05/03/2012 08:34 am ET Updated Jul 03, 2012

A Tribute to Deborah Szekely

For those of you who don't know, Deborah's story is a remarkable one and worth telling. The short version is that she was born in Brooklyn to a health-conscious family who left New York for Tahiti during the Great Depression.

It was there that they met Edmond Szekely, a Hungarian scholar, philosopher and natural healing teacher who later became Deborah's husband. She was 17, he was 34.

In 1939, Edmond received orders to return to Eastern Europe and participate in Hitler's war effort. With the expiration of his U.S. visa close at hand, the newlyweds, both Jewish, left for Mexico as undocumented immigrants.

It was there that they created Rancho La Puerta. Can you imagine inviting campers to pitch their own tent at a cost of $17.50 per week with no running water or electricity?

They had a vision, and the rest is history.

In the decades since, Deborah has created a remarkable life and career. She is the mother of Sarah Livia and the late Alex Szekely and the very loving and engaged grandmother of Emily, Jacob and Joshua.

She is a quintessential visionary and is known worldwide as the true pioneer of the modern mind and body fitness movement.

Under her creative direction, Rancho la Puerta and the Golden Door have become the preeminent, world-class spas and a standard for excellence for every spa today.

My first visit to the Door was in 1978. It was a life-changing event. The peaceful setting provided a respite, a parenthesis where the world was on the outside and I could focus my attention on being mindful and on my own being.

In this wonderful setting I have made lifelong friendships. I know I speak for everyone who has shared the experience in telling Deborah how deeply grateful we are for how she has influenced our lives. Deborah's spirit is contagious. Her passion for living a vibrant, healthy life, being mindful, using time wisely, making healthy choices and most of all, embracing change, is liberating and an inspiration.

Deborah inspired us in 1982 at age 60, when she had the courage to begin a new career, taking on additional challenges and running for Congress. Although not elected, she moved to Washington while still overseeing the Ranch and the Door and began a career in government service that is still ongoing.

Her accomplishments in government and community are breathtaking. To name a few:

• Writing a comprehensive training and reference manual for newly-elected senators, congress members and staff (the manual is currently in its 11th edition and is still in use today);

• Being appointed by President Reagan and serving as Director and CEO of the Inter-American Foundation;

• Founding, and leading Eureka Communities as its President;

• And founding the New Americans Museum.

At the age of 85, Deborah set a goal for her 90th birthday: to age only one year physically between 85 and 90. When I saw Deborah at a celebration of her life in New York last week, I could see she had done a pretty good job -- and everyone in the room agreed.

As we celebrate the milestone of Deborah's 90th birthday, we are reminded that she has much to do in the next 10 years. Her new initiative is the "Wellness Spring", and I have no doubt that achieving that new goal will be the toast of her 100th birthday celebration.

As we grow older, we tend to think in terms of past events. While the past is important, when I speak about Deborah, I always describe her as a woman with a future.

My wish for you today, Deborah, is that you see the fulfillment of your 10-year goal and that we will all be with you to celebrate at 100.