Even as she grew older, Bobette Rosenau Leidner was reluctant to slow down.

“She always said we had a debt to society,” said daughter Bobette Fisk. “She wanted to give back, make a difference. She just loved people.”

To that end, Mrs. Leidner lived even her final years in the service of others. A journalist during World War II, she recently wrote stories for the newsletter at her retirement home, dictating them to others after she lost her sight.

A former public relations whiz and a celebrated conversationalist, she engaged her friends and the staff at Beaumont at Bryn Mawr in spirited discussions about family and fun even as her own activities decreased.

A well-known and popular figure for years in Philadelphia civic, art, and horticultural circles, she taught a writing class at Beaumont and directed art shows for the residents. She even took swim lessons well into her 90s just to spend time with others.

Mrs. Leidner, 98, died Sunday, May 24, at Beaumont from a stroke and complications from the coronavirus.

“She never was depressed and always curious,” her daughter said. “She was always looking for ways to help others.”

Michael and Randy Chapman (left to right), sons of Patricia and Roy Chapman, owners and breeders of racing champion Smarty Jones, stand with Judge Marjorie Rendell, Gov. Ed Rendell, Mrs. Leidner, and Smarty Jones.
Courtesy of the Leidner family
Michael and Randy Chapman (left to right), sons of Patricia and Roy Chapman, owners and breeders of racing champion Smarty Jones, stand with Judge Marjorie Rendell, Gov. Ed Rendell, Mrs. Leidner, and Smarty Jones.

Born in Chicago, Mrs. Leidner moved to Elkins Park with her family when she was 10. She went to Oak Lane Country Day School and earned a degree in journalism from Cornell University, serving as editor of the Cornell Daily Sun. She worked as a reporter for The Inquirer during World War II, and interviewed Adm. William Halsey Jr., Adm. Chester Nimitz, and Eleanor Roosevelt, her family wrote in a tribute.

She started her own public relations business in 1956 and worked with the American Association of Museums, the Independence Park Association, and the World Affairs Council. She held leadership roles with local arts festivals, and worked on the restoration of the Pennsylvania State Capitol gardens in Harrisburg and the rehabilitation of the Swann Memorial Fountain at Logan Square.

Mrs. Leidner meets Nancy Reagan.
Courtesy of the Leidner family
Mrs. Leidner meets Nancy Reagan.

She was active with the Philadelphia Orchestra and was co-founder and president of Young Musicians in Philadelphia. She served with the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and was a founding member of both the Young Friends of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Library Study. She was also part of many boards at Cornell.

“She was very strict as far as education was concerned,” her daughter said. “It was important to her.”

Mrs. Leidner loved to walk in her gardens at home, and was a member of several garden clubs and a blue-ribbon winner at the Philadelphia Flower Show. She wrote poems for her children, and politics, fashion and travel articles for the newspaper.

 Mrs. Leidner and husband Nelson traveled the world together and often hosted musicians and artists in their home.
Courtesy of the Leidner family
Mrs. Leidner and husband Nelson traveled the world together and often hosted musicians and artists in their home.

She met lawyer Nelson Leidner through friends after the war. They married, traveled the world together, and often hosted musicians and artists in their home. They lived for a time in the Oser House in Elkins Park, architect Louis Kahn’s first residential commission. Nelson Leidner died in 1999.

In addition to her daughter, Mrs. Leidner is survived by son Nelson Jr.; daughters Victoria and Cynthia; and other family members.

Gary Miles, gmiles@inquirer.com