Former Cuban countess Maria Duany dies at 98

08/20/2014 7:26 PM

08/20/2014 7:27 PM

María Eulalia Perou Duany, who rose from a humble background to become a countess in Cuba, has died in her South Miami home.

Duany, who was a teacher at the U.S. Guantánamo Naval Base’s American School and worked with the first computers in an office in Havana, became a countess in 1959 upon marrying Luis Duany Waguet.

She died at age 98 on July 1.

“She was a strong and hard-working woman,” her son, Luis José Duany Perou, said Tuesday. “When we moved to this country after the revolution, my father became ill and she turned into the pillar of the family.”

Duany, whose father was a veteran of the Spanish-American War, grew up in rural Cuba in a house with dirt floors. She graduated and became a teacher shortly after her 20th birthday, her son said.

“She always loved to teach, and even while she was a middle and high school student here in Miami, she worked as a substitute teacher,” he said.

After leaving her teaching job in Guantánamo, Duany moved to Havana, where she worked with the first computers in that country in newspapers and offices. She later volunteered to work in the United Service Organization, a nonprofit that serves U.S. troops and their families throughout the world.

In the 19th century, Luis Duany said, Pope Pius IX had granted the title of count to Andrés Duany y Valiente. The last Duany to hold the title died in 1895. But in 1950, Duany Waguet reclaimed the hereditary title, which is how María Duany became a countess.

In 1969 the family emigrated on a Freedom Flight to Miami.

In exile, Duany worked as a saleswoman at a Miami branch of the department-store chain Jordan Marsh, which in 1996 was taken over by Macy’s.

Duany Waguet died in 1997 at age 83 in Miami. Surviving is Luis Duany, 54.

Duany’s remains were cremated. A Memorial Mass will be held at All Souls’ Episcopal Church, in Miami Beach, on Sunday, the day she would have turned 99.

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