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Hanna Rita Bass was born on March 23, 1927 in Saar Louis part of the Saar under French control after WWI, to Selma Eppstein Bass and Herman Bass. In 1935, a plebiscite transferred control of Saar Louis and the Saar region to Germany, prompting the family move to Luxembourg. While living in Luxembourg she studied piano and violin with the same instructor as the Grand Duchess' eight children. Johanna and her sister Elka were educated in Europe for several years prior to boarding the Queen Mary to emigrate to Cleveland, Ohio in 1938. There her family was instrumental in sponsoring European Jews seeking asylum in the United States.
In Cleveland, Johanna played viola in the Children's Symphony of Cleveland, Cleveland Women's Symphony and Cleveland Civic Symphony. Johanna was educated at Case Western Reserve then worked as a nurse at the Cleveland Clinic where she met George Rabinowitz, then a surgical resident about to depart for Europe in the United States Army Air Corps. Upon his return from WWII they were married in Cleveland. As newlyweds they moved to Wichita, Kansas, but George (a native of San Antonio) recognized the need in South Texas for obstetrical care so George and Johanna moved to McAllen, which would be Johanna's home for nearly 50 years. In McAllen, Johanna continued her life-long dedication to the Arts by assisting in the establishment of the Rio Grande Music Festival and coordinating her efforts with Lucille Hendricks, Maestro Victor Alessandro, Edith McAllister and Harvey Biskin to bring the San Antonio Symphony and NYC Opera Company to the Rio Grande Valley. She was a trustee for the National Endowment for the Arts and a member of the Texas Arts Commission, a board member of the San Antonio Symphony, the Youth Orchestra of San Antonio and the San Antonio International Piano Competition. Through her involvement she made life-long friendships with Beverly Sills Greenough, Robert Tucker and other notable musicians and singers. In 1999, she moved to San Antonio to be closer to her children and grandchildren. There she continued her pursuit and support of the Arts.
Johanna lived life to the fullest. She was a talented gardener and chef spending hours cooking for those she loved. Involving herself in the Jewish community, she served as president of Hadassah and of the Temple Sisterhood. She traveled extensively with George and as a widow continued her travels on an annual basis often taking grandchildren along for a cultural field trip in Europe. Her most cherished journeys were to visit her Uncle Paul in Martel, France and to Cademario, Switzerland, a vacation resort she frequented in her youth. Johanna died peacefully at home on September 29, 2012.
Johanna was predeceased by her husband George Rabinowitz MD, daughter Joan Elise St. Mary and sister Elka Seskin. She is survived by her sons Abram Charles (Kristi) Rabinowitz MD of Boerne, TX and Michael Leigh Rabinowitz of McAllen, TX; Grandchildren Armand (Emily) Rabinowitz of Los Angeles, CA, Adam (Holly) Rabinowitz of San Antonio, TX, David Rabinowitz of Boston, MA, Evan Rabinowitz of Costa Mesa, CA, Sara Ashley (Alex) Bliss of Boston, MA, Jennifer St. Mary of Boston, MA, Joshua and Luke Rabinowitz of Boerne, TX; Great-grandchildren Owen and Joely Rabinowitz of Los Angeles, CA, Noah and Nicholas Rabinowitz of San Antonio, TX. Her close friends and companions Mari Pagenstecher Rabinowitz, Terry Melton, Penny Scroggin, Harvey and Bayla Biskin, Colleen Collier traveled with or entertained and were entertained by Johanna on a frequent basis.
In lieu of flowers, Johanna requested that donations be made to the Youth Orchestra of San Antonio (106 Auditorium Circle, Suite 130, San Antonio, TX 78205; Tel: 210-737-0097; www.yosa.org) or the
. Her ambition was to educate children to appreciate the Arts. Her philosophy can be summarized by her statement, "One of the characteristics that makes man superior to other animals is their ability to create and appreciate beauty."
Published in Express-News on Oct. 4, 2012