Nov. 18, 2019
Nina Benedik Thomas died peacefully at home on Monday, Nov. 18 surrounded by her family. She had been living with cancer for over five years and had continued to live an inspiringly active and satisfying life throughout. She loved her family, yoga, gardening and the wilderness and was an avid skier and outdoorsman.
Nina was born in Zagreb to Victor and Vera Benedik in 1946 after her father survived the Holocaust. She and her husband Duncan were married in Philadelphia and celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in August 2019. They met at McGill University in 1969 and were married in Philadelphia soon after. They hitchhiked to Fairbanks, Alaska for a honeymoon that lasted two years while they lived in a log cabin that they built themselves.
Following the first of several round-the-world trips, they settled in Montreal where she gave birth to her two oldest sons, Wilder and Dave. She obtained her teaching certificate from McGill and taught in the French public school system. During this period, the family spent a happy year on sabbatical in Perth, Australia. The family continued their extensive travels over the years, including further sabbaticals in Cambridge, the UK and Paris. She and her husband enjoyed two more years abroad after their children left for college.
In 1983, Nina and her family moved to Los Angeles where she gave birth to her third son, Dylan. After starting his education in French in Paris, she took Dylan to Quito, Ecuador for half a year to experience life in a very different environment while continuing his education in the French Lycée system. She earned a master’s degree in school counseling from USC and continued teaching in LA Unified School District middle and elementary schools until her retirement in 2014. She influenced generations of children through her teaching and kindness. She was endlessly creative and patient, and embodied the words of her mother Vera, “Where there is a will, there is a way.”
In her final years, Nina became a grandmother. She relished the role of “Grandma Nini” and was much beloved by her granddaughter, Eliza Stebbins Thomas, and her grandson, Harlow James Thomas.
She is survived by her three sons, two daughters-in-law, sister, two grandchildren, husband and poodle, Cokie, all of whom were present at her farewell. Her friends remember her as “one of those truly gracious individuals who make life so much more pleasant for everyone around her” and “such a lover of life who loved to laugh.”