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3000 E. Third Street
Bloomington, IN 47401
Phone: 812-333-4400
Fax: 812-333-4445
Mona Houston

Mona Tobin Houston

Monday, May 20th, 1935 - Friday, January 15th, 2021
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Obituary

Mona Tobin Houston, 85, passed away January 15, 2021, in Chelmsford, Massachusetts. She was born May 20, 1935 in New York City to Irving and Zella (Galsky) Tobin. She attended the High School of Music and Art, where she performed in opera productions at an early age. She majored in French and Italian at Barnard College, and earned a Ph.D. in French literature at Yale University. While at Yale, she fell in love with John Porter Houston, a fellow graduate student in the French department. After marrying in Paris, they came to Bloomington in 1962 to join the faculty of Indiana University’s Department of French and Italian. At IU, she taught courses in seventeenth-century French drama, phonetics, and translation. Many of her students were devoted to her and still cherish their memories of her today.

She was a member of the American Literary Translators Association and translated several plays as well as a well-received anthology of French Symbolist poetry, translated and co-edited with her husband. She also co-authored an important French grammar textbook with several IU colleagues. She combined her musical training with her knowledge of the French language to develop a course in French pronunciation for singers for the School of Music and she was a sought-after coach for performers in the IU Opera Theater.

Her passion for theater extended beyond her teaching: she was very involved in Bloomington Town Theater, including serving as its President as well as directing and performing in numerous productions of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas and other plays. She also received research funding to study productions at several professional theatres in Paris and Washington, DC, which had a huge impact on her work with students and singers, as well as enriching her own performances. She performed with the Early Music Institute and coached the Concord Ensemble. She also translated and produced two plays by Molière for the John Waldron Arts Center.

She was known as a compelling teacher and storyteller, inspiring people well beyond the formal classroom. She was active in the Elm Heights Neighborhood Association, including serving a term as its President. She enjoyed cooking, playing the piano, and reading mystery novels. She loved her family, friends, and cats.

Her love of beauty and her vibrant personality remained intact into her later years, even as dementia diminished her capacities.

She was preceded in death by her dear husband, John Porter Houston (1987) and her beloved son, Jeremy Daniel Houston (2003). She is survived by her daughter, Natalie M. Houston of Newton, Massachusetts and her spouse, Bunny Parkerson; as well as her brother, Dr. Jordan Tobin of Cleveland, Ohio and his wife Jeanne and their children and grandchildren.

Arrangements are being handled by The Funeral Chapel. The burial service will be held Friday, January 22 at 1:30 at Valhalla Memory Gardens. Local friends are welcome to attend while wearing masks and social distancing. The service will also be live streamed (www.facebook.com/thefuneralchapel). Donations may be made in her memory to the Monroe County Humane Association, PO Box 1334, Bloomington IN 47402 or via their website (www.monroehumane.org).
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Service Details

  • Service

    Friday, January 22nd, 2021 | 1:30pm
    When
    Friday, January 22nd, 2021 1:30pm
    Location
    Valhalla Memory Gardens
    Address
    310 N. Johnson Ave.
    BLOOMINGTON, IN 47404
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email

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LR

Laurie Ramsey

Posted at 12:54pm
Dear Natalie, please accept my sincere condolences on this day of mourning and celebration for the life of your mother. I hope that the service today will bring you peace and lovely memories. My own of you and Mona revolve around your beautiful house in Bloomington, where I prepared for my PhD exams and cared for your cat one summer. Mona was a brilliant, funny, critical, and talented woman who left a deep impression on many of us whom she taught or knew. She also had a joie de vivre second to none, and her interests and engagement in music drew many into her circle. I am glad that she spent the last chapter of her life near you, and I wish you well in your own next chapter.
Laurie Ramsey
Sewanee, Tennessee
S

sswaney@indiana.edu

Posted at 11:27am
Dear Natalie and Bunny, I know Mona was so very proud of you. I admired Mona before I met her, when my friend Laurie Ramsay was housesitting for her and declared her to be her role-model for living a rich life. When I got to know her, I completely agreed. She brought her fierce intellect, artistic flair, and a sense of fun to everything she did. She declared that the only exercise necessary was dancing and sex. Her hair was always improbably, gorgeously geometric. She adored her family and raised two completely different children - which I have always thought was a sign of good parenting. Mona and I shared the role of Buttercup in Pirates of Penzance (she taught me how to pronounce "patent leather"). In fact, she taught me how to pronounce many things as coach of my French-language doctoral recital (for which she also performed the role of The Witch of Endor with awesome drama). I still use her advice to, "assume the position of the vowel before saying the first consonant." Her translation of Moliere for the Bloomington Early Music Festival was brilliant and hilarious. I remember how proud she was of her rhyme for "anathema". I have missed her. She was a very special addition to Bloomington and to my own life here. Thank you for your care of her.
EM

Erik Miller

Posted at 11:16pm
I knew Mona mostly by reputation, as we knew people in common. So, imagine my surprise when one day she left a message on my answering machine—well, she was in for a surprise too, for she hadnʼt realized sheʼd dialed a wrong number! I called her back to apprise her of the mix‐up, and I revealed that weʼd been traveling in crisscrossing social orbits, and we had a nice chat for a little while. It was just the one telephonic encounter, but I remember her as a warm and intelligent and interesting and interested person. I offer my condolences on the loss and my congratulations on the memories.
JF

Julie Fisher

Posted at 10:47am
Mona was a unique, strong, special lady. A client who became a lovely friend. She introduced me and my son to the opera and more. In loving memory,
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Chad Langford

Posted at 12:36pm
This woman had a profound influence on me in many ways, and I send my sincere and heart-felt condolences to Natalie, of whom I know for a fact Mona was very proud. How could I possibly share my most beloved memory when I have so many? I'll choose the one memory I am sure no one else shares: accompanying her on the piano as she performed the role of Little Buttercup in Gilbert and Sullivan's H.M.S. Pinafore in late 1992. Having the honor of teaching French phonetics with her (twice!) is another. Rest in peace, dear and beautiful Mona - your legacy stretches far and wide. Chad Langford (Roubaix, France)
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