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On Sunday, April 25, 2021, Marianne Grayston passed away at Sunrise Senior Living in Annapolis, Maryland, after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. She was 77.
Marianne was born on January 23, 1944, in Brooklyn, NY, to John and Mary Toomey. She was the eldest of three children, to include a sister, Kathleen, and a brother, John. The Toomey family lived in Howard Beach, NY, where Marianne attended Our Lady of Grace Elementary School. In 1961, she graduated from Our Lady of Wisdom Academy High School in Ozone Park, NY, and enrolled at St. John’s University in Queens. After obtaining her Bachelor of Arts degree in Education in 1965, she taught English at Garden City Long Island High School.
During the summer of 1966, Marianne traveled to Europe with her close friend and fellow teacher, Mary Ann Niles. The two friends both fell in love with Paris and decided to stay instead of returning to their teaching jobs in the U.S. While in France, Marianne met and married Graham Grayston, a British expatriate, and moved with him to London. When that marriage ended in divorce a couple years later, Marianne returned to Paris, where she taught English for several years.
Returning to the States in 1981, Marianne settled in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C. She simultaneously worked in the adult education office at Prince George’s Community College and earned a Master of Arts degree in Teaching English as a Second Language from the University of Maryland. Upon graduation, she became an assistant professor of English as a Second Language at Prince George’s Community College.
In 1998, longing to be a mother, Marianne adopted a 12-year-old girl named Snejana from St. Petersburg, Russia. While raising Snejana, Marianne began dating David Hofstad, a financial advisor from Cheverly, MD, and eventually married him in 2009. Together, they enjoyed attending plays and concerts in the D.C. area and traveling regularly to Maine, France, and Norway. Marianne delighted in her grandchildren, Alexander and Sofiya.
Everyone who knew Marianne loved her for her genuine kindness, her sense of humor, and her generosity of spirit. She was both beautiful in appearance and gracious in manner. Shakespeare could have been describing her when he wrote, “The hand that hath made you fair hath made you good.”
Marianne will be greatly missed by her husband, David; her daughter, Snejana Mitchell; her son-in-law, Joshua Mitchell; her grandson, Alexander Miller; her granddaughter, Sofiya Mitchell; her brother, John Toomey; her nephew, Stephen Lewis; her brother-in-law, Robert Lewis; her stepdaughter, Elizabeth Hofstad; her cousins, Gail Lynch Arnette and Valentine Dillon Lynch; and her many longtime friends, both here and in Paris. Marianne was preceded in death by her parents and her sister, Kathleen Lewis.
For those wishing to pay their respects, there will be a memorial gathering at Beall Funeral Home in Bowie, MD, on Tuesday, May 25, from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., followed by a funeral service at her home church in Howard Beach, NY, at a later date. She will be interred in St. John Cemetery in Queens, NY. In lieu of flowers, those wishing to contribute to a charity in her memory may choose between Alzheimer’s Disease Research and Doctors Without Borders.
Memories of My Sister Marianne Grayston
By John Toomey
Being the oldest of three children, Marianne was always in charge, but in a good way. She always had a special relationship with Kathleen, her little sister. This love lasted all during their lives.
I can always remember events of our early years—Christmas, Thanksgiving and other holidays were always very exciting. Marianne always got into the excitement of the day. I can still see us coming into the dining room in our pajamas on Christmas morning and standing in wonder in front of our three-foot, skinny Christmas tree.
Being a small family, we always did things together. Marianne always loved making family trips to Charles Park and Rockaway Beach. She also very much loved going Christmas shopping on Jamaica Avenue. This was the time before the opening of the shopping malls on Long Island. We would go from store to store on cold nights looking at toy stores and Christmas shops.
We also traveled to upstate New York in the Hudson Valley. She enjoyed our trips to the Catskills, Fort Ticonderoga, and Lake George.
Our first “big trip” was to Washington, D.C. and Virginia. We visited our cousins Gail and Dillon, who were living in Alexandria. She loved our visits to the Capitol, the Jefferson Memorial, and Lincoln Memorial. As usual, she loved shopping at the souvenir stores. We still have some of these items at home.
She and Kathleen also loved music. There were no CDs or iPhones, so their collection of small 78 records was huge.
Howard Beach being a small community surrounded by water on three sides caused it to be somewhat isolated. Most of our friends and activities took place separate from the busy hectic life of the city. Howard Beach was a place where everyone knew everyone else. Brooklyn and Long Island could easily have been other countries.
Marianne was an intelligent girl and had an enquiring mind. I think this is what made her wonder what was out there on the other side of the world. During high school and college she had many friends from other areas. She often had parties and events at our home and backyard. These interactions made her see the world in a way that was different from our family’s “provincial” views.
Marianne was the rebel of the family, but, again, in a good way. She wanted to be an independent woman, and search for meaning in her own way. This was a surprise to my parents. My father understood but my mother found it hard to accept. This caused some friction between them for a number of years. She and mother eventually came to terms with their differences, and their bond of love and friendship became very strong.
When Marianne moved to Europe, she never lost contact with her family and friends. My parents even visited her a few times in Europe. When she moved back to the U.S. and settled in Greenbelt, MD, and then moved to Crofton, MD, we all had a wonderful warm relationship. During all these years her family was very important to her. When her father got sick with brain cancer, she was very supportive, and when her mother got sick she came to New York and spent a great deal of time with her. Marianne may have been the rebel of the family, but her love and devotion to her family was never-ending.
The values that Marianne acquired as a small child remained with her during her entire life. She was someone we can be very proud of. I know that when she passed through the gates of heaven she was not alone. She had a very warm and loving greeting from her mother, father, and little sister. She will always live in my memory.
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