Lois Lehrman Grass, a Harrisburg native and long-time arts patron and philanthropist, died on Wednesday, just days shy of her 91st birthday.
A ubiquitous presence in Harrisburg over many decades, Lois Lehrman Grass long supported a host of causes in Harrisburg through her leadership skills, fund-raising, volunteer activities and personal support. She was especially focused on initiatives involving the Jewish community, the arts and healthcare.
On a personal note, in recent years, Lois became a dear and cherished friend of TheBurg, offering her friendship, advice, support and words of encouragement. We will miss her greatly. Our staff would like to extend our deepest sympathies to her family, her friends and her loved ones.
The following is Lois’ obituary:
Lois Lehrman Grass, whose lifelong dedication to community service gained her recognition as a Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania, died Sept. 21.
She was born in Harrisburg on Sept. 30, 1931, the daughter of Benjamin and Rose Herman Lehrman, in whose memory she named the Lehrman Chapel at Temple Ohev Sholom, the Rose Lehrman Arts Center at HACC, and the Rose Lehrman Wing at The Hebrew University School of Education in Jerusalem.
Lois was a visionary community leader, often at the forefront of initiatives that led to the creation of long-term community assets, including Jewish Family Service, Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts, and Capital Area School for the Arts Charter School (CASA). She was instrumental in the creation of the Aurora Club for people with developmental disabilities as well as the Hamilton Health Center. In her 30s she was Chairman of the Red Cross Chapter of Harrisburg and the first woman to chair the United Way campaign. She believed in “making things happen.”
While she understood profoundly the importance of philanthropy, she was, first and foremost, a dedicated and highly respected “hands on” volunteer. She devoted her insight, experience and resources to building community and nurturing organizations and talent wherever she saw promise and purpose. She worked tirelessly–often “under the radar”–to foster and provide leadership to organizations and projects about which she felt deeply. Lois was passionate, in particular, about the arts and Judaism. She was a major supporter of the Harrisburg Jewish community and Jewish institutions in the United States and Israel, including the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC, where she was a founding donor.
Her love and support of the arts benefited many organizations. In the tradition of a true arts patron, she fostered the careers of promising young talents, often through commissions of their work. Concert grand pianos gifted by Lois grace the stages of Whitaker Center and the Rose Lehrman Arts Center. She was a founding member of the National Museum of Woman in the Arts and a member of the Museum’s National Advisory Board. In 1989, she was an inaugural recipient of the Award for Distinguished Service to the Arts in the Capital Region. Lois was known for her gracious hospitality. She loved good food, good drink and good company and she knew how to throw a fabulous party. She frequently hosted events at her home for the benefit of community organizations.
She is survived by her son Martin Grass and wife Jody; son Roger Grass and wife Marina; daughter Elizabeth Weese and husband Brian; son-in-law Jason Shapiro; 15 grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren; brother Gilbert Lehrman; brother Lewis Lehrman and wife Louise.
She was pre-deceased by her daughter, Linda Grass Shapiro, her sister Barbara Weinberg and her longtime companion, Bowman Brown.
Services will be held on Sept. 23 at 2 p.m. at Temple Ohev Sholom, 2345 N. Front Street, Harrisburg. Burial will follow at Mount Moriah Cemetery, Strouse and Fritchey Streets. Rabbi Peter Kessler officiating.
To honor Lois’s memory, contributions may be made to any Jewish, arts or healthcare organization of your choice.
Lawrance Binda is co-publisher and editor-in-chief of TheBurg.
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