been brought up within the Kremlin before the fall of the Czar, introduced Marie to an appreciation of opera, music and art that they thoroughly enjoyed together over the years. Marie and the Colonel were very devoted to each other and Marie cared for the Colonel as he battled and finally lost his bout with cancer in 1996.
Marie remained in the home and, at the suggestion of her friend, Tom Owens, rented a room to a young man, Linh Nguyen, and yet another friendship began. Linh lived with Marie for nearly six years and ultimately, in 2009, invited Marie to travel with him to Vietnam to attend his wedding. Marie, along with friends Tom Owens, Bob Owens and Michael Tran, had a delightful time sightseeing in Vietnam while Linh and his bride honeymooned. Over the years Marie and Linh continued to keep in touch once every week. Marie had little problem finding other young persons to live in her home with her, including Linh’s sister, Loan Nguyen, and Zena Martin, a member of the Legion of Mary. In virtually all cases, the relationships that were formed and the love that flowed were priceless.
Marie became very active over these last twenty years within numerous Catholic organizations, including the Legion of Mary, the Catholic Daughters, Parent’s Rights in Education, 40 Days For Life, Serra Club, and various prayer groups. The number of close and reciprocal relationships that developed during this part of Marie’s life are too numerous to even begin to list, as she devoted most of her time to these groups and associated individuals. A typical day for Marie began with daily Mass at 8:30 a.m., followed by one or two gatherings or outings, such as conversing with young women outside of the abortion clinic in downtown Portland, rain or shine, or offering help to the homeless on Burnside Avenue. Marie was always on the lookout for someone in need, be it on the street, in her neighborhood or in her parish. In the evenings, she would attend other meetings or prayer group gatherings and would finish the day praying with Brother David on her cellphone before, finally, praying the rosary–hopefully before falling asleep.
Marie enjoyed attending the gatherings of her extensive family, spending many holidays with her brother, Gene Bradshaw, and his family. After Gene’s passing in 2011, Gene’s sons and their wives hosted Marie on the holidays and kept an increasingly watchful eye on her, providing valuable assistance in later years. Neighbors such as Lance and Kristin Sholes were also particularly close to Marie, adopting her as part of their family and are another example of a mutual, long-term friendship which lasted over twenty years.
Marie was loved by her neighbors, friends and family as caring, gracious Marie, Aunt Lorraine or Aunt Sissy. Those huge, sleepy, kind blue eyes were remarkably disarming to even the most outspoken opponent, belying the sharp, observant woman behind them. Marie had a way of leaving everyone she met with the impression that he or she was, undoubtedly, the most important person in the world to her. She magically, mystically, brought her infectious, joyful spirit with her wherever she went and was never known to contain even a single ounce of malice. Although Marie officially left the monastery in 1962, she never stopped living the Gospel of Christ, bringing compassion to others wherever she walked, always with faith, hope and love.
Marie is survived by sister, Milly Allen: Lori Johnson, Penny Schillereff (Richard) Bruce Kenfield (Deb), Steve Kenfield (Tina), Paul Kenfield; [sister, Joan Allen]: Jim Glenn, Judi Owen; sister, Dolores Cavanaugh: Jack Baldwin (Esther), Edward Baldwin, Chris Stanton (Jim), Tony Perrotto (Susie); [brother, Eugene Bradshaw] (Barbara): Chip Bradshaw (Amy), Chris Bradshaw (Tina), Ben Bradshaw (Shawn); sister, Lisa Kassens (David); brother, John Brettrager (Diana): Nick Brettrager, Matthew Brettrager; sister, Tina Thompson (Michael): Allison Thompson. (Marie’s complete list of relatives is extensive; only her siblings and their children are shown here.)