A WOMAN I NEVER MET


“Believe in laughter”, she always said. Another of her favorite sayings was ” Life is too short”. Hers wasn’t, she passed on at age 94.

Like a lot of people, I read the obituary column, if only to make sure my name is not on it. Occasionally, more now than before, I read the name of a dear friend or acquaintance, and wish I had been a better friend. They sound like such interesting people, and did so much I never knew about.

Natalie Schreiber Marino sounds like someone I would have loved to know. Daughter of two cultures, her beauty was astonishing. A pioneer from before birth, she was conceived in the Peruvian Andes, the home of her father, the son of a three-time prime minister, yet born in Alameda, which was the home of her mother. Wanting to give birth in the U.S., her mother rode down the Andes on horseback while pregnant, which Natalie said contributed to her own quirky personality.

Her many smiles and laughs were as numerous as the pins she wore uniquely, on the back of her right shoulder. “You meet the nicest people that way!” What a clever way to strike up a conversation! I used to write funny or inspirational words on autumn leaves and toss them along the creek path where we walked daily. My son in law thought that was a crazy idea, but I always felt someone would get a lift by picking up a pretty leaf on the road and having it say something. I gave that up when we stopped walking on the creek trail. Now I pick up feathers.

Getting back to Natalie, She got jobs at the Peruvian consulate (I always wanted to do that), and later the pavilion at the 1939 world’s fair in San Francisco. That would have been fun too, except I was too young and living in Connecticut at the time. Dr. Advice and his sister rode the train across the bay numerous times to visit the fair. I even found a photo of him with a young girl friend and another teenage couple taken at the fair. I was happy to make a copy of it to give to one of the girls a few years ago.

Anyway, Natalie got engaged, and went back to Peru where she spied a very handsome man in the box seats who, as it turned out, was also engaged. Undaunted, she and Guillermo Marino started dating and and, despite a scandal on two continents, began their 60 year marriage. So much for people who say “It will never last”. They said that about ours too, and we celebrated our 68th anniversary last week.

Peruvian wives do not work, but Natalie presented herself at the U.S. Embassy as a translator, and began spying on the correspondence of Peruvians of German and Japanese ancestry. Not being able to translate anything except Latin to English, I would not have been good at that job either.

Natalie and Guillermo came back to California and went to Hollywood to coordinate war bond broadcasts to Latin America. Natalie began frequenting the Warner Bros. lot and was spotted by studio executives who thought she’d make a great Latin leading lady. Given a screen test alongside Sidney Greenstreet and Eve Arden, she was unable to “laugh with her eyes”, and didn’t get the job. Later Guillermo won the Mexican lottery and they built their dream home in Piedmont.

In still-scarred post-war Japan, Natalie once drove a coal-fueled jalopy through Tokyo to pick Guillermo up at the airport. They traveled abroad throughout their lives, once sharing a floor with the Aga Khan in Pakistan, even being set adrift for three days in the Caribbean after their cruise ship caught afire on its maiden voyage. They won the on board version of “The Newlywed Game” by answering the question “What did you wear on your wedding night?” Natalie answered “A smile”! Now I ask you—doesn’t she sound like someone you might like to have known?

Advertisements