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Madeleine Justus, 1916-2016
Madeleine J. Justus was born on October 2, 1916, in Transylvania in a town called Nagyvarad. Over the following decades the
control of this region shifted back and forth between Hungary and Romania as two world wars ravaged the lives of virtually
all the people of Europe. Her birthplace is now known as Oradea, Romania. Mountains and lush forests that resemble our own
Western Washington surround this city.
In 1936 she graduated from the University of the Kingdom of Romania in Cluj where she studied Montessori Education with
Madame Benetti, a close associate of Dr. Maria Montessori and later completed additional training in Vienna and England.
In 1937, at a League of Nations International Congress in Zurich, the usually reserved Dr. Montessori kissed her, pregnant
at the time with her daughter Marta. She was the last living person to have met the world-renowned educator. She absorbed
the teachings of Drs. Montessori, Piaget, and Anna Freud (daughter of Sigmund).
At the end of the Second World War, she moved to New York City with her family in 1948. Because of an opportunity for her
husband George to work with Boeing on their first wind tunnel, the family moved to Seattle where Madeleine started what
became the first private Montessori School in the Pacific Northwest in 1951.
In 1960, having found a piece of property where the school could welcome more students and study the wonders of nature
first-hand, the Spring Valley Montessori School was established in its present location in Federal Way. The 14-acre property
remains a bucolic setting that has enhanced the learning experience for many generations of students from preschool through
the eighth grade.
In the 1950's through 1970's, she was actively involved in legislation regarding early childhood education and the well being
of children in Washington State. She served on Gov. Dan Evan's special task force for the education of children.
In 1962, she was one of the founding members of WFIS (Washington Federation of Independent Schools) and PNMA (Pacific Northwest
Montessori Association). In 1990, she was one of the founding members of MACTE (Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher
Education). In 2001, on the 50th year of the school, Washington State Senate honored her for her contributions to education
in our State by Senate Resolution #8700. In October 2007, in their centennial year, she was honored by the American Montessori
Society. In 2006, she received the Best Program Leader Award by WFIS and in 2011 the Columbia Award for lifetime achievement.
For over 70 years, Madeleine worked with children, trained Montessori teachers and lectured around the world. She is the
reason why there are so many Montessori schools in Washington State.
Madeleine lost her dear husband George in 1995 and then her beloved daughter Marta in 2009.
She is survived by sons Peter (Sheila) and Robert (Eugenie); grandchildren Greg (Goldie) and Christopher (Susan) Hancock;
grandchildren Benjamin (Hannah), Mathew (Marianne), and Alexander (Brittany), Katherine, David and Stephen Justus; and
great-grandchildren Sydney, Julia, Nate, Quinn, Tate, Clara, Estelle, Hudson, Ezra, Simone, and Harrison.
She died in her 100th year of life on May 3, 2016. Having lived through a very discouraging period of recent world history, Madeleine, in her role as an educator, wife and mother, devoted her considerable gifts and energy to help shape a better future for so many people. Her hope was for a world based on knowledge rather than ignorance or fear and where human compassion guides all.