Wolff, Mary Strawitz, passed away February 6, 2013 in Mission Viejo, CA. She was born in Milwaukee, WI on February 28, 1918, and lived there until age l8 with her immigrant parents and maternal grandparents. Financial resources were frequently sparse. One of her favorite stories was about an incident when she needed five pennies to get on the streetcar and had only four. She was good in school and valued education. A kindly "zaide" (grandfather) provided enough support for her to attend the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where she graduated with her Bachelor's degree in 1940. While at the university, she met her husband Ivan. They had four sons together. |
Mary had a beautiful voice and enjoyed singing. She loved music and exposed her sons to classical music as they grew up in Peoria, IL. As a resident of two retirement homes (Kobernick House in Sarasota, FL, then Heritage Pointe in Mission Viejo, CA), she showed operas from her extensive video collection and enjoyed composing brief explanatory introductions to help her audience understand what they were about to see and hear. One of the highlights of her life was a private dinner and intimate concert in 2011 in the home of opera star Rodney Gilfry, arranged as a surprise by her sons and daughters-in-law.
As a culturally aware person who was proud of her Jewish heritage, Mary maintained an ongoing passionate interest in Yiddish writings and in speaking Yiddish herself as opportunities arose. She was very knowledgeable about Sholem Aleichem and made well-received presentations about his life and work to groups of retirees interested in short stories by Jewish authors. She sent contributions to plant trees in Israel in honor of special people or occasions.
Mary was an extremely caring and generous person, whose primary devotion was consistently to the welfare of her children. Despite a life that presented more than its fair share of challenges and obstacles, she maintained a sense of humor and loved telling stories about her children and herself. She made friends easily and maintained lifelong relationships as she moved from WI to Peoria, IL in 1941 and subsequently to Philadelphia, Sarasota and finally to Mission Viejo, CA in 2007. She believed in progressive causes and supported many charitable organizations. Mary was well known among her family and friends as a wonderful cook and was very knowledgeable about Jewish foods. She was interested in world affairs, and her travels included visits to Hawaii, Europe, and Israel.
Mary's life was saddened immensely by the premature loss of her younger sister, Min and her youngest child, Jim. She is survived by sons, Marty, Ron, and Harold; daughters-in-law, Nancy and Linda; grandchildren, Cheryl, David, Jonathan, Michael and Brian; and a great-grandchild, Clara. Mary will be greatly missed by all the people who knew and loved her.
A graveside service will be held on Tuesday, February 12 at 11:00 AM at Anshai Lebowitz Cemetery, 326 S. Hawley Rd., Milwaukee. Memorials may be sent to the National Yiddish Book Center (Amherst, MA) or JDRF. Memories or condolences can be shared at www.goodmanbensman.com. GOODMAN-BENSMAN
Whitefish Bay Funeral Home 4750 N. Santa Monica 414-964-3111
Published in Orange County Register from Feb. 12 to Feb. 13, 2013