The news was not unexpected: Ilona had been fighting cancer more than two years. Over the past three months it had become clear the illness was winning. By early February we all knew it was but a matter of time.
Ilona was a force to be reckoned with - not only in the New York Dance World, where she invented and then administered a premiere ballet competition - but in every life she touched, including ours. She was a vital and vibrant person, a wonderful guest, a gracious host. The times that she and Jim came to our house for dinner - always for wild mushrooms, which she appreciated more than many of the mycophiles with whom I regularly feast - were events of superlative conversation and supreme high spirits. Even when she knew she was dangerously ill she made the trek from the city; in fact she and Jim came to a party we threw in December.
It was Dance that Ilona did best. I'm not capable of judgement when it comes to performances, but I and others like me were educated by the work she did. The New York International Ballet Competition made it easy for neophytes to see what constitutes good dance. For dancers, I'm told (by Leslie, who was one), the challenge and force of the NYIBC resets the bar every time it is held.
Ilona, we will miss you. We're missing you already. Know (if your presence is still here in cyberspace, and why not?) that who you were and what you accomplished will influence the world always.
Jim and Ilona