Lillian Y. Kaplan

Lillian Y. Kaplan, a longtime Sharon resident, passed away in her sleep in the early hours of Saturday, June 8, 2013, at the age of 92. Born in Scranton, PA, she had moved to Sharon in 1958 with her husband, the late David Kaplan, and two young children, raising a family that, a decade later, would include another adopted child. Apart from her last eighteen months as a resident in the independent living facility at Orchard Cove in Canton, Lillian spent more than half a century dwelling in her beloved Sharon, straying only temporarily on family trips or on her many educational travels with Elder Hostel. An intrepid traveler even late in her life, she visited countries such as Canada, China, Denmark, England, France, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Scotland, and Wales, as well as most of the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii. Coming of age during the Great Depression of the 1930s-before the era of "Rosie the Riveter," when military conscription created a shortage of men to work in traditionally male-dominated jobs during WWII-Lillian's dream of studying at a school of fine arts was quashed by her father, who insisted she do something more practical and "appropriate" for a young woman, encouraging her to attend secretarial school so that she could work. That she did, later serving as a medical secretary for a psychiatrist at the Pentagon. Her first husband, Albert Pace, was an aircraft maintenance specialist in the Army Air Corps during the war, and Lillian followed him to camp quarters in Florida. She was pregnant with their first child when Albert suffered a fatal heart attack in 1949, forcing her to return to Scranton. A few years later, she met and married a recent widower, David Kaplan, who had a teenage daughter from his first marriage, and Lillian gave birth to another child. A true blue progressive Democrat, Lillian took her civic responsibilities seriously, doing far more than just going to the polling station to vote. While raising her children and assuming her duties as a homemaker, she also participated actively in many social and political groups through the years, such as the American Red Cross, the League of Women Voters, the Brandeis University National Womens' Committee, METCO, Families for Interracial Adoption, Sharon Town Meetings, and a long chain of political campaigns, for which she worked tirelessly and donated liberally, as she did for organizations like the NAACP, the ACLU, Save the Children, the Audubon Society, the World Wildlife Fund, and the Appalachian Mountain Club. She was a proud supporter and grateful consumer of Public Broadcasting, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and the Fuller Museum of Art (where she also worked as a docent). Her skills as a secretary and treasurer found application not only in helping her husband David with his growing business, but were also applied to volunteer activities in the many socially-oriented groups in which she participated. But Lillian would often go beyond her comfort zone, engaging in direct actions such as marching on picket lines during the National Farm Workers' boycotts of national supermarket chains selling iceberg lettuce and grapes. She worked as a volunteer ESL mentor for immigrant children, spent time as a Sunday school teacher at Temple Sinai, volunteered as a Meals-on-Wheels delivery person, and shared her home with a number of exchange students from overseas. The lifelong spark she felt from engaging new ideas amid the conviviality of friends and fellow students of all ages led her to take many courses in adult education-both formally, at Stonehill College and Boston University's "Evergreen College," and informally, at the Sharon Senior Center, in private art classes, and as an enthusiastic audience member at lectures given as part of Boston's Ford Hall Forum or locally in Sharon. She was a great lover of literature and reading in general, and a member of several book discussion groups, including a Great Books reading group. And she was a formidable Scrabble player. An inveterate walker, Lillian could often be seen-even in the dead of winter-taking her strolls around Post Office Square, along the beach at Lake Massapoag, or along the wooded paths of Moose Hill. But as anyone who had the privilege of being a guest at her home knew, she took real delight in being a gracious and generous hostess to friends, family, and whomever the cat dragged in. A wonderful cook and a baker extraordinaire, not only was it impossible to leave her house hungry, it was difficult to imagine anyone wanting to schedule the next family dinner or social group meeting anywhere else. Despite the strictures of growing up in a patriarchal society, Lillian knew that a woman's place was not only in the home, but also in the schoolroom, the museum, the concert hall, the factory, the Pentagon, the protest march, the steering committee, the open spaces of the nation's wilderness areas, and the Great Wall. She fostered independence and critical thinking in her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren; she enjoyed wit and wisdom wherever she found it, and she made life more bearable and more worthwhile for those blessed enough to have come in contact with her. She is survived by daughter Nina K. Miller of Ithaca, NY, son Laurence A. Kaplan and wife Renée of Framingham, son Dale M. Kaplan and wife Salomé of Guadalajara, and son Donald S. Kaplan of Manchester, NH, as well as grandchildren Rachel Miller and her late husband Alan Epstein of New York, Kenneth Miller of Somerville, Jennifer Miller and husband Hilary Noble of Dorchester, and Nicole Kaplan and husband Jon Hagler of Boston, Greg Kaplan of Brighton, and Alex Kaplan of Framingham, and great-grandchildren Marni and Tessa Epstein, and Georgia Noble. Interment was at Sharon Memorial Park. Donations in Lillian's memory may be made to the Sharon Public Library, 11 North Main St., Sharon, MA 02067.

Published in The Sharon Advocate from Sept. 9 to Sept. 16, 2013