DeVera Blumoff, B’nai Brith Women leader dies at 86

BY ROBERT A. COHN

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF EMERITUS

DeVera Estelle Merade Blumoff, a longtime leader in B’nai B’rith Women (now Jewish Women International), and a life member of the organization, died Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2006, of natural causes. She was 86.

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A native of St. Louis, Mrs. Blumoff was born on July 18, 1920. She was a straight-A student at Maplewood High School, and graduated from Fontbonne College (now Fontbonne University) with a degree in music education. She had a brief career teaching music at the junior high school level.

Mrs. Blumoff married David Blumoff in 1940; they were married for 52 years. David Blumoff died in 1972.

Daughter Betti Blumoff said of her mother, “DeVera, whose life we celebrate and honor, had a quicksilver mind, a sharp wit and a sparkling and often charming personality. Our Grandma Becky Rich, a single mother, had high expectations for her only child. She raised a loving daughter who worked hard, earning straight A’s in school, practiced her piano daily and ultimately graduated from Fontbonne College with a degree in music education. As a young woman, Mom played the piano for many school functions and served as the Glee Club and choir accompaniest…What Mom lacked in singing talent, she certainly made up for with her masterful ability at the keyboard.”

Betti Blumoff, who like her mother teaches piano lessons, added, “Mom played cocktail piano as a young woman in Gaslight Square, earning jars full of tips. She was best known around town as a top notch accompanist for the Garment Workers Association, Shaare Zedek Synagogue Sisterhood shows and as a writer and musical director for numerous B’nai B’rith Women District Two extravaganzas. Our family used to say, ‘Have piano,will travel.'”

Shirley Finger, longtime friend and fellow member of B’nai B’rith Women with DeVera Blumoff, recalls, “To me, DeVera’s strength was in her leadership. She was District Two president in 1963, and international membership chair, while President Gerald Ford was in office.”

Mrs. Finger added, “She was responsible for organizing four of the five new BBW chapters that helped revitalize BBW in St. Louis. In starting these chapters, she developed leadership that took BBW St. Louis to national prominence.”

Mrs. Finger also recalls Mrs. Blumoff’s work with the BBW Student Loan Fund, saying, “DeVera, along with other strong and caring women, including Gert Weisman, Lil Cohn, Sarah Markenson and Evelyn Goldberg, worried and cared about each young person wanting to go to college, but who did not have the funds. There are many professionals who have benefited from those loans.”

Among the grateful recipients of one of those loans was Rabbi Sally Priesand, who became the first woman rabbi in history to be ordained in the United States, and who frequently expressed appreciation to BBW for her loan.

Mrs. Blumoff was also actively involved with BBW’s support of the Children’s Home in Israel, now called the Residential Treatment Center.

“She was very good friends with its director, Chezzie Cohen, who always tried to see DeVera when he was in this country,” recalls Mrs. Finger.

In her eulogy to her mother offered at Congregation B’nai Amoona, where Rabbi Neal Rose officiated, Betti Blumoff said, “Raising three children, having a husband who worked 12-hour days in the trucking business and volunteering required the organizational and tactical skills of a military general. Prior to her travels for BBW, Mom would cook meals, arrange carpools and schedules, making sure that her family was never inconvenienced by her absences….Everyone was the recipient of DeVera’s conversations and her humor…she endeared herself to so many people at the nursing home and she had great affection for so many of them. Our family would like to thank everyone who cared for Mom during her months at their facility. They were loving, caring and did their best to make her time there bearable.”

Betti Blumoff added, “When all is said and done, DeVera Blumoff lived an amazing life. Let’s all remember her with love and most of all, with laughter. We love you, Mom.”

Mrs. Blumoff was the mother of the late Harvey (Marilyn) Blumoff; Rosie (Mark) Feinstein and Betti Blumoff, of St. Louis.

She was the grandmother of Todd (Debbie) Blumoff, Becky (Richard) Griffin, Eric (Vickie) Feinstein, Michael (Erin) Feinstein, Neal DuBro and Lauren DuBro.

She had eight great-grandchildren.