Valerie "Vally" Lichtenthal


Valerie Lichtenthal was born on October 11, 1902 in Vienna, Austria. She was the second child of Sigmund Lichtenthal and his wife, the former Rosa Berger. Their first child, Paul (b. Dec. 10. 1900) was my maternal grandfather.

Valerie Lichtenthal

Valerie was educated as a “journeyman” from July 1917–July 1919 at the Technical Training School for Milliners in Vienna, Austria. She was a member of the “Association for the Milliners and Dressmakers in Vienna”. We have a damaged certificate which is quite large and decorative declaring Valerie’s membership in this association.

Valerie “Vally” Lichtenthal married Paul Nebenzahl. I have not yet found information confirming that date of the marriage. I assume they married in Austria, as there is a 1938 passenger ship manifest listing them as a couple.

1938 Passenger ship manifest for the ship “Normandie”
Vally and Paul “Nevins” Nebenzahl

According to my mother, Vally married Paul because he threatened to commit suicide otherwise. It was not a .happy marriage. Paul was ‘impotent’. Vally got pregnant (oops) while they were married, but did not have the child. The “father” may have been the husband of a family friend.

Once in the in the United States, Paul and Valerie changed their last names to Nevins. I have no information as to how the couple left Vienna. Interestingly, they left just the month before my mother and her family fled Vienna. Valerie’s parents however, remained in Vienna until 1941. The family’s troubles during World War II will be a subject for a future post.

Paul opened several men’s stores in the New York City area. Valerie did not work. They must have done quite well as they lived in an expensive apartment in New York City at 11 Riverside Drive. I recently came across some photos of their apartment which was furnished with expensive mid-modern items.

The large picture and the bar- barely seen
at right – grace several family homes today.
I think my daughter, Cait would kill for this couch!!
Meghan will recognize that table.
The infamous Noguchi table.

I remember going to clean out my aunt’s apartment following her death. Thankfully I was dating a great guy at the time (yes…he’s now my husband) who helped us empty the apartment and bring the contents to my mother’s house. My mother was not a big fan of my aunt and uncle’s decorating tastes. However, she did manage to fill her home with most of the inherited items. At one point, I think we had three couches in the living room. Some of my Aunt’s pieces still remain in the family, most notably a Noguchi table.

Paul and Vally in the 98 Olds

Vally and Paul were very supportive of my mom after her divorce in the early 1960s. We had very little money and constantly had trouble with our cars. During our high school years, my mother received a great gift from her aunt – an Oldsmobile!! Wh
at a car that was – the thing was friggin’ huge! We thought it was so cool. There was a feature that warned if you were exceeding the speed limit. My sister Jeanne didn’t think it was so cool though, the day the steering wheel came off in her hands….while she was driving!!

Bob Cunningham and Vally Nevins visting in Hamden.

Vally was quite close to another family member whom we always referred to as “Cousin Bob”. Robert Cunningham changed his name from Kurt Mendel, and eventually settled in San Francisco. Vally and Bob were first cousins. Bob’s mother, Rene Mendel was the subject of an earlier post:
Rene Berger

Vally died while visiting friends in Switzerland on September 18, 1979 at the age of 76. She never had any children but was quite generous to my mother. After her death, my mother received monthly payments from her estate well into the 1990s.

I wish I had known my aunt better, She must have suffered a difficult life. Yes, she had money, fancy trips and beautiful things. But, I wonder – would she have given all that up to have had a family? I suspect she would.

Watch for a post on Vally’s husband Paul at the end of the month.

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