EL PASO, TX - Freda Rosenblatt Casner died on Friday, September 6, 2013, in El Paso, Texas, just short of her 99th birthday. Before moving to El Paso in 2003, Freda had been a long-time resident of Staatsburg N.Y. and Poughkeepsie, N.Y. in Dutchess County. She was an active community leader, an advocate for youth, a teacher and scholar of comparative U.S.-Soviet culture, and, above all, a loving wife, mother, and grandmother.
Freda pursued studies in Soviet language and culture, originally supported through awards she received in the early 1960s from the National Defense Education Fellowship. She introduced the study of Russian in the Arlington Central School District in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. and held teaching positions in Russian and French at Dutchess Community College. She also organized exchange programs between U.S. and Soviet secondary students and between U.S., Soviet, and French professional women.
Freda also held several local government positions in Dutchess County, New York, where she lived for over 50 years. She served as the first executive director of the Dutchess County Youth Bureau, created in 1967 in New York State. During her nine-year tenure as executive director from 1968 to 1977, Freda developed and coordinated a wide range of services for youth, including delinquency and drug abuse prevention, employment, education, and recreation. Before her time at the Youth Bureau, Freda helped to establish and was co-director of the Dutchess County Volunteer Service Bureau. She also served as secretary of the New York State Association of Youth Bureaus, president of the Dutchess County League of Women Voters, and was on the board of the American Association of University Women and the Dutchess County Peace Center.
In 1979, Freda resumed her interest in Russian/Soviet affairs, but with a new emphasis on sociology. She taught in the sociology department at the State University of New York (SUNY) at New Paltz from 1979 to 1995, including courses on comparative U.S.-Soviet social structures. She also served as a SUNY Faculty Exchange Scholar in 1983 and 1988 at Moscow State University, where she lectured and did research on the changing status of women in Soviet society. Her experiences are captured in an article, entitled "Moscow Memoir: Women in Russia and the USSR" which will appear in a forthcoming collection of essays, Eyewitness to History: The Soviet Union on the Eve of Collapse. (McFarland and Company, Inc.).
Freda was a warm, outgoing person, with a wide circle of friends and a very deep and abiding interest in community affairs. She was a passionate gardener, a film buff, and loved to travel. She was born on October 1, 1914 in Brooklyn, N.Y., the daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants, Joseph Rosenblatt and Lena Gill Rosenblatt. She earned a bachelor's degree from the City University of New York, a master's degree in Russian studies from Vassar College, and a Ph.D. (ABD) in Slavic Studies from New York University and SUNY Binghampton. She was married to Dr. Daniel Casner, a psychologist, who died in 1992. She is survived by her son, Paul Casner, M.D., Ph.D. (daughter-in-law, Nancy Casner) of El Paso, Texas, a daughter, Jill Casner-Lotto (son-in-law, James Lotto) of New Rochelle, New York, and four grandchildren: Vanessa and Melanie Casner, and Ian and Samantha Lotto. She was preceded in death by her son, Richard Wolfe, who died in 1969, and her brother Louis Rosenblatt and sister Irene Wiederhorn. A memorial service is planned for November in Westchester County, New York. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Eleanor Roosevelt Leadership Center at Val-Kill at www.erleadership.org, P.O. 255, Hyde Park, N.Y. 12533 or the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Poughkeepsie (UUFP), 67 S. Randolph Ave., Poughkeepsie, N.Y., 12601, 845-471-6580.
Published in the Poughkeepsie Journal from Sept. 21 to Sept. 23, 2013