Maria Elizabeth Peters was born in Budapest, educated in Switzerland and perfected her English at the movies in Pittsburgh after coming here as a teenager in 1947.
"She and her brothers went to the movies to learn English. After several months, they were able to pick it up," the youngest of her three children, Charles McFeaters of Upper St. Clair, said on Sunday.
"My grandfather had come to the States in 1938 and unfortunately, because the war broke out, the rest of the family was trapped in Switzerland until '47. So they were actually separated for over nine years," he said, adding that the family was grateful to have escaped to Switzerland given the devastating toll World War II exacted on Budapest.
Mrs. Peters and her older brother, Bela, and younger brother, Leslie, settled in Mt. Lebanon with their parents, Bela and Maria Karlovitz, and she graduated from Mt. Lebanon High School with honors. Her father had come here to work on a special project at Westinghouse Electric Corp. research facility.
She would master five languages, be one of the earliest women to study architecture at Carnegie Mellon University, embark on a successful mid-life career as a financial planner, tend the large wildflower beds in her home's back yard and continue to ski until age 75 and play tennis until 80.
Mrs. Peters, who recently had moved from her decadeslong home in Peters to Friendship Village in Upper St. Clair, died on Feb. 12. She was 81.
"She just had a very artistic soul. She was a very good painter, very good at drawing. I think she just liked the beauty of it. She was a phenomenally good amateur artist," Mr. McFeaters said.
She favored classical art, which drew her to architecture, and she and some friends later taught art classes to residents at Woodville State Hospital in Collier and elsewhere.
As a young mother, she devoted her time to her three children, teaching them to ski early on (just as she had learned while in Switzerland), ice skate and play tennis, volunteering for tasks such as Cub Scout den mother and emphasizing the importance of higher education. Two of her children hold doctorates and the third has a master's degree.
A job in insurance led to a desire to become a financial adviser and she plunged into studying and passing the necessary series of rigorous tests. She and Norman J. "Skip" Santori formed Santori & Peters Inc., a personal wealth management firm in Monroeville. She retired in late 2010.
Mrs. Peters never tried to be a feminist or a pioneer, but she had a sense of confidence, natural intelligence and sincerity that led to her success in traditionally male-dominated fields, her son said.
"Nothing ever held her back, whether it was being a younger divorced woman or whether it was being a woman in a man's world or whether it was just deciding that things had to change," he added.
In addition to Mr. McFeaters, she is survived by a son, John McFeaters of Tannum Sands, Australia; a daughter, Kristine O'Brien of Jackson Hole, Wyo.; and eight grandchildren.
Friends will be received from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday at Laughlin Memorial Chapel, 222 Washington Road, Mt. Lebanon, where a funeral service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday with interment in Mt. Lebanon Cemetery.
Barbara Vancheri: 412-263-1632 or firstname.lastname@example.org.