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Ione A. Strauss, a philanthropist, journalist, and volunteer, dies at 87

Mrs. Strauss was gracious and kind. She did volunteer fundraising for her alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, and also served as a Penn trustee.

Ione A. Strauss
Ione A. StraussRead moreCourtesy of the Strauss Family

Ione Apfelbaum Strauss, 87, of Haverford, a philanthropist, journalist, and volunteer, died Thursday, Oct. 1, of heart failure at her home.

Born and reared in Coatesville, Mrs. Strauss was the only child of Hortense and Louis Apfelbaum. She graduated from Scott Senior High School in Coatesville and then commuted to Philadelphia on weekdays to the University of Pennsylvania.

While there, Mrs. Strauss, a journalism major, wrote for the student newspaper and was a member of the Kite and Key Society. She was a member of the Friars Honor Society and Phi Beta Kappa. She was later made an honorary member of the Mortar Board Honor Society.

She graduated in 1954 and spent the next two years traveling with her parents to Europe, the Mediterranean, South America, Cuba, and the Caribbean.

She married Hilary Strauss, an acoustic tiles contractor, in 1956. The couple enjoyed taking cruises, sailing on many of the great steamships and ocean liners. Vessels remained her favorite mode of travel.

Mrs. Strauss volunteered for a number of University of Pennsylvania fund-raising efforts and served as president of Penn’s Association of Alumnae.

The Association of Alumnae is one of the constituent organizations of Penn Alumni. Every woman becomes a member of the association on receiving a degree from Penn, the school said online.

She received the Alumni Award of Merit in 1971 and was elected to a three-year term as the first female president of the General Alumni Society in 1972. The latter post entitled her to a seat on the Penn Board of Trustees. She was also invited to serve on the Trustees Council of Penn Women.

Mrs. Strauss was a member of the Board of Overseers of the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies and served as chairman of its board under the center director, Rabbi David Ruderman.

She created and subsidized several fellowships at the Katz Center, a postdoctoral research center at Penn focused on Jewish history and culture. One, in honor of her parents, provided for fellows to study an area of interest. Another fellowship named for her daughter Erika provided for fellows to work on a project and teach a course at Penn.

Much of her giving was done quietly. She supported Harcum College, Brandywine Health Foundation, Coatesville Youth Initiative, and the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.

“Ione was adored by those of us at UPenn who worked with her,” Ruderman said. "Among so many other roles at Penn, Ione served as chair of the Board of Overseers of the Katz Center and was significantly responsible for establishing the program from scratch.

“I was then its first director and I had the enormous privilege of working with such an intelligent, committed, and elegant person.”

She was a member of the Board of Overseers of the Penn School of Arts and Sciences from 1982 to 1988 and a trustee of the University of Pennsylvania Press from 2002 to 2005.

In addition, she served as president of the Delaware Valley Chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa Society and worked to raise money for the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts.

She and Hilary had two daughters, Louise and Erika. Erika Strauss died in 1981.

Afterward, Mrs. Strauss fulfilled a lifelong dream to write for a newspaper. She covered the meetings of several civic associations for the Main Line Times.

She was interested in politics and read books on the subject, said daughter Louise. She made phone calls for the Barack Obama campaign and proudly wore an Obama button for months before the 2008 and 2012 elections.

Despite moving into a larger sphere as an adult, Mrs. Strauss was at her core a small-town girl.

“My mother remained intensely loyal to Coatesville all of her life," her daughter said. "Her memories of a childhood spent in what she described as an idyllic small town were the stuff of our favorite bedtime stories.”

Known to be kind and polite, Mrs. Strauss enjoyed shopping, gardening, and summers in Margate. She was interested in others.

“Even in the last hours of her life, struggling to breathe, she thanked the nurses and everyone who came to see her, and told them how much they meant to her,” said daughter Louise, her only survivor.

Services were private.