Fredericka ‘Fritzi’ Lainoff, 86; ‘Unsung Hero’ was tireless advocate for older adults

Fritzi  and Mike Lainoff participate in a 2007 advocacy trip to Jefferson City held by National Council of Jewish Women – St. Louis Section, St. Louis Chapter Hadassah and the Jewish Community Relations Council. File photo: Mike Sherwin

BY ROBERT A. COHN, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus

Fredericka “Fritzi” Lainoff, who was a 2011 “Unsung Hero” of the St. Louis Jewish Light for her tireless advocacy work, died Nov. 13 in Portland, Ore.  

Mrs. Lainoff and her husband, Harold “Mike” Lainoff moved to Portland five years ago after many years as residents of St. Louis County near Creve Coeur.

Mrs. Lainoff described herself as “a champion for social justice and a steadfast advocate for the needs of America’s elders.”  In a 2011 article in the Jewish Light when Mrs. Lainoff was among the newspaper’s Unsung Heroes for that year, it was noted that “friends describe her as a ‘human dynamo’ with the energy of someone half her (then) 81 years. What’s clear after spending time with (her) is that she won’t take ‘no’ for an answer if she thinks, even remotely, that ‘yes’ is a much better way.”

At the time of the article, Mrs. Lainoff was “on a mission to make sure government legislation takes care of the mounting needs of older adults and the uninsured.” She worked long days and nights traveling to Jefferson City and Washington to meet with representatives on both sides of the aisle.

Mrs. Lainoff, at the time, said, “You’ve got to work with all kinds of people. Never antagonize any of them.” She pointed out that “speaking to legislators is the most effective strategy in getting issues heard.”

Mrs. Lainoff began advocating for the needs of others and for social justice causes at an early age, picketing a local theater that prohibited African-Americans from sitting in its choice sections.

Mrs. Lainoff credited her immigrant mother as her role model. Her mother was an active member of VISTAS (Volunteers in Service to America), and later the Gray Panthers.

After Mrs. Lainoff’s father died when she was 2, her mother moved the family to Chicago, where she met and married Maurice Miller.  The Millers later moved back to St. Louis, where Mrs. Lainoff graduated from University City High School.  Her first date with Mike Lainoff, her husband of 66 years, was at a B’nai B’rith party held at her home.

The Lainoffs were true “life partners” as parents and grandparents. They were involved in volunteer activities that supported the needs of the disadvantaged, the elderly and victims of all kinds of discrimination and bigotry.  Mrs. Lainoff also served for many years on the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis. 

In addition to advocating for the elderly and the uninsured, Mrs. Lainoff’s volunteered to support the civil rights movement and people living with AIDS as well as opposing nuclear power testing.  She was also active with the Mid-East Area on Aging, the Older Adult Community Action Program and the National Council of Jewish Women-St. Louis Section, among other nonprofit groups.

While in St. Louis, the Lainoffs were active members of Congregation B’nai Amoona.

In addition to her husband, survivors include a son, Michael Lainoff (Marna) of Eugene, Ore.; a daughter, Avery Leinova and her partner James Spake of Portland, Ore. and one grandson.

Funeral services were held Sunday at Berger Memorial Chapel.  Burial was private.

Donations requested to the National Council of Jewish Women (