Omneya Tewfik-Foz of Newton died on February 7 at the age of 100, from complications after a fall. She was born in Egypt in 1919. Her father, the judge and parliamentarian Mohamed Tewfik (known as Tewfik Bey), and mother, Neimat, already had three sons—Khalil, Ibrahim and Youssef—and they were delighted to have a daughter, naming her Omneya, which means “a great wish” in Arabic. She was followed by a sister, Wafeya, and a brother, Ahmed. She had a happy childhood with her family, friends and pets in Heliopolis, Cairo and Alexandria. In her late teens, with the support of her family, she defied convention to move to France and enroll at the Sorbonne, where she became a top student.
When the Nazis invaded Paris in 1940, she relocated to Montpellier in the South of France, where she met and fell in love with Francesc “Frank” Foz, a Catalonian refugee from the fascist regime in Spain who had served as a medic in the civil war. Following their marriage in 1941, they moved to Spain, where he was arrested by the regime, tortured, and for a time put on death row. He was still in prison when their son, Adel, was born in 1942. After his release, they left Spain; over the next 7 years they lived in Egypt, France and Panama before settling in the U.S.
In postwar Paris, Tewfik-Foz worked as a fashion correspondent for an Egyptian women’s magazine. She attended Dior’s “New Look” show in 1947 and later recalled how the press rushed to the phones afterward to report, “Hemlines are down! Hemlines are down!” She also did Arabic-language broadcasts on French radio, which led to a job as a translator for the United Nations.
In the U.S., they lived for a few years in Indiana, where she worked as a librarian at the University of Notre Dame and her husband became a translator specializing in the pharmaceutical field. Subsequently they moved to New York and she resumed working for the United Nations, accompanying its mission to the Congo in 1961 as a translator. She went on to become a reference librarian at the UN’s headquarters. She enjoyed life in the city; fluent in Arabic, French, Spanish, Catalan, and English, she was an ideal person to stop and ask for directions if you were a visitor from any number of countries.
Tewfik-Foz loved to travel, read and debate. She had a quiet, gracious demeanor, behind which lay a fiercely independent mind and a compassionate heart. She was perpetually curious about cultural traditions and innovations around the world. She dressed with a unique, understated elegance, creating subtly beautiful harmonies of color and shape. In her retirement, which she spent partly in New York and partly in Sun City, AZ, she created exquisitely patterned textiles on hand looms. She was a splendid cook and took her grandchildren on many adventures.
She moved to Massachusetts in 2004 to be closer to family, living first at Youville House in Cambridge and then at Evans Park in Newton Corner. Her memory began to fail in her mid-90s, but until the end she kept her sense of humor, kind nature, poise and determined spirit.
She was predeceased by her husband, Frank Foz, who died 26 years earlier to the day, on Feb. 7, 1994, and by her five siblings. She is survived by her son, Adel Tewfik-Khalil Foz, and his wife, Blanche “Bonnie” Foz, of Newton; her granddaughter Jessica Adela Foz and partner Jeff Spence, of Newton; her grandson Alexander Aram Foz, his wife Johanna “Joby” Twigg, and their children, Aram and Lucy, of Milwaukie, OR; her granddaughter Elizabeth Foz, of Newton; and her large extended family, mostly in Egypt, of nieces, nephews, and their descendants. She was beloved by her family and friends and will be greatly missed.
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