Hannah Wolfson lived 103-plus years, seemingly enough to live two lives, and she did, or more. She is survived by her sons: Larry, wife Irma; Mark, wife Claudia; David, wife Eri Fujita; Russell, wife Elaine; grandsons, Matthew, ex-wife Mary; Brian; one great grandson, Matt’s son Max; niece, Judy Hinds, partner Gay.
Born in the Bronx, she became a Pittsburgher in the mid-40’s, moving to Brentwood with husband Milton and Larry and Mark. With David, they moved to Monroeville in 1956, where Russell was born. She was a homemaker while working jobs as a secretary or waitress, working many years at Sodini’s.
All the while as homemaker, also waiting tables, taking dictation in shorthand and learning business machines, she had an artistic bent. Theatre. She performed on stage in many venues, including the Pittsburgh Playhouse. Around 1960, she founded the Parkway Players with an ad in the Times Express and a meeting in her living room. The company lasted many years and outlived her residence in Monroeville. Art. She worked in ceramic tiles and clay pottery. She cooked for children who liked few vegetables and nothing new. Julia Child had no influence on this household.
In her late 40’s, she realized she needed more and began to follow her heart. After divorce, a journalism degree from Point Park College in 1971, just a year before her third son earned the same degree at Kent State. She went right to work with the Greensburg Tribune and St. Vincent’s College, and later in New Jersey, as a reporter with the Bergen County Record. Still yearning, she took a short-term agency job in London but stayed years. There she tutored a Japanese man in English, leading to residence in Yokohama, Japan, teaching ESL. She stayed several years, came back to the states briefly, then returned to Yokohama for a second stint. Later she tried Australia. She would also live in New York City, Prescott AZ, Hollywood CA, travel on the Orient Express, tour Alaska and most of Southeast Asia. Her artful trinkets, brochures, menus from her travels adorned her walls and furnishings wherever she called home, including her final residence, UPMC’s Lighthouse Pointe.
There she created “The Pointe,” a bi-monthly newsletter, featuring photos and bios of residents and staff. She got to know all the residents and staff, and they knew her. She worked on her computer and used Skype for chats with her son and daughter-in-law in Los Angeles right to the end. She had become adept at macrame, learned the knots and the skill of drying flowers for her craft. She immersed herself in working with polymer clay.
A constant in her life from early on was political activism. She was outspoken, writing numerous published letters to editors. In the 60’s, she once wrote a letter to the Times Express, urging her suburban neighbors to open up real estate markets to blacks. It was not a popular opinion nor well received. She worked the polls there many times. While in Hollywood, she volunteered preparing meals in a food kitchen.
She was an American woman who found herself and lived her own life. In 2018, there was a great gathering of friends and family as she turned 100 on April 27, and she was featured in the PG’s Century Club.
She died quietly in her sleep early Tuesday, Nov. 9, her family with her through the final days and one son at her side at the end.
Contributions in her memory can be made online or by check to Otter Creek Farm Sanctuary, 193 Holmes Rd, Mercer, PA. 16137.
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