January 11, 2021 ~ 28 Tevet 5781
Mercedes Ben-Avi Nibur passed away on January 11, 2021, after a valiant 14 year battle with breast cancer. She was a week away from celebrating her 77th birthday.
Born in Marrakech, Morocco she grew up with a global mind, and was truly a citizen of the world, as much as she was a proud American. She studied in Morocco until graduating high school at age 16. She left her family home at that age to move to Paris, and study languages at The College of Sorbonne – an institution dating back to 1253. Upon completion of her studies with Honors, she left Paris and went to meet her family in Jerusalem, Israel, where they had made Aliyah from Morocco when it was no longer under French governance and it was unsafe for Jews to remain.
She served in the Israeli Defense Forces. Due to her language skills (and possibly her good looks), she was quickly put into a secretarial pool and acted as a translator. She worked directly with legends like Moshe Dayan. After finishing her IDF service, she moved to London, England for a job as a translator in the private sector. She worked there for two years. During her time in London, she would be courted by a funny American, whom she would soon marry.
After their marriage, she and her new husband Mickey would move to Los Angeles in 1970, where she would teach private language classes to Hollywood stars. After four years there, Mickey’s career would lead them to Detroit, Michigan where they started a family together. She would be frequently found giving her time and energy to the Jewish Community in Detroit. After eight years there, Mickey’s employer relocated the family to London, England for three years. An avid traveler, she took advantage of our proximity to so much history. With so many different countries at our fingertips, she planned trips that took us to all of Western Europe, as well as multiple trips to Israel to visit family. After finishing in London, she and Mickey chose Louisville for the family’s home in the US.
Moving to Louisville in 1986, she immediately connected with the broader Jewish Community. She would find her family a place in it, originally joining KI, sending her children to Eliahu Academy, and making sure they spent summers at the JCC. Eventually becoming members at The Temple, she taught Hebrew school, Sunday school and was a proud member of The Sisterhood, planning and leading The Temple’s Annual Interfaith Program for well over a decade. She delighted singing in the volunteer choir, Shir Chadash. She also taught adult classes at Ursuline College, served on the JCRC, and proudly supported The Jewish Federation. Watching her children thrive and grow gave her the greatest pleasure. The only thing that exceeded that pleasure was becoming a grandparent and great-grandparent.
The oldest of 9 siblings, they used to call her “sister-mother”, and the “chief of staff”. Mercedes was always a forceful and strong-minded person, who wasn’t afraid to tell you her point of view. Chief of Staff was a title she’d have gladly worn. She was also a consummate host, who would entertain 50-60 people annually for Rosh Hashanna, Passover, and frequently hosted or attended dinner parties with friends. Often referred to as “The United Nations”, her home and parties would be an eclectic mix of people, personalities, occupations, ethnicities, and backgrounds. She was happiest making food for others, even until the week before she passed. An avid fan, if you called her during Jeopardy! she’d hang up on you. A deeply creative and artistic person, she knitted incredible baby blankets that are warming little tushies across the globe, she crafted magnificent jewelry by hand, a passion she shared with her daughter who carries that creative side of her. She was an animal lover, and often called both the dogs and humans she loved “Peasants!”.
She is preceded in death by her parents Yoshua & Alegria Ben-Avi and her brother Elias Ben-Avi. She is survived by her loving husband of 51 years, Ivan (Mickey), her two beloved children Laurence Nibur (Laura Pearson) and Amanda Masters (Chris), her grandchildren Isabela Nibur, Hunter, Jonathan Heath & Sloan Pearson, her granddogs – Olive Oyl, Bennie, Lily, Jack, Casper & Griffin, and a great-grandson – Kameron Pearson. She is further survived by her devoted sister & her husband, her sister-in-law, and 6 brothers & their wives who live in Israel, Holland & Philadelphia. She has numerous cousins, nieces, and nephews who mourn her from across the globe – Israel, California, Canada, New York, Florida & Australia. She will be missed by her dear friends in Venezuela, Switzerland, France, Israel, England, Detroit, and here in Louisville.
The family wishes to thank Dr. Jeffrey Hargis with the Norton Cancer Institute for his 14 years of care and devotion, along with her primary care physician, Dr. Priya Balakrishna with MDVIP. We are forever grateful for the personal commitment these physicians provided and truly consider them family. We also wish to thank Hosparus for their guiding hand, particularly Angie, and Brenda from Home Instead for their kindness and gentle help in her final weeks.
A graveside service will be streamed and available for viewing anytime on Herman Meyer & Son, Inc. Facebook page https://fb.me/e/3gqTlmNqf
A Zoom shiva call, and memorial service will be held Thursday Jan 14th at 730pm, follow this link for that zoom.
In lieu of flowers, donations in her honor can be made to either Rabbi Gaylia Rooks Music Fund at The Temple, or to The Jewish Community of Louisville J Tomorrow
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