Faye Klotzman Swimmer, 92, volunteer

August 23, 2002|By Jamie Smith Hopkins | Jamie Smith Hopkins,SUN STAFF

Faye Klotzman Swimmer, a lifelong volunteer who left bags of groceries outside the homes of poor Baltimore families during the Depression, wrapped tens of thousands of toys for disadvantaged children and entertained nursing home residents on the piano, died Monday of complications from pneumonia at Northwest Hospital Center. She was 92.

Born in Greencastle, Pa., Faye Mandelstan graduated from high school in nearby Chambersburg about 1927 and attended Wilson College there for two years. She once received a letter addressed only to "the prettiest girl in town" in Chambersburg.

"She was the prettiest girl in town," said her sister, Helen Lifson of Pikesville.

The family moved to Baltimore about 1931, and she married Harry Klotzman in 1932. She spent the latter years of the Depression anonymously aiding families in the impoverished East Baltimore neighborhoods near her husband's pawnshop. She left bags of food and coal on doorsteps in the evening so no one would notice.

"She didn't look for accolades," said Ted Lifson, her brother-in-law. "She felt good by helping other people."

She threw herself into the Toys for Tots effort in the 1950s and '60s, persuading shop owners to donate gifts, buying some herself and wrapping thousands of presents every year in the months before Christmas.

From the 1940s through the '60s, she scheduled entertainers for weekly USO shows at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Fort Holabird and three area veterans' hospitals. Often she'd play the piano. Though she could read music, she also performed pieces by ear to accommodate requests.

Her first husband died in 1962. In 1980, she married Louis Swimmer, who died about 10 years later.

Since the 1970s, Mrs. Swimmer had visited nursing homes weekly to play for residents, a show she called "Sing Along with Faye." After three years in a Florida retirement home, she returned last year to move into the Jewish Convalescent and Nursing Home in Pikesville, one of the places where she had entertained.

Even when she was bedridden, she continued to perform on a keyboard daily -- "till the last week," said Mrs. Lifson.

"The world was certainly a better place with her in it," she said. "She had a very special heart."

Services will be held at 11 a.m. today at Sol Levinson & Bros., 8900 Reisterstown Road, Pikesville.

In addition to Mrs. Lifson, she is survived by two sons, Richard Klotzman of Hunt Valley and Sheldon Klotzman of Ellicott City, and two grandchildren.

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