Obituary Marlene Parenzan, 1937-2022 - BPW Austria,
BPW International UN Representative in Vienna
by Dr. Catherine Bosshart, BPW International President 2021-2024
In 2012 when I was appointed Main Representative to the UN in Geneva, I met Marlene Parenzan the first time in Vienna. I will never forget my first impression: a tall grey-haired and elegantly dressed lady greeted me in a “Kaffeehaus” in the center of Vienna. It was the beginning of a respectful and warm friendship. Marlene was highly professional in her work at the UN in Vienna. As a newcomer I learned a lot from her. We met in Geneva and in Vienna and organized several side events together. Her daughter Claudia was kind enough to send me Marlene’s CV. Marlene rarely talked about her private life.
She was born 1937 as Marlene Zunker in Würzburg, grew up in Fulda and Neustrelitz with her sister Luise and her half-brother Klaus. In 1943 the family fled to Flensburg/Burghaun. In 1950 when she lived in Berlin, she was an active part of the “Mittelhof” (children’s groups run by the Quakers). She enthusiastically took part in their Children’s UN which formed the foundation stone for her later enthusiasm for her work for the UN.
In 1953/54 Marlene became an exchange student for a training year in the USA, Tonasket. Later on, she trained as a multilingual interpreter for English, French, Swedish and Italian. In 1958 in Germany, she married Leo Parenzan and moved with him to Stockholm where their first child Alexander was born in 1959. The next stop was Tunis where their daughter Claudia was born in 1962. Four years later, they moved to Vienna where son Marcus was born in 1967. In 1976 they bought their house in Breitenbrunn/Burgenland.
Since 1961 she has been working as a free-lance translator and interpreter. As a mother of three she started to study again and finished her studies 1983 with an MA in “Human Relations and International Relations”. From 1976 to 1983, Marlene worked in the sector of conference management and customer service; 1983-1987 she was the Executive Director of the national Headquarters of a Youth NGO, and from 1987 to 1989 she worked in the Conference Center Austria, Vienna. Numerous activities for NGOs followed.
Marlene was the UN representative for the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (1981-99) and for the International Federation of Business and Professional Women (1999-2022). She was office holder on the NGO Committees on Narcotic Drugs, Youth, Women, Sustainable Development and Peace at the UN in Vienna. Marlene participated in the World Conference on Women in Nairobi (1985) and Beijing (1995) and co-organized NGO activities for NGO Fora in parallel with these conferences. She organized the NGO regional preparations for the Economic Commission of Europe, attended numerous sessions of the Commission on the Status of Women and CEDAW as well as the Commissions on Narcotic Drugs, on Crime prevention and Criminal Justice. She was liaison officer for the Conference of NGOs (CONGO) since the 1990’ties, established an office for CONGO at the UN Vienna and was acting Vice-President from 2000-2003. She was head of the Viennese Office from 1997-2004. Her work at the UN was Marlene’s passion.
Women’s rights were a great concern for her and kept her busy with the support of her husband Leo until the end of her life.
Marlene found a compensation for her NGO engagements in the Vienna patchwork group. Beautiful quilt artworks by her were given to her family. Moreover, she was an enthusiastic grandmother to Wolfgang, Maria, Paul, Felix and Tobi.
In early summer 2022 her husband Leo, whom she had cared for intensively for the last few years, passed away after 63 years of marriage. This was a terrible blow from which she had not recovered. On December 25, 2022 Marlene died unexpectedly in Germany.
She will be terribly missed by us all. She had invested so much time and dedication in her work at the UN and was a wealth of information about UNO matters. BPW has to thank her for her longstanding enormous investment of time and work. May she rest in peace.