Published in the Morning Call


June 1, 2006

Citizen Roth

A good way for the schools to teach citizenship would be to tell the story of Dorothy Roth of Allentown, who died Tuesday at age 83. Mrs. Roth came here from South Africa in 1947 and in the 59 years since, has done all the things that this country asks of its citizens, and more. And, Mrs. Roth did none of it by rote. She was passionate about the good of the nation and fearless in her defense of its have-nots. Furthermore, she loved Allentown and engaged herself joyfully in many facets of life here.

It all sprang from the contrasts she saw between growing up in apartheid South Africa and coming here to marry and raise a family with her late husband, Saul. She had met him when his U.S. troopship docked in Capetown in 1942. Back home, her parents were activists for social good, donating money, for instance, for black students to go to medical school. However, public advocacy for unpopular causes, even by the well-to-do, was not permitted.


Once she received U.S. citizenship, Mrs. Roth became zealous about voting and supporting candidates in whom she believed. In 2003, she found herself in Sacred Heart Hospital on election day and she insisted on being wheeled from her bed to her precinct so she could vote. As for personal involvement, she served on the board of Confront, the Allentown drug-rehab agency, since 1969, and until the onset of her final illness, continued to advocate for better services for people with addictions, pressing local officials, state legislators and hospital presidents to do a better job on their behalf.

She was involved in the Jewish community, including the Institute for Jewish-Christian Understanding. She was interested in the arts, and was an accomplished painter. In the 1980s, she objected publicly to some of the modern art being placed in Allentown's parks. She once told a reporter the story of how her husband, fearing that her outspokenness would cost the family restaurant supply business a contract, asked her to ''tone it down.'' She refused, reminding him that he risked his life in World War II to defend Americans' freedom.

In fact, most people who were familiar with Mrs. Roth's name knew it as a signature on letters to the editor printed in The Morning Call. Scores of them have been printed since the early 1950s, and they all had this in common: Not once did she ask for something for herself, for something self-serving.

Our towns and our nation would be better off if such generosity of spirit came as easily to the rest of us as it did to Dorothy Roth.





Comment Posted Regarding Article:


Dorothy was an amazing person with the courage of her convictions and a sense of public duty that was rare in today's society. Those of us who knew her were enriched by the experience.

Bruce at 06/01/2006 - 11:03:27 PM