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Juliette Rose Enkaoua Griesemer

Juliette Rose Enkaoua in 1949
Juliette Rose Enkaoua in 1949

When my mother passed on January 4, 2017, I was determined to give her a proper tribute to her long and remarkable life, which I did on Unfortunately, the website that claimed it would keep tributes in place in perpetuity folded in less than six years, exporting limited versions to legacy. Much of what I created was lost. So I am recreating it here.


Juliette Rose Griesemer (nee, Enkaoua), a long-time resident of Woodbury, NJ and Elizabethtown, PA, passed away in Walnut Creek, CA January 4, 2017 from congestive heart failure complicated by pneumonia. She was born on February 20, 1923 to a Sephardic Jewish family in Oran, Algeria. During World War II, she met and befriended Raymond C Griesemer of Allentown, Pennsylvania, who was stationed in Oran as a Technical Sargent with the American Forces. He left Oran in 1945 and continued to write to each other during the remainder of the war and for five years after. At some point during their correspondence, her proposed to her and she accepted. With the support and encouragement of her beloved father, Samuel Enkaoua, Juliette broke with family traditions and accepted Raymond’s proposal. But, they had to wait until he could arrange for her emigration to the United States.

On January 20th, 1950, she boarded the R.M.S. Queen Mary and arrived in New York City on January 25th, after a rough crossing. Juliette and Raymond were married on February 8th of that same year in Allentown, PA. In the years that followed, Juliette and Raymond lived in Pennsylvania and New Jersey where they had two sons, John Raymond Griesemer and James Richard Griesemer. They were happily married for almost 66 years when Raymond passed away in January of 2010. Juliette was an accomplished seamstress and made much of her own clothing and some items for her family. She worked as a dressmaker for Lilian Albus of Haddonfield, NJ. She also taught sewing to teens and adults for the Singer Company in Woodbury, NJ. She loved to dance, spending many happy hours ballroom dancing with her husband and performing Hawaiian dances in Woodbury. Although Juliette converted to Christianity, she was very proud of her Jewish heritage. Throughout her life, she wore a small gold chain with both a Cross and Star of David. Late in life, Juliette took up painting, continuing the Enkaoua family tradition started by her father, himself an accomplished fine artist. Juliette is survived by her son, James Richard Griesemer of Walnut Creek, CA. Her first son, Jon, predeceased her by only five months. Juliette is also survived by her sisters Arlette and Elaine; brothers Dede and Norbert; daughters-in-law Sheryl and Cindy; grandchildren Amy, Christopher, Matthew, and Jennifer, great-grandchildren Max and Kate, many nieces and nephews, and her beloved cat, Gigi. A Memorial Service was held for Juliette on Saturday, January 28, 10:00AM at the Walnut Creek United Methodist Church, 1543 Sunnyvale Avenue, Walnut Creek, CA.

My Tribute to My Mother

I gave a personal tribute to my mother at her memorial service, recorded and presented here in the following YouTube video. There is one correction in the reading. My mother arrived New York City on the RMS Queen Mary on January 25th, 1950, not January 5th as I apparently had said. Given that I was reading a tribute to my own mother at her memorial service, I’m actually surprised I didn’t make more mistakes when speaking.

Transcript of My Tribute

A reading from Ecclesiastes 3, Verses 1-8:

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to seek, and a time to lose;
A time to keep, and a time to throw away;
A time to tear, and a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate;
A time for war, and a time for peace.

This passage of scripture has always been one of our favorites, one I have returned to many times over the years. Certainly, in the last six months, Ecclesiastes 3 has surfaced in my mind as I’ve entered into a rather dark season. But to be honest with myself, what I’m experiencing now pales in comparison to the dark season that my parents went through during World War II.

At age 15, my mother lost her mother. With four younger siblings to care for, her father took her out of school, putting an end to her formal education. My parents met in Algeria, North Africa, in the midst of the worst war the world had ever seen, a war that took the lives of over 60 million people. After they met, there was little chance, let alone any guarantee, that they would ever see each other again. Nonetheless, my father proposed marriage to my mother before he left and she accepted. But, they had to wait. They wrote to each other for over five years, keeping their engagement alive through nothing but handwriting and a few photos. They did this in a time when you had to wait weeks, if not months, for a response to letters. They kept faith, placed a stake in the sand for their future, and bravely faced the resistance they knew would come from two families of different faiths. She, raised in the Orthodox Jewish tradition, he in the Christian tradition.

On January 25th, 1950, through persistence, my mother arrived in New York from Algeria via Cherbourg where she boarded the RMS Queen Mary. You can clearly see the triumph on their faces in their wedding photo, placed here on the communion rail, taken on February 8th of 1950. They had made it through. They had turned the page. The dark season had passed. Spring had arrived and they were filled with hope and the joy of a new life together.

My mother has had a long life. It is perhaps a cruel trick of life that the longer that you live, the greater your chance of being remembered more for your frailties, mental lapses, and crotchetiness than for who you have been much of your life.

Looking through the photos and artifacts of my parents’ life, I have realized that it’s not the memories of the disappointments, arguments, and afflictions that endure. Even the tragedy of dementia, which has hit our family so hard, cannot hold sway if we hold fast to the important memories. I’m finding that remembering the love shared and the joys of a life lived together – often in the simplest of things — raises those memories above those from the darkest seasons.

My mother always considered herself both Christian and Jewish. After that “spring” of 1950, she did not practice Judaism. But, she was always proud of her Jewish heritage. To honor that heritage, I would like to read the following prayer, translated from Hebrew, called the “Yizkor.”

May the Lord remember the soul of my mother, my teacher, Juliette, who has gone on to her world, Because, without making a vow, I shall give to charity on her behalf. As reward for this, may her soul be bound in the Bond of Life, together with the souls of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah; and together with the other righteous men and women in the Garden of Eden. Now let us respond: Amen. 

Mom — and Dad, —  I want you to know that the hope and joy of a bright future that was so present on your wedding day has not been lost with your passing. You have passed it on to me. I can feel it now in the blessed life I have with my dear wife, Sheryl, our daughter, Jennifer, son-in-law, Tobi, grandchildren Max and Kate, and the loving extended family that we have here in California and in other places in the world.

I am grateful to you for the love you gave to us and for sacrificing so much for the sake of our well-being and happiness. But most of all, I am grateful to you for giving me the shining example of the life that you chose for yourselves and how committed you were to making it happen, through whatever seasons, come what may.  Thank you so much. I will always love you.

My Mother’s Memorial Reception

After her memorial service, we held a small reception in a room adjacent to the church sanctuary. I prepared a video, which presented scenes from my mother’s life, set to her favorite songs of her youth. I played the video on a large screen at the reception. The video follows here. I recommend clicking directly on the title text of the video to open it in YouTube in a new browser tab.

Comments from Family and Friends

Sheryl Ruzek, January 7, 2017, Daughter-in-Law

My mother-in-law, Juliette, was an amazing seamstress. She taught me much about sewing and helped me through many complicated projects restoring and recreating vintage costumes. I cherish my memories of our shopping trips to find fabric, her love of museum catalogs, and how happy she was to move to California near the end of her life. We were thrilled to have her with us for Christmas, Thanksgiving, Mother’s Day, Easter and other gatherings including a celebration of her 93rd birthday. She embraced life with an indomitable spirit that we will sorely miss.

Ariel Enkaoua, January 8, 2017, Nephew

Nous sommes très attristés par la perte de notre tante et soeur ainée de notre papa René
Quelle repose en paix amen
Ariel Enkaoua

Kathleen McWilliams, January 8, 2017, Family Friend

An amazing lady! Very resourceful, adventurous and creative soul. I have thought of her often though the years. She will be missed in body, but her spirit will live on though all of the people she encountered and shared with.
Kathleen McWilliams, Villas NJ, Jan 08, 2017

Herve Abrams, January 9, 2017, Nephew

Aunt Juliette was an incredible woman. I’ll always remember the way she welcomed us into her home when my mother, sister and I arrived in the United States. The entire Griesemer family was welcoming and Aunt Juliette took great care of us. Were it not for her generosity, our lives would have been drastically different and nowhere near as good. My mother still reminds me of how Juliette, the eldest of her sisters, took such good care of her and her siblings after the unexpected passing of their mother. She expresses immense gratitude for how Juliette took such good care of her was she was gravely ill and credits Juliette for saving her life. Even more impressive, she did all of that during the Great Depression. She was truly a wonderful Aunt and a beautiful person full of love. I shall sorely miss her, but am so grateful that she was a part of my life.

Arlette Choukroun, January 9, 2017, Sister

A ma grande sur chérie Juliette,

Toi qui as tout donné sans compter, à tes frères et surs en nous élevant comme une mère partie trop tôt. Tu as quitté l’école pour la remplacer avec courage, amour et bonne volonté, tu nous as transmis les bonnes valeurs de la vie : Amour, Courage, Générosité que tu avais en toi. Quand tu as pu, tu as traversé l’océan pour épouser Ray, ton si gentil mari. Tu as subi beaucoup d’épreuves que tu as surmontées avec dignité et même avec l’humour que tu avais toujours en toi. Nous t’aimons tous très fort, René, Eliane, Dédé, Arlette, Norbert que tu appelais Nono et toute la famille. Nous ne sommes pas présents mais nous sommes tous avec toi et toute ta famille. Tu nous manques déjà tellement, tu seras toujours dans notre cur. Repose en paix comme tu le mérites, près de ton mari, ton fils Johnny, et de tous ceux que tu aimes. D. te bénisse avec tes enfants et toute ta famille.

Merci, merci, merci pour tout.

Helena Iceman, January 9, 2017, Friend

I loved knowing Juliette – her sense of humor and larger than life personality were so enjoyable. She will be missed. Thank you for all the photos you posted.

Betsy Trtek, January 10, 2017, Family

I knew Juliette during her time in Concord. We met at several family gatherings. She came to our home on Christmas Eve in 2015 with Jim and Sheryl. We had Chinese Food from “The Okay Cafe”. We all enjoyed trying the different foods that my husband John had selected. Most of the food was fattening, but very flavorful. Juliette loved the pot stickers. The Okay Cafe tends to make hardy Chinese food. We were all stuffed by the end of the evening.

In August, Juliette and I sat on her patio on a beautiful afternoon. She enjoyed being outside in the sun. We talked about the trees and surrounding gardens. She also talked about being a teacher at Singer Sewing Machine, and how you need to understand people in order to motivate them to achieve their goals. She very much enjoyed teaching teenagers. She was very proud of their accomplishments.

I mentioned that she might enjoy visiting Mount Diablo some time soon. But of course, time flies, and we were not able to do that. But I have the nice memory of sitting in the sun with her, and enjoying a warm summer day. I miss her.

Jennifer Liebermann, January 10, 2017, Granddaughter

I have such fond memories of Juliette smiling and speaking French to me in the early 1990s when I first met her. I will never forget her voice or the warm emotion that came out any time she spoke! And as she got older she embraced social media, so while I was living on the west coast, she was always following along as my children were born.

It has been so nice to see Juliette over the past year that she was living in California. We celebrated a lot of holidays (mother’s day, Thanksgiving, Christmas) and she took such joy in her great grand children. My children will not forget the beautiful day we celebrated her 93rd birthday at the Creekside Grill in Walnut Creek. She lived such a long and full life. I know she is smiling now, lighter.

Eva Liebermann, January 12, 2017, Family

We only met Juliette two or three times at family gatherings after she moved to California. The most recent and memorable was on the 25. of December when we celebrated Christmas in a small circle in Sheryl’s and Jim’s cozy and comfortable home. We had a wonderful meal together and afterwards played and sang Christmas carols. Juliette, sitting center stage, with her snow white hair, seemed to joyfully taking in all the warmth and friendship around her. That is how we hold her in our memory.
— Eva, Bill and Ben.

Wanda Liebermann, January 12, 2017, Family

What a lovely tribute to Juliette. I knew Juliette mostly from a couple of family gatherings, notably, one for a choir concert that of her grandson Max, and her funny Facebook comments. She was a lovely person; I’m sure she’ll be greatly missed.

t, January 19, 2017, Friend

I became good friends with Juliette from working as the Business Manager at Courtyards. I enjoyed every conversation with her about life, marriage, dating and her cat Gigi. She will truly be missed.

Debbi Gould, January 25, 2017, Niece

Aunt Juliette was one of the strongest and wisest women I have known. She became part of my life when I was 3 years old when she bravely made her journey to the United States. She saved me from many fashion disasters as I grew up with her expert needle and thread. I remember when I was about 12 yrs old, I had tried to hem a skirt and Aunt Juliette was checking it and as she held it up and we saw the waves in the hem, we both broke into laughter. We were laughing so hard we could hardly thread the needle, and the harder we tried to thread the needle, the more we laughed. I will always remember her joy and laughter.

At family picnics, she and I would sit on the porch swing and she would tell me about her childhood in Oran and I would close my eyes and could see it, she painted a vivid pictures with words.

As the years passed, she became my mentor. When life puzzled me, she would offer loving, sage advice. She was always devoted to her family. Those who knew her were blessed. She was a true renaissance woman who embraced life. I cherish the memories and miss her

Tobi Liebermann, January 27, 2017, Family

I met Julliette for the first time when she moved to California to be closer to Jim and Sheryl. I have fond memories of family get togethers at Jim and Sheryl’s home and our home in Lafayette and at the Creekside Grill in Rossmoor. I am glad that I was able to meet her and that she got to meet and spend some joyful time with her great grandchildren Max and Kate. I know that she will be missed.

John Trtek, January 29, 2017, Family

Julliette had a great laugh, a great sense of humor and was so full of life. She reminded me of my Mom’s wit, my Aunt’s laugh and my Grandmother’s talent as a seamstresses. I only knew her for a short time, but when we got together, it was like we were long time friends. I will miss her.

Tina and Bob Moraca and family, April 23, 2017, Friends

“Juliette was a beautiful woman who was intelligent, adventurous, full of joy, who loved her husband and sons dearly. They were so very important to her and spoke of them often. Her laugh was infectious and she shared her views on life, love and happiness. I had the honor of learning to sew, Juliette was my teacher at the age of 10 at the Singer store. Juliette was a fabulous seamstress and continued to by my mentor at my first job at Lillian Albus exclusive dress shop at the age of 16 where we completed alterations on the expensive clothing. As I became a nurse and college faculty, our lives intertwined over the years, with respect, friendship and love. It was an honor and I was blessed to be able to help Juliette and Ray during challenges in life. We spoke often by phone and she enjoyed the company of my children and family. Juliette and my mother, Anne, continued to be dear lifetime friends. Juliette shared holidays with us in N.J. My life has been blessed because of her presence. I am eternally grateful for her candor, kindness, and love. God Bless You Juliette. Jim and Sheryl, our prayers are with you and your families.”




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