Sonia Helene Bjelinki Goodman, known as Sonnie, a 50-year summer resident of Echo Lake, Mount Desert, died Dec. 4, 2017, in Oceanside, N.Y. Sonnie was born April 8, 1929, in Antwerp, Belgium, to Cypa (Lejzman) and Gersjen Bjelinki. She was a young girl when Nazi troops invaded Belgium, which resulted in the abduction and eventual murder of her father. Other relatives died at Auschwitz as well. Sonnie and her sister Olga were sent to countryside locations for protection, two of the “Hidden Children” of WWII, an ordeal she barely survived and which caused a lifetime of medical issues. Her mother and older brother also survived.
In 1948, at 19, Sonnie immigrated alone to the United States. She moved to New Jersey and worked as a secretary. In 1949, she met Robert Goodman, studying at Rutgers on the GI bill after WWII. Six months later she and Bob married in Newark. In 1951, Bob took a position at the new United Nations, and they settled in Queens, N.Y. Their son Emery was born in 1956.
In 1959, the family first visited MDI and was instantly hooked. Ten years later they bought a small cabin on Echo Lake’s north shore. For Sonnie it was a refreshing refuge of peace, beauty and healing and she religiously came back each year from late June to mid-October. The cabin and small art studio quickly became a central hub for family, expanding with two adored grandchildren, and friends from everywhere that were made to feel as family. Sonnie had a unique gift for bringing people together with her warmth, hospitality, humor and intellect. She was a voracious reader with a passion for art, theater, film, music, nature and human progress. She was a nearly unbeatable Scrabble player, which was extraordinary considering that French was her first language. Sonnie and Bob traveled extensively, but always returned to Acadia.
Her favorite book was “The Country of the Pointed Firs,” by Sarah Jewett. As a poet, her beloved lake was a favorite muse. In her poem, “Front Row Paradise,” she delights in Echo’s boundless beauty.
“On that dock, in my chair, on Echo Lake, on Mount Desert, in my heart, this, this, is front row paradise.”
Above all, she will be remembered for her devotion, joyful interest in people, her unconditional love of family and a fierce abiding love of life. Her story is one of persistence and love prevailing over hate. One of her favorite writers, Edith Wharton, wrote, “There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” Sonnie is the candle.
She is survived by her devoted husband of 68 years, Robert M. Goodman, a well-known artist on MDI; their son Emery D. Goodman and partner Jill Stein of Sugar Land, Texas; grandson Jeffrey D. Goodman and his wife, Lisa, of Houston; grandson Ethan M. Goodman, currently living in Shanghai, China; her older sister Olga Leisman, living in Israel; many nieces, nephews and cousins and a multitude of loving, treasured friends. Her remains will be interred in Somesville at a later date.