Julia Andree Delbourgo, who hid from the Nazis in wartime France and, after immigrating to the U.S. with her family, taught French in Baltimore private schools, died of cancer Sept. 7 at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Towson.
The longtime Pikesville resident was 85.
The daughter of a wealthy businessman and a dealer in Egyptian antiquities, the former Julia Andree Menache — she never used her first name — was born and raised in Paris.
Her parents divorced when she an infant, and she did not met her father until she was 18, when, after the end of World War II, she was brought to Alexandria, Egypt, to live with her family.
Her parents were French, and their roots extended back to the days when Egypt was under French rule before it became a British protectorate in the 1880s.
"Her grandfather had in fact been Maurice Nahman, the great Egyptologist, and much of her family was long established in Egypt when it was still a French colony," said a daughter, Manuele Wasserman of Ruxton, in a eulogy for her mother.
When Mrs. Delbourgo was 5 years old, she was placed in the Institute Boileau, a Paris boarding school.
When World War II broke out, she was sent to the College Feminin de Bouffemont, a boarding school in the south of France.
"Decades later, the headmistress of that school received recognition as one of the righteous few to be commemorated at Yad Vashem [a memorial to victims of the Holocaust in Jerusalem] for having saved Jewish children," said Mrs. Wasserman.
"My mother, told to keep her Jewish identity secret, did not realize during all those years that she was not alone being protected in the idyllic environment of that educational institution," said Mrs. Wasserman.
Mrs. Delbourgo studied under the French baccalaureate system of education.
"After she completed the baccalaureate, they came to Egypt, where they gave her the test, which she passed," her daughter said.
"Those postwar years in Egypt were a rapturous time for my mother. She blossomed in the warmth of a newfound family, abundance of comforts and food, and pleasures afforded in the waning years of a fading but still glamorous colonial world," wrote Mrs. Wasserman in the eulogy.
In 1948, she married Edward Daniel Delbourgo, a British merchant.
With the coming of the Suez Crisis in 1956, all French and British Jews were exiled from Egypt, including Mrs. Delbourgo, her husband and her children.
"They lost everything, all of their possessions and money," said Mrs. Wasserman, who wrote that overnight the family "found themselves to be immigrants and wandering the world from France to South Africa."
"My father was finally able to get the necessary papers and they were able to leave for New York in 1961, where they established a new life," said Mrs. Wasserman.
Mrs. Delbourgo's husband died in 1977.
"This tragedy was a watershed event for her, marking her new greatest challenge — survival on her own in a new land. Looking over all these challenges, my mother's resilience is remarkable" her daughter wrote. "It is not that she survived that is extraordinary but the fact that she did not let these events dictate who she would become as a human being."
In the 1980s, Mrs. Delbourgo moved to a home in Pikesville, where she lived until moving to the North Oaks Retirement Community early last month.
During the 1980s and early 1990s, she taught French at the Park School and Maryvale Preparatory School.
Mrs. Wasserman said her mother had an "irresistible joie de vivre" and lived each day to the fullest.
A stylish woman who always dressed in the French manner, Mrs. Delbourgo was always impeccably attired from her silk Parisian scarves to her chic costume jewelry, which she matched with a charming, outgoing disposition.
She attended the theater, movies and concerts and enjoyed reading. She was an avid shopper and an enthusiastic conversationalist who never shrank from a good debate.
"No topic was too small or unimportant for her to cast her critical lens on … and rarely ended in resolution," her daughter wrote. "We went round and round. But these back-and-forths were also filled with laughter and humor and the knowledge that in fact we saw eye to eye on so many things.
"She loved people and their stories and she always had a tale or two of her own to share with a captive audience," her daughter wrote.
She was an active member of Temple Oheb Shalom, where she sang with its choir, and was also a student at the Renaissance Institute at Notre Dame University of Maryland.
In recent years, she was busy working on her memoirs, which she was writing in English, said Mrs. Wasserman.
Services were held Monday at Sol Levinson & Bros.
In addition to her daughter, Mrs. Delbourgo is survived by a son, Phillip Delbourgo of Brooklyn, N.Y.; another daughter, Joelle Delbourgo of Clifton, N.J.; a brother, Richard Menage of New York City; a half-brother, Fabien Domergue of France; a sister, Nicole Pandolfi of Italy; and five grandchildren.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun