December 25, 1922
March 9, 2021
Peacefully on Monday, March 8, 2021, with her family by her side. Wife of the late Walter Harbin; loving mother of Toni (Madison “Mac”) McKee and Patricia (John “Jack”) Bickell; sister of the late Margaret Sargeson, Sadie Khalil, Martha “Chick” Elkenbaum, Albert Sam, Lawrence and Edward Sams; grandmother of Melissa (John) Swanson, Holly (Mark) Prestileo, Heather (Mike) Woodruff, Michael (Sherry) McKee, Meagan (Greg) Ridgeway and Brandy (Logan) May; also survived by 13 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandson and several nieces and nephews.
Arrangements have been entrusted to the SZAFRANSKI-EBERLEIN FUNERAL HOME, INC., 101 Third St., Carnegie.
A celebration of Marie’s life will be held at a later date.
Marie was laid to rest next to her husband, Walter, in St. George Orthodox Cemetery.
Contributions in Marie’s name may be made to St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church, 3230 Washington Pike, Bridgeville, PA 15017.
On Monday, March 8, 2021, at the age of 98, Marie Sams Harbin gently and peacefully left us, her biggest fan club: two daughters, six grandchildren, and fourteen beautiful and intelligent great and great-great grandchildren. She bequeathed her generosity, creativity, sense of humor, and fearless independence.
Mom-mom, as we all called her, was not your typical aproned, cookie-baking granny. Partly because her taste in cookies was questionable. Imagine a child’s disappointment at raiding the cookie jar only to find Stella D’oro anisette toasts, her favorite. But what she lacked as a cookie connoisseur, she more than made up for in every other aspect of life.
She was generous. She and Pap-pap gave our whole family the best memories … of summers swimming in the backyard pool, and every year a glorious week-long summer vacation in Ocean City, New Jersey, with dinners out and spending money for all. They hosted big Syrian dinners with grilled lamb, mounds of kibbee, and heaping salads tossed with her famous lemon dressing. At an early age we all learned to roll a mean grapeleaf, and that figs and persimmons were treats.
She was creative: Every decade of life brought a new hobby that she mastered: intricate, colorful floral still-lifes created from tiny seeds, heaps of cozy crocheted blankets, gorgeous needlepoint pillows, stained-glass mosaics and heirloom picture frames, delicate pizzelles at Christmas-time.
She was slyly funny. The saved letters written between her and her sisters could be used as sitcom scripts (think Golden Girls, but all Dorothy and Sophia). Mom-mom was ahead of her time: she signed every card “LOL, Mom-mom” -- meaning “Lots of Love”, of course.
She was fearlessly independent. Crossword puzzles were completed in pen. She loved to work out at the gym, swim laps, and sweat in the sauna. Later in life she took up ballroom dancing, then square dancing. (Oh, the costumes!) She traveled the world with her best friend / sister, Chick. She and Pap-pap took glamorous vacations to Puerto Rico and Mexico, bringing home armloads of memorable gifts for the whole family.
Her favorite advice to us all was, “Look both ways, then go like hell!” Wise words for a well-lived life with no regrets, really. We were fortunate to be part of her well-lived life, and to share in her unconditional love, for so many years.
The Magic Box
A poem for Mom-mom, written by her eldest granddaughter
I’m sending you a magic box ...
In it are a pair of high heels that click-clack when you walk. The kind that you wore at the office.
In the magic box are lamb kabobs and coconut ice cream in real coconut shells! And mounds of grape leaves and the cinnamon scent of kibbee hot out of the oven. A big heap of Syrian salad with tangy lemon and oil dressing and soft pita. The sounds of kids splashing in the pool.
In the magic box is warm sand from the beach outside of the old apartment in Ocean City. The salty smell of the air. Splinters of wood from the boardwalk. French fry grease, gulls calling, the constant crash of waves.
In the magic box are your dancing shoes. Thousands of seeds - organized in tiny clear boxes - ready for your next masterpiece. Your gym pass. Pale pink nail polish and remover with fluffy cotton balls that you let me try on mom’s front porch. My favorite photo: your 98 year old hand - still beautiful - next to your great-granddaughter’s 18 year old hand - the younger version of yours - long, slim fingers, perfectly shaped nails.
The fragrant, lavender-colored leie that you indulgently shipped to me from Hawaii.
In the magic box is the keychain with one single key on it - my first key to anything - the key to your house.
It is wrapped in maps of all the places you’ve visited: Japan and Hong Kong and Puerto Rico and Hawaii and Mexico and California. Tied with an azalea branch of the boldest fuchsia. Flown by twin parakeets - perhaps Lovey and Dovey - then dropped gently on your front porch, next to the creaking glider where I read book upon book, barefoot, damp swimsuit and hair, lost in another world, but safe.