Anita Sadler Weiss, 96, sculptor, social work chief at family center

August 07, 2004|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Anita Sadler Weiss, a retired Jewish Family Services social work department chief, sculptor and poet, died of cancer Sunday in her Mount Washington home. She was 96.

Born Anita Lillie Sadler in New York City and raised on Long Island, she earned an undergraduate degree in English from Cornell University and a master's degree from Columbia University's School of Social Work.

She moved to Mount Washington in 1949 and began working at the old Jewish Family and Children's Bureau at Centre and Eutaw streets in 1951. She held positions of increasing responsibility, and was named head of the bureau's family department in 1966 -- the post she held at her retirement a decade later.

Family members said she mentored case workers in marriage and family counseling and was widely praised for her skills in case supervision.

"She was direct and open-minded with regard to controversial issues," said Anne Saxe, a colleague at Jewish Family Services whom Mrs. Weiss supervised in the 1960s.

Mrs. Weiss co-edited the writings of her late colleague, Dr. Fred Berl, and published them in 1988 as a book, Social Change and Social Work Practice.

Her husband of 31 years, Harry B. Weiss, director of management for the old Baltimore Urban Renewal and Housing Agency, died in 1964. She helped establish and oversaw the bestowal of the annual Harry B. Weiss Citizenship Award, given annually by the Citizens Planning and Housing Agency to a tenant in recognition of significant contributions to the enhancement of a public housing complex.

Mrs. Weiss exhibited her sculpture at local shows, including one-woman exhibits at the Village of Cross Keys and Temple Oheb Shalom. A member of Sculptors Inc., she worked primarily in abstract themes in wood, stone and clay.

"She put a lot of thought into her work," said a friend, Shari Sklar. "Her work was innovative. She would occasionally incorporate semiprecious stones on wood."

Mrs. Weiss studied with Frieda Sohn at the Baltimore Museum of Art and at Baltimore Clayworks. She sculpted in her studio at home, where she periodically mentored artists.

A poet, Mrs. Weiss taught haiku classes until recently at the Renaissance Institute of the College of Notre Dame of Maryland. She belonged to Towpath, a regional haiku society, and ran meetings and recruited new members from among her students. She published her work in the Haiku Society of America's annual anthology and in Persimmon.

"She was an extraordinary person in that she had so many talents," said Fran Stark, a friend.

An avid reader, she used a magnifying glass when her eyesight diminished. She often would read until 2 a.m. Politically, she espoused liberal Democratic causes and backed labor unions, and was active in the League of Women Voters, Amnesty International and Common Cause.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow at the Radisson Hotel at Cross Keys, 100 Village Square.

Survivors include two daughters, Valerie Stansfield of Los Angeles and Helaine Marshall of White Plains, N.Y.; and four grandchildren.

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