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Evelyn Jacobs Ortner

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A private service will be held March 13 for longtime township resident Evelyn Jacobs Ortner, who died March 5 at age 83.

During the 1980s, Mrs. Ortner served as a special advisor and speechwriter at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, D.C. When she and her husband returned to Short Hills, she founded the Unity Group, a home for battered women in Essex County. Within a few years, the Unity Group grew to an all-volunteer organization of several hundred and Mrs. Ortner earned a national reputation as a pioneer in the field of domestic violence and an advocate for abused and battered women. She wrote extensively on the issue, testified before state committees and was interviewed on television and radio.

In 2003, Mrs. Ortner established the Evelyn Jacobs Ortner Center at the University of Pennsylvania, the first domestic violence learning center at an academic institution in the country. This ongoing program continues to provide a mix of national conferences, interdisciplinary course work, fellowships and advocacy for anti-violence legislation.

Because of her work, Mrs. Ortner received commendations from President William Clinton, Senators William Bradley and Frank Lautenberg and a joint resolution of the New Jersey Senate and Assembly. She received the 1999 New Jersey Governor's Volunteer Award from Gov. Christie Whitman and a Certificate of Appreciation "in recognition of your dedication to victims' rights" from the U.S. Department or Justice, and in 2004, she received the Crystal Stair Award from the University of Pennsylvania.

Mrs. Ortner received her bachelor's degree from Montclair State University and her master's degree from Drew University. Her master's thesis, a biography of American poet Witter Bynner, was an extension of a decades-long correspondence between them. These writings are now housed at the University of New Mexico.

Mrs. Ortner is survived by her husband, Robert; her son, Peter, and her daughter, Nicole; and her brother, Erwin Jacobs.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Evelyn Jacobs Ortner Center, School of Social Policy and Practice at the University of Pennsylvania, 3701 Locust Walk, Philadelphia, Pa. 19104.

Published in The Record/Herald News on Mar. 9, 2011
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