Mara Berni 1932-2012

My mum was a lioness whose pride extended beyond family to include the multi-generational world of San Lorenzo. She left her paw prints on many lives, including mine.

Mara was a working mum for most of her life, and a great provider in the old-school tradition. She was a woman of rare physical beauty, generosity and affectionate warmth, whose occasional fiery temperament could put anyone in their place. She was a brave woman, strong, intelligent, loyal, spontaneous and very entertaining. Though I often looked to my father for guidance and inspiration, she taught me much more than I ever realised.

Among her professional peers Mara was unanimously regarded as a giant, her greatest asset being her unique desire to bind everyone she met to her charismatic bosom and to spoil them with warmth and generosity.  This conqueror of hearts was a host beyond comparison. With a formidable memory for names, faces, and events, she made people feel special and she always went the extra mile.  That's how she earned her legendary reputation, by being a universally affectionate giver. 

Backstage she was a potent motivator. An assiduously dedicated grafter who led by example, ruled a tight ship and oversaw every detail.  She treated staff like family, with a maternal blend of educative nagging and frequent scolding and, like a mother, she always knew when to forgive. Throughout her career she was loved and respected by countless loyal employees, many of whom became devoted friends.

In her prime she was a sassy mix of feminine feist, resourceful independence, and formidable intuition, yet she remained instinctively grounded and maternal, always ensuring that the younger guests got their chips and ate their greens. From the numerous condolences I've read, it's astonishing just how many have now grown up to regard her as their own special mamma, such was her magnetism. From those who confided and sought counsel, she seldom hid her emotion or empathy, yet her quick wit and wisdom could bring back a smile to a tearful face or confidently defuse a tricky customer's ego. 

Opinionated, dynamic, brimming with personality, and with a confidence that belied her fundamental humility, she remained regal among even the most illustrious guests, fiercely proud of her own punishing work ethic. All I could do was watch, learn and be in love with this giant little woman.

- Ghigo Berni