Nina Weinberg remembered as quiet, strong woman, volunteer
COLUMBIA — Nina Weinberg’s selflessness took many forms: volunteer teaching, organizing prisoner of war reunions with her husband, who is a former POW, and baking the “best blueberry muffins in the history of the world” every time her grandchildren came to visit.
“I’ll remember her as that quiet woman in the background, trying to make sure everyone was comfortable,” said Sonia Weinberg Thompson, Nina’s granddaughter.
Nina D’Ancona Weinberg of Columbia died Saturday, Dec. 26, 2011, of pneumonia that followed a previous injury. She was 87.
She was born June 20, 1924, in Chicago. She grew up there and in Highland Park, Ill., a nearby suburb.
She married Robert L. Weinberg on Dec. 22, 1945, and had been married 66 years when she died. They knew each other from Highland Park, both of them graduating from Highland Park High School.
Mrs. Weinberg studied for two years at Pembroke College, an extension of Brown University, before transportation rations in World War II made it nearly impossible to travel back and forth between Rhode Island and Chicago. She finished her studies at the National College of Education in Chicago.
Thompson said knowing her grandmother was independently minded and studied at a prestigious university like Brown has informed decisions in her own life.
“I was always very proud of that because it was at a time when not a lot of women were going to college,” she said.
After two years as a kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Weinberg left to start a family. Although she wouldn’t work as a teacher again, she volunteered to help at public schools throughout her life and sat on the board of directors of a public library in Kerrville, Texas, where she and Robert Weinberg moved after retirement.
Her son Tracy Weinberg said his mother was a teacher by nature. She was patient and allowed people time to think when speaking.
“She didn’t answer questions for you when she asked them,” he said. “She wanted to hear what you had to say.”
In the 1970s, Mrs. Weinberg became co-owner of a ceramics store in Highland Park where she also gave pottery lessons. The Clay Pigeon Studio was the first time she had ever owned a business and “was unlike anything she’d ever done before,” Tracy Weinberg said.
Mrs. Weinberg’s son Steve Weinberg, a professor emeritus at the Missouri School of Journalism, said that his mother was at center a quiet woman — self-effacing, hard to get to know, but never unfriendly.
“She had an iron core at the very center of her being,” he said.
After breaking her hip, Weinberg said his mother willed herself back to health in rehab. “Her doctor said he’d never seen anyone come back faster.”
When diagnosed with cancer, she fought her way through the illness with the same quiet resilience. “She never once complained. You would never have known she was a cancer survivor,” Steve Weinberg said.
As they grew up, her sons saw Mrs. Weinberg’s dedication through her daily presence and involvement in their lives. “She was always there. She was supermom,” Steve Weinberg said.
Mrs. Weinberg channeled her love for her children through action — and food, he said.
Tracy Weinberg concurs. He said his mother loved to cook and when she made their school lunches she would even cut off the crusts of his sandwiches for him and peel his oranges.
For Thompson, Mrs. Weinberg would bake the particular kind of sugar cookies she loved and have some ready when Sonia came to visit, which Sonia didn’t have to share with anyone.
"What you want from a grandma, she was it,” grandson Seth Weinberg said. “She didn’t have to say much for you to know the love was there.”
Mrs. Weinberg taught the two grandchildren to play backgammon. “We had some fierce backgammon battles,” Seth Weinberg said. She played with all her grandchildren, but her games with him "were our own little contest," he said.
She also volunteered at a veteran’s hospital in Kerrville for many years as well. Thompson said her grandmother was also the “quiet force” behind organizing reunions for veterans, her husband among them, who had been prisoners at Stalag Luft III, a German prisoner of war camp that was the basis for the movie "The Great Escape."
Mrs. Weinberg is survived by her husband Robert L. Weinberg of Columbia; her sons Steve Weinberg, and wife, Scherrie Goettsch, of Columbia, Zy Weinberg, and wife, Barbara Vauthier, of Burnet, Texas, and Tracy Weinberg, and wife, Joan Nagel, of San Marcos, Texas; and grandchildren, Sonia Weinberg Thompson, Seth Weinberg and Elena Weinberg.
A sister died earlier.
A memorial service for Mrs. Weinberg will be held later this year. Funeral arrangements are being made by Memorial Funeral Home.
Memorial contributions can be made to Columbia Public Library, 100 W. Broadway, Columbia, MO 65203.
Tributes can be posted at memorialfuneralhomeandcemetery.com