Mom was a GRAND LADY­—ever elegant, articulate, passionate, and bold­.  Bold in her every action; bold in her commitment to causes; bold in her colorful clothes and multiple bangle bracelets; bold in her choice of red carpets throughout her home and even at one time, a black wall in her and dad’s bedroom.

 

Mom had unparalleled vitality and a love of life. She seized life with both her hands and lived it fully. If mom had not been in the hospital this May, at age 83 years young, her calendar included a two week trip to Minnesota with a drive to Wisconsin for grandson Justin’s college graduation, followed two days later with attending a graduation of Keenan House drug rehabilitation graduates in Allentown. (She was on the board of Keenan House for over 35 years and immensely proud of the accomplishments of Keenan House and its graduates).  Three days later,  she was to attend a wedding in New York of the child of dear friends, followed 5 days later by a trip to Washington D.C. for the high school graduation of grandson Raphael, with other commitments peppered around these main events overfilling her days but bringing joy to her heart and to those around her by her presence.

 

Mom and dad passionately loved each other and were like two little lovebirds throughout their 52 years of marriage. Their marriage was one based on a deep, mutual love and respect for each other. Mom was equally, passionately loving of her four special grandsons, Jason, Justin, Ilan, and Raphael.  She rejoiced in the fine human beings they had become and was ever proud of their accomplishments.

 

Mom was a passionate crusader for just causes, always speaking out for those who were oppressed and for those who could not speak out for themselves.  She was never afraid to speak her mind publicly for a cause she thought was just.  She believed that the pen was mightier than the sword, and used her pen to write powerful and effective letters to the editor to correct the wrongs of society.

 

Most recently, Mom wrote an editorial in the Morning Call Newspaper taking on the “Goliath” Lehigh Valley Hospital and its leadership, which had advertised to hire cardiologists that it could own as paid employees.  In that way, Lehigh Valley Hospital could keep the doctors obedient and muzzle them from speaking out against the hospital, while maximizing the hospital’s financial profits—this in spite of forty outstanding cardiologists already practicing in the community. Her letter to the editor of the Morning Call was sent to the newspaper on April 2nd, 2006, and was published on April 13. It read:

 

(LETTER FOLLOWS):

Hospital executives

Lost “moral compass’

 

                       A chill went down my spine as I read the

                  March 30 headline, “LVH seeking cardiologists

                  of its own.” They’re playing hardball, audaciously

                       recruiting cardiologists out of the community to

                  take power away from the 40 outstanding    

                  cardiology members of the Heart Care Group

                  practicing in the hospital.

                       This must be illegal. I know it is immoral. I am

                  disgusted with the LVH policy-makers who have lost

                  their moral compass to money-grubbing greed and

                  power. Forcing doctors to leave their private

                  practices so that LVH has a monopoly is obstruction

                  of American free trade.

                      We citizens of Allentown must use our power to

                  stop LVH greed from further destroying our

                  medical system. We must help doctors yank hospital

                  CEO Elliot Sussman out of his ivory tower before

                  the damage is irreversible.

 

                                                                     Dorothy M. Roth

                                                                            Allentown

         

              

 

         This letter was written just ten days before Mom’s fall and broken arm on April 12 that ultimately cascaded into 48 days of hospitalization in 3 hospitals with 3 surgeries—a hospitalization filled with many capable, caring, and expert doctors and nurses, but also with many doctors, nurses and staff committing medical errors, mis-adventures, and inattention to detail, that ultimately resulted in mom’s sudden, untimely passing on May 30, 2006.

 

Mom was an expansive fountainhead of creativity and intellect that expressed itself articulately and eloquently in words and images, through writing, painting, sculpture, and speaking. She used her skills selflessly for the greater good to improve her community and make the world a better place for all.

 

Mom was an adventurer and explorer and world traveler, undaunted about sailing the Atlantic Ocean alone in 1947, at the age of 23, from Cape Town, South Africa to New York City to reunite with an American soldier she had met in Cape Town when his troopship docked for 3 days. They corresponded for 5 years throughout World War II.  She married Saul, the love of her life, when she was 24 years old and after the CIA-like network of rabbis spanning the continents provided behind-the-scenes intelligence to her parents and to dad’s parents about what types of families they each came from.

 

Mom was born on March 8, 1923 in East Germany in Frankfurt-on-the-Oder. When she was approximately 9 months old, her parents moved to Cape Town, South Africa, in order to help her father’s sister who had been widowed with six children, and because of a sense of the impending fascist anti-Semitism in Germany.  Mom was raised in South Africa, where she cultivated her distinctive, British-South African accent. She was from a deeply religious orthodox Jewish family.  Her grandfather was a prominent rabbi and scholar in Eastern Europe.  Her father was a prominent, successful businessman and President of the Seapoint Synagogue in Cape Town, and her parents’ home was a hub of regular gatherings for members of their community. It was an international environment where visitors were frequently entertained, where discussions were lively, and where everyone knew they were welcome.  Mom’s mother was an elegant woman who well into her nineties was reading the newspaper and debating the issues of the day.

 

Mom’s siblings were all very accomplished, as are her nephews, nieces, and cousins.  Her sister Esther is a speech pathologist and her late brother Solly was an Olympic swimmer/ water polo player and head of a very large business conglomerate that was ever exceedingly philanthropic, especially related to education, health care and helping the underprivileged, regardless of race.  Her cousin Angela Buxton, while partnered with Althea Gibson, won the championship in Wimbledon’s tennis doubles tournament finals. Nephews Derek and Theodore swam the English Channel and Derek, who formerly was Executive Director of the World Health Organization, now heads Global Medicine at the Rockefeller Foundation.  In her own right, mom was an accomplished athlete, swimmer and tennis player in her youth.  She was a lover of the arts and all cultural events, and was always involved in civic and political activities.

 

Mom wanted to become a lawyer, but in the day and age in which she grew up, especially in South Africa, women did not go to college. Her parents would not permit college, but were willing to send her to art school. She became an accomplished artist, and has a painting on permanent exhibit at the Liberty Bell Shrine in the basement of the Zion Reform Church in Allentown where the Liberty Bell was hidden in the floor of the church, to protect it from the British in 1777, during the Revolutionary War. Mom had an incredible, nuanced sense of color: When I was picking out carpeting for our house, she would point out the subtle differences in the shades of gray as containing either more blue or red to create a cooler or warmer feel.

 

One moment Mom could be on the phone to U.S. Senator Arlen Specter, U.S. Congressman Charlie Dent or Pennsylvania’s Governor Rendell about key issues, or jotting off a letter to Henry Kissinger and other prominent leaders—whether or not she knew them personally —in order to voice her concerns for issues or lend them encouragement in their causes.  Many of them wrote back to her, and friendships were forged.  The next moment, though, Mom could be driving a go cart on a race track as part of an adventure trip with Lydia and me to Maine or slithering through a cave encountered during the excursion.

 

Mom and Dad’s home was always alive with music and conversation and fun, the exchange of ideas, and discussions of the weighty issues of the day.  It was a household based on Torah and the highest morals, ethics, and integrity—a perpetual mini-United Nations of visitors.

 

A cornerstone of Mom’s life was having grown up in South Africa during an oppressive period in the country’s history -- during apartheid, a police state, no free speech, and no free press.  Hence in America she was internally driven and passionate in exercising the full license of free speech in order  to effect positive change for the greater good.  She was immensely proud of never missing voting day since she became an American citizen and was sure to send in a completed Absentee Ballot even during this most recent hospitalization.

 

One of my favorite memories of growing up in our household was Passover Seder.  Mom and Dad’s seder included forty to fifty guests sitting down to an elegant table set with the finest Madeira cloths, fine china, silver and crystal, tasty food, and guests who were from Syria and Iraq, Jews and Arabs and Christians, priests and ministers, people from different countries all coming together to celebrate and commemorate the exodus of the Jews from Egypt­—from the bondage of slavery to full freedom and from oppression to liberation.

The Passover Seder was always seen by Mom as a celebration of freedom  -- both personal and collective freedom.  She celebrated her own freedom, guaranteed by having become an American; and she celebrated freedom on many levels, from that of the individual who is freed from internal causes of self-bondage, to freedom of oppressed groups from bondage imposed in the greater society. The Passover Seder discussions were always lively and scholarly and so enriched by the diverse perspectives of all those present.

 

How ironic that the fall that led to Mom’s hospitalization occurred on the eve of the first Passover Seder this year, when she was due to be a guest at the home of Dr. Sam and Sylvia Bubb for their Seder on April 12th, 2006.

 

Mom’s impact on all of us and on all who met her was indelible. At the University of Pennsylvania Presbyterian Hospital in Philadelphia,  where she was for 21 days and where she ultimately died, nurses and doctors, cleaning crew and food delivery personnel were so touched by her gracious and special presence that they would frequently visit Mom when their shifts ended even though she was no longer on their floor nor under their care.

 

We all loved mom dearly. She and her extraordinary soul and presence will be badly missed.

 

I know if Mom were here she would be honored and touched by all of you taking the time to come and honor her memory.  She would want all of us to be committed to just causes, thus making the world a better place and to commit ourselves to continuing her selfless, generous work for the greater good.