Shortly after the passing of my grandfather (1 month), my grandmother also passed away. I wanted to share what was written about her in the obituary.
The Christians call them ‘Saints’, the Buddhists call them ‘Boddhisattvas’ and the Jews call them ‘Tzadikim’. Maimonides, a prolific Jewish philosopher, physician and Rabbi wrote this to define the prerequisite of a ‘Tadik’; “…one whose merit surpasses their iniquity.” Whatever we wish to label them, Sylvia Steiner was certainly amongst them all. She said it best in her own words: “I am a ‘people’ person and involving myself with people is a necessary factor to my well-being.”
Sylvia Irene Steiner (neé Siegel) was born in Moorehead, Mississippi on November 20, 1918, one of five children of Jacob Siegel and Rose Siegel (neé Silverblatt) from St. Louis. In 1933, when Sylvia was 14, the family moved to Baton Rouge where they made their permanent home, firstly on Government Street then later on Camellia Avenue. Sylvia followed her two older brothers, Leon and Fred, into LSU and graduated with a degree in Business in 1940. In that same year Sylvia met JoPaul Steiner in New Orleans through a mutual friend. On their very first date, after being together for only two hours, he asked her to marry him. They married on June 13th, 1940 and stayed madly in love for seventy-two years.
Throughout her life Sylvia participated in a vast multitude of activities in both a volunteer capacity and professionally. In 1947 she became very active in the Audubon Girl Scouts and served in various capacities throughout the years; troop leader and trainer, Day Camp Director, member of the National Council, Chairman of the Council-wide Exposition Program, Chairman of the Special Areas Service committee that helped girls in deprived areas, Chairman of the Council Nominating Committee, member of the Baton Rouge Girl Scout Board of Directors, Vice-President of the Audubon Area Girl Scout Board, Executive Director of Scouts and others. Her many years of volunteer work have included; President and Board Member of the Cystic Fibrosis Association, Chairman of the March of Dimes, Youth Chairman of the American Red Cross, Secretary and Board Member of the International Hospitality Foundation and a Board Member-at-large of the Woman’s Hospital Auxiliary. She also served the United Way, YWCA, Association for Mental Health, Baton Rouge Symphony, Women’s Council, Battered Women and…the list goes on.
Sylvia also devoted much of her time to the Baton Rouge Jewish community. As a member of Congregation B’nai Israel she was a Sunday School teacher for more than forty years and the Principal for seven years. She was the President and Vice-President of the Temple Sisterhood, on the Board of Trustees, Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Chairman of Administration and Membership Committees, Chairman of the Interfaith Committee and a member of the Council of Jewish Women. She has been the recipient of numerous awards including the ‘Distinguished Lady Award’ from the Mad Hatters, Volunteer Activist Award, Volunteer of the year (Woman’s Hospital), Woman of Achievement nominee from the YWCA and the Louisiana Hospital Association’s Auxilian of the Year.
How Sylvia was also able to lovingly and successfully raise three children, be the perfectly beautiful wife, play her beloved mah-jong, travel to exotic parts of the world and remember to send birthday presents to all her grandchildren and great-grandchildren is anybody’s guess. Her life made the world a better place. She was always able to lift anyone’s spirits with her unforgettable, irrepressible, iridescent smile.
She was loved dearly by her family and all those who knew and worked with her, she will be deeply missed. Sylvia was as graceful in death as she was in life. She died peacefully in her sleep at 1:20am, January 27th, 2013 aged 94. She is survived by her three children Judy, Raymond and Maureen, six grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.
Services will be held on Thursday, January 31st, 2013 at Congregation B’nai Israel located at 3354 Kleinert Avenue, Baton Rouge, LA 70806. Visitation is from 9:30-10:30am at the Temple then a short service at 10:30am, followed by burial at the Jewish cemetery, 1400 block of North Street, Baton Rouge. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Congregation B’nai Israel for the Sylvia Steiner Religious School Fund.