Shirley Passow

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Former deputy attorney general was 90

Shirley Passow, a civically involved Englewood resident who late in life became a lawyer and a New Jersey deputy attorney general, has died. She was 90.

Mrs. Passow, whose educator husband, A. cq initial Harry Passow, helped lead school desegregation efforts in Englewood |and elsewhere, ran for Englewood City Council as a Democrat in 1965. She was |not successful, but the experience sparked her interest in how cities operate.

The mother of three returned to school and earned a master's degree in urban planning from Columbia University. Then she went to work for 17 years as an urban planner for the New York City government.

"The last several years in the job, she was doing a lot of things that required legal knowledge, so she started taking classes part time at Rutgers-Newark in connection with her work activities," her son, Michael Passow, said.

After retiring from New York City at 65, Mrs. Passow shifted to the full-time study of law. She received a law degree at 67, passed the New Jersey bar at 70 and was hired by the state Division of Law. As a Newark-based deputy attorney general, she worked with the state's professional boards.

"She retired four months after receiving her 10-year certificate from the state," her son said. "No one thought a 70-year-old would make it 10 years, but she did."

Met husband at college

The former Shirley Siegel grew up in Schenectady, N.Y., and graduated from New York State College for Teachers in Albany, where she met her husband. The couple moved to Englewood in 1954 and Mrs. Passow, who had earlier taught school in Erie County, N.Y., worked as the executive assistant to ballpoint pen manufacturer Fred Ferber.

She served on various boards |in Englewood, including the Planning Board.

Shirley and Harry Passow traveled to Israel more than 40 times. Their visit in January 1991 landed them on newspaper front pages.

They were asleep in their room at Tel Aviv's Carlton Hotel when sirens warned of a middle-of-the-night Iraqi scud missile attack. They rushed to a sealed room with other guests, including two Associated Press photographers, and put on gas masks. One of the photographers took a picture of the Passows wearing their masks and holding a transistor radio. The photograph appeared later that day on the front page of The Record. The Passows were not identified in the caption, but their granddaughter Kate Passow, who saw the newspaper, was sure it was them they.

"Everyone thought she was crazy, because the picture wasn't clear enough to tell who was in the photo," Mrs. Passow recalled seven years later, on the occasion of Israel's 50th anniversary. "But Kate was convinced and somehow knew it was us. Our family was worried because they didn't know how we were. & The picture gave them proof that we were alive. Two days after they saw the photo in the paper, we called them at home. They were so relieved. Although our family was very concerned about our going to Israel, they understood our reason."

Harry Passow, a Columbia University Teachers College faculty member for four decades, pioneered landmark research on how best to teach gifted children and children living in impoverished neighborhoods. He was an Englewood schools trustee from 1969 to 1973 and board president for two of those years. He died in 1996.

Shirley Passow, who died May 27, is survived by her children, Michael Passow of Englewood, Deborah Yaffe of Arlington, Va., and Ruth Passow Warburg of La Jolla, Calif.; a sister, Rosalyn Jacobs of Livingston, and seven grandchildren.

Services were held last Wednesday at Gutterman and Musicant Jewish Funeral Directors, Hackensack. Burial was in Beth El Cemetery, Paramus.

Published in The Record on June 5, 2012
Shirley Passow
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