Marie Bednar

Obituary of Marie L. Bednar

Marie (Marka) Bednar, 81, of Bellefonte, passed away on Friday, June 7, 2024 at Foxdale Village. She was born and raised in the small town of Tyn nad Vltavou, Czechoslovakia, the youngest of three siblings. Marka was a quiet, reserved person, but she had an adventurous spirit.

In 1965, three days after Marka earned her degree in library science from Prague's Charles University, her most daring adventure began when she and her first husband, Robert Holub, defected from Communist Czechoslovakia during a tourist trip to England. While Robert sought freedom from political oppression, Marka yearned for freedom to explore the world. Not returning from their trip was considered a crime and they were sentenced to two years imprisonment (in absentia) and banned from their homeland for over 20 years. Because they could not return home, this left the rest of the world to explore.

With the help of a Czechoslovak refugee organization in London, Marka and Robert applied for immigration visas to the US. While they waited, they studied English and explored the great city of London. Immigration visas in hand, they arrived by ship in New York City in March 1966. One of the most moving experiences of Marka's life was sailing past the Statue of Liberty. She was thrilled to quickly find a job at a small business library on 23rd Street in Manhattan, while Robert went off to Montreal to pursue a PhD degree in Physics; the distance proved a strain and they eventually parted ways.

Marka spent the next eight exciting years living in Manhattan, cherishing her independence and the opportunities her new home offered her. She explored New York City's cultural life and perfected her English by taking courses at Hunter College and Columbia University. With her new friends, both American and Czech, Marka hiked in the Adirondacks and Colorado, skied in Vermont and fell in love with the big waves on the Atlantic Ocean's beaches off Long Island. In 1969, Eurail Pass in hand, she went on a whirlwind trip to Europe visiting Austria, Switzerland, Italy and Germany, but her own country was off limits to her.

Although her life in New York City was exciting, Marka eventually wanted a more interesting library job. In September 1974 she accepted a position with the Penn State University Libraries. As Marka settled into her academic role, she was active in professional organizations, spoke at library conferences and published articles in professional journals, eventually earning tenure and promotion. To make her life more interesting, she earned a Master's Degree in Comparative Literature from Penn State in 1983. In a triumphant return to the Czech Republic, Marka spent 1994-1995 as a Library Fellow at the Masaryk University, Brno, where she assisted with a project to computerize the holdings of the University's College of Liberal Art Library. After 25 years of service, Marka retired from Penn State in 2000 with the rank of Associate Librarian Emeritus.

Marka's heart took an adventure of the personal kind in 1979 when she met the wonderful Donald W. Hamer. For the next 36 years, until his death in 2016, they enriched each other's lives, by sharing their mutual interests in travel and leisure sports, as well as enjoying a quiet life with several generations of cats in their secluded house which they built off Buffalo Run Road in 1983. They hiked and cross-country skied in Centre County (when snow really lasted for days), sailed the Chesapeake Bay, took annual winter vacations to Zermatt, Switzerland and summer sojourns to the South of France, staying with Don's best friend, Rolf. Because of Don's passion for sailing, in 1982 Marka finally got a chance to truly satisfy her love of the ocean. For almost 10 years, Don and Marka and their friends spent time in their house on the island of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. They enjoyed the tropical flora and the gentle breezes from their deck, snorkeled and swam in the Maya Cove and Tortola's other great beaches, and sailed around the Virgin Islands on their boat, named "Sea Urchin."

With the fall of Communism in 1989 and the reopening of borders, Marka was finally allowed to visit her homeland. Don became so smitten by the beauty of Prague, the charming old Czech and Moravian towns, and countryside dotted with castles and picturesque mountains that Prague replaced Tortola as their favorite home-away-from-home. When they bought an apartment in central Prague in 2000, Marka took an early retirement to explore her homeland with Don and make up for many years of separation from her family. The next ten years were the most exciting years of their life together. Besides enjoying life in Marka's homeland, its proximity to Italy made it easy for them to visit great Italian cities and take hiking trips in Tuscany, the Amalfi Coast and other parts of Italy. In addition to her husband, Marka's favorite travel partner was her sister, Jana. They shared a love of swimming and took leisurely vacations on the beaches of the Adriatic Sea, Aegean Sea, Red Sea, Sea of Crete and the Indian Ocean off the Island of Mauritius.

Throughout her life, Marka was fascinated by the English language. In her younger years, she dabbled in writing poetry and short stories in English, one of which was published in the New Orleans Review. She also published several translations of Czech short stories into English and reviewed over 60 translations of Czech fiction for the Library Journal. In her Master's thesis, she compared two translations of Joyce's Ulysses into Czech and subsequently published an article based on her thesis in Irish Slavonic Studies. Her fascination with the relationship between English and Czech and her longstanding interest in meditation, resulted in her translation into Czech of Meditation by Eknath Easwaran, published in Prague in 2004.

Marka was a member of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Centre County and there for many years she coordinated by-monthly meetings of the passage meditation group.

With Don's passing in 2016, Marka no longer had her partner in solitude. She deepened her old friendships and developed new ones. A group of recent widows, whom she met through the Koch Funeral Home, became especially important to her. The support and friendship of these great women helped her navigate the realities of her new life, especially after she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in November 2019. For several years, Marka continued Don's philanthropic activities, as one of the Trustees of the Hamer Foundation.

Marka was preceded in death by her mother, Marie Bednarova (Havlova) in 1982, her father, Josef Bednar, J.D., in 1990 and her husband Donald W. Hamer, in July 2016. She is survived by a brother, Josef Bednar, D.V.M., a sister, Jana Protivankova (Bednarova) and several nieces and nephews, as well as a great nephew and five great nieces, all of the Czech Republic.

Arrangements are by Koch Funeral Home, State College. To honor Marka's wishes, there will be no memorial service. Her ashes will be interred in her family grave in her hometown, Tyn nad Vltavou, Czech Republic. Gifts in her memory can be made to the Schlow Centre Region Library, 211 S Allen Street, State College, Pa 16801; Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Centre County, 780 Waupelani Dr., State College, PA 16801; or Cancer Care Partnership, 1800 E Park Avenue, State College, PA 16803.

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