Marijke Elisabeth Neumann White
04/29/1938 – 12/07/2011
For Maryke Neumann White, kindness, love, and laughter were the guiding forces of her life. Family, friends, and clients basked in her easygoing warmth.
She was born in the Dutch East Indies to Ferdinand Neumann, a mechanical engineer for a Dutch Tin Mining Company, and Lubertha “Beppie” De Haas (Bettina Templaar-Lietz). After the Japanese invasion in 1942, Maryke’s father was incarcerated separately from his family. Maryke’s mother heroically shepherded her two young daughters through four years of concentration camps and reunited with Ferdinand after the war. Younger brother Ferdinand (Andy) was born the following year. But adversity did not loose its grasp on the Neumann family. There followed Sukarno’s revolution, the family’s emigration to Holland, and then, Ferdinand’s premature death.
But Beppie was strong, and lovely, and charming in her own right. She married anew, and the family set out for Santa Barbara. The marriage didn’t take, but Santa Barbara did. Maryke and her sister Elsbeth resumed their education at Santa Barbara High. They didn’t speak much English, but they were friendly and drop-dead gorgeous. Their popularity was instant.
Maryke stood within a family nucleus, led by her amazing mother, that was tender and strong and which did not waver. Throughout their lives, Beppie, Maryke, Elsbeth, and Andy gave comfort and support to each other that few families could match.
Maryke was quick to laugh, and she was funny! She could mock herself, or give the sly smile and arch a brow when someone was acting like a horse’s ass—always with a gentle touch. Maryke mildly mangled the English language with her Dutch accent. But somehow, her manner of speech and sunny disposition blended to make her even more approachable. When her beam of attention was on you, you knew your day would be brighter.
Maryke married Roderick White in 1959. With characteristic spirit she set about raising Michael and Robert, her two fine sons, and being lifetime partner to Santa Barbara’s consummate outdoorsman.
Moving onto White Hill, she opened her heart to a family that desperately needed her sunshine. She widened her embrace to Alex, her mother in law, the White bothers, and the various wives and kids that ensued. She gamely tagged along on fishing and hunting adventures of every sort—never the predator herself, but game for adventure and adoring of the wild places she saw.
In 1964, adversity took another swipe at Maryke and her family. The Coyote Fire’s deepest probe into Montecito consumed their classic little hacienda. With characteristic resilience, Maryke and Rod built an amazing house upslope, with a jaw-dropping view. Maryke poured herself into that home, making it another family seat. She hosted gatherings of every stripe, from tri-tip barbecues to linen and silver affairs. When the invitation came for a party at the Whites, other engagements were quickly cancelled.
Her love of the land and its creatures sprouted in her life on Mountain Drive. She tended lovingly to her vegetable patch and fruit trees. She had a Franciscan affinity for critters. Her bird feeders were the busiest in town. Resident chipmunks were her little pals, and she was in wonder at the bobcats who stole in to lap from the pool. Generations of dogs, cats and birds with memorable names—the latest, two cats Peanut and Popcorn—shared their lives with the Whites.
Her sons were top-flight athletes—so for a decade Maryke was up before dawn to ferry Mike and Robert to workouts, lessons, and competitions throughout Southern California. As her boys grew, Maryke quietly launched a career in fashion. Her humble start at Robinsons could have been mistaken for a way to make some pocket money. But it was much more. She rose in the ranks and bloomed in a new way. The same easy smile was there, but it became apparent that this woman had STYLE! The wardrobe didn’t overwhelm, but was, unassumingly, just right. And she liked to work. So work she did.
Word of Maryke got around. For the next 26 years Maryke received a string of offers for the best jobs at the best stores. I. Magnin, Nordstrom’s, and finally, Director of the Saks Fifth Avenue Club. Her clients followed her from store to store like the Pied Piper.
In retirement, Maryke tended to her ailing husband of 52 years, went mano a mano with her garden, and kept fit with a steady course of aquarobics. Daily, she helped her mother, who preceded her in death two years ago, and stayed in steady touch with family and friends.
This Thanksgiving Maryke brought us together, as it turned out, one last time. “Us” was, as she put it, “the strays”… a half dozen bachelors, girl friends, step kids, nephews…and of course, Rod, her son Mike and her lifetime companions, Andy and Elsbeth. It was cowboy catering on top of the world, overlooking the Santa Barbara Coast and Channel Islands. People drank a little, laughed, bonded yet again, and had way too much fun. And there was Maryke in the middle of it, grinning from ear to ear. “Don’t you LOVE IT?” she said, more than once. We did. And we loved her. And we will miss her.
Maryke is survived by her husband, Roderick White, sons Michael and Robert, sister Elsbeth del Pero; brother Ferdinand “Andy” Neumann; brothers in law Gilbert, Richard, and Harwood “Bendy” White; sisters in law Kathy Snow, Dorene White, and Yvonne Neumann; nephews and nieces Billy and Greg Gerard, Emilie and Tarek Neumann, Thayer and Stewart White, and Alexa Avila.
A Celebration of her life will be held at 2 pm on Sunday, January 8, 2012, at Rose Story Farm, 5950 Casitas Pass Road, Carpinteria.