Mary Schmid Combal of Scarsdale died peacefully Jan. 12 at age 77. She was the daughter of Richard and Elva Schmid, who predeceased her, as did her sister Carol Schmid Moody and brother John Schmid.
Described by her family as “a fearless woman of character” with a passion for literature and the French language, Mrs. Combal graduated from St. Catherine’s University in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1962 and moved to France, where she received a Doctorat d’Université in comparative literature from the University de Toulouse in 1968. In 1973, she received her Maitrise in American Literature from the University of Lille and a Ph.D. from Fordham University in 1983 in 20th century French literature. Mrs. Combal served on the board of directors of the American Association of Teachers of French (AATF) New York Metropolitan chapter, and presented at association conferences on Francophone literature. She wrote numerous book reviews for the French Review and was presented in 1991 with the Chevalier dans L’Ordre des Palmes Académiques by the French Republic, an honor bestowed to distinguished academics and figures in the world of culture and education.
A devoted teacher of French language, Mrs. Combal started her career as an adjunct professor at Lehman College and Concordia University and at the Scarsdale Alternative School in the early 1980s. Yet it was at The Spence School in Manhattan where Mrs. Combal found her calling in 1984. Mrs. Combal taught French at Spence for 33 years and was head of the foreign language department for 14 years.
Mrs. Combal will be remembered as a wife, mother, grandmother and friend. Her family said she loved to entertain and was a wonderful cook. She was a member of the Hoff-Barthelson Music School choir, the Scarsdale Woman’s Club and the Immaculate Heart of Mary parish where she developed many friendships. Her time with family was spent traveling and sharing moments of her daughters’ and grandchildren’s lives. She loved ancient civilizations and the arts, “taking any opportunity” to go to a museum, a film, the theater or to sing or dance. Her loved ones said she instilled “a passion for the world and all the beauty, intellect, excitement and adventure it holds.”
Mrs. Combal is survived by her husband of 48 years, Pierre Combal; her daughters Julie Combal-Olbert and Martine Combal; her sons-in-law, Graig Olbert and Patrick McDonald; her grandchildren Theodore Olbert and Madeleine McDonald; and her sister Margaret Schmid Bartelme of Scarsdale.
A memorial service will be held at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church Jan. 18 at 10 a.m. Per Mrs. Combal’s wishes, donations may be made in her memory to The Spence School financial aid program at spenceschool.org/giveonline.