SRIPATHY email@example.com_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-11-25 published
In praise of humble, decent princess
By Anthony REINHART, Tuesday, November 25, 2003 - Page A12
She took many a meal at Swiss Chalet, where she had her own booth and the wait staff called her Candy Lady. Louise LIEVEN, you see, always had a handful of Werther's Originals for the people she loved, and in her world, that meant just about everyone.
Others called her Mom, since Mrs. LIEVEN was always ready with a wise word or a $20 bill for a neighbour in need.
Few ever called her by her official title -- Her Serene Highness Princess Louise Marie -- but then, neither did she. Mrs. LIEVEN, who died a week ago at 90, knew more than most about hardship and humility, and to her mind, deeds carried more weight than words.
Her impact on those close to her was evident yesterday, when about 100 people crammed a Toronto funeral chapel to pay tribute to the Latvian-born woman who came by her title through marriage to her "Prince Johnny" -- Charles Jean Christophe LIEVEN -- in Toronto in the late 1970s.
"She embraced people without regard for their racial or ethnic background," Mrs. LIEVEN's niece, Laila EBERHARDT, told the gathered crowd, many of them neighbours from the East York high-rise where she died last week.
Mrs. LIEVEN's appreciation for decency was hard won.
Born in 1913 to a wealthy family, the young Louise VON DZIENGEL enjoyed a privileged upbringing in Riga, the Baltic nation's capital, and counted young Prince John LIEVEN among many Friends. She married another man, however, and as the winds of war blew across Europe, gave birth to a daughter in March, 1940.
Everything changed three months later, when Stalin's Red Army rolled into Latvia, made it a Soviet republic, and began deporting the upper classes to Russia -- people like the VON DZIENGELs and the LIEVENs, who shared a Germanic background and Christian faith.
Louise's father sought refuge in Germany, while her mother and aunt stayed behind to mind the family assets. Her father soon died of a heart attack, while her mother and aunt were shipped to Siberia.
Fearing for the life of her child, she left her husband and fled with the baby to Sweden -- only to lose her little girl to pneumonia months later.
"Louise was alone, in a foreign land, without any means of supporting herself," Ms. EBERHARDT told the congregation yesterday. "But Louise was a survivor."
As the war raged, she continued to drift farther from her Eastern European home, to Denmark, then to Spain, Argentina and Mexico in the years that followed. She was working alone as a seamstress in Mexico City when her mother, released after 15 years in a Siberian prison camp, joined her.
When her mother died, Louise "was looking to reconnect and reach out to people dear to her," and that's when she learned, from a friend in Germany, that John LIEVEN was living in Toronto.
She contacted him and learned he, too, had his first marriage blown in separate directions by the Second World War. The prince visited Mexico and the rest was history: the pair, well into their 60s by then, fell madly in love. They settled in Toronto, where John was a salesman for a food distributor.
Mrs. LIEVEN lost her prince in December, 1996, after a series of strokes. But she did not lose her love of people.
That much was apparent at yesterday's funeral, where 10 people shared their thoughts of Mrs. LIEVEN.
One neighbour spoke of the coffee parties she organized for the building's seniors last winter, and how she'd always kiss him on both cheeks, one for him, the other for his wife. Another recalled how she bought Christmas gifts for three young boys whose father had died. A woman, widowed around the same time as Mrs. LIEVEN, talked about how they'd meet each afternoon for mutual support: "We'd have a little drink and we'd settle all the world's problems," she said.
And Sandy SRIPATHY, her neighbour across the hall, talked through tears about the lady she called Mom.
A few weeks ago, Mrs. LIEVEN confided that she might not make it to Christmas, as she was feeling ill.
She told Mrs. SRIPATHY to watch her door, and to check on her if the newspaper was still hanging from the knob by late morning.
Last Tuesday, Mrs. SRIPATHY watched the princess fetch her paper as usual, but later that day, she learned that her neighbour had died.
After a brief reception upstairs, the guests filed from the funeral home, but not before making one last stop: at a crystal candy bowl, perched by the door.
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