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Marsha Moffat York Solmssen, health-care and social services innovator, dies at 92

She was a problem solver who found ways to help people handle their finances, mental health, housekeeping, and all kinds of other needs.

Mrs. Solmssen had a rare combination of empathy and determination, said her son, R.G.
Mrs. Solmssen had a rare combination of empathy and determination, said her son, R.G.Read moreCourtesy of the family

Marsha Moffat York Solmssen, 92, a longtime advocate and innovative problem solver for the elderly, mentally ill, and anyone who needed aid, guidance, and answers, died Sunday, Dec. 12, of cancer at home at Beaumont at Bryn Mawr retirement community.

A social worker, program coordinator, and cofounder in 1983 of Intervention Associates — a nonprofit based in Ardmore and, later, Wayne that helped people keep their health care, financial, and other personal affairs in order — she insisted throughout her career that insightful, individual attention to clients was fundamental to success.

“A big organization can’t do it,” she told The Inquirer in 1988. “Once you institutionalize something like this, it loses its special quality.”

Energetic, organized, and determined, Mrs. Solmssen was “a sparkplug” for her family, and “a matriarch for all families,” said her son Peter.

She worked in child care services in Delaware County, was coordinator for the National Council on Alcoholism’s Philadelphia-based Info-Now employee assistance program, and developed projects for the local branch of the Resources for Human Development nonprofit.

Among her clients at Info-Now were the Internal Revenue Service, Sears Roebuck & Co., and the Phillies baseball team. She advised them on many workplace issues, such as personal relationships and substance abuse, and appeared in Inquirer stories several times.

Regarding employees who were struggling with alcohol abuse, she said in 1982: “The family has to say that it can’t take it anymore. This is why the family has to be worked with. Not all families are prepared to draw the line.”

Later, Meridian Bank, Provident Bank, Continental Bank, Bryn Mawr Trust Co., and others hired Intervention Associates to help their customers, many of whom were elderly and ailing, maneuver through intricate financial, health care, and social systems, and receive support and services.

Mrs. Solmssen and her colleagues enabled “our trust officers to help their clients in ways that go far beyond what is normally provided in a trust package,” Bryn Mawr Trust Co. reported to its stockholders in 1988.

“She had a rare combination of empathy and dedication,” said her son R.G. “And nothing was going to stop her.”

Since Mrs. Solmssen arranged services for people with special needs of all kinds, she was especially proud that trained social workers, not simply business administrators, worked at her company with families and individuals.

“She had a deep sense of caring for those who didn’t know how to navigate the process,” said her son Peter. “She made herself available at times of crisis, and was intent on finding the right solutions for people.”

An assistant vice president at Provident Bank told The Inquirer in 1988: “It’s been a blessing” to work with Intervention Associates. “They’re very good in dealing with people and empathizing.”

Born March 28, 1929, in Tacoma, Wash., Mrs. Solmssen graduated from Annie Wright Seminary, and earned a scholarship to Wellesley College in Massachusetts. After graduation in 1951, she worked as an analyst at what is now the National Security Agency in Washington, and then for Fidelity Bank in Philadelphia as a financial analyst.

Later, she earned a master’s degree in social work from Bryn Mawr College in the 1970s.

She married Arthur R.G. Solmssen, a Philadelphia lawyer and novelist in the 1950s, and they lived in Bryn Mawr, and raised sons Peter, Kurt, and R.G. Her husband died in 2018.

An athlete much of her life, Mrs. Solmssen liked to swim and play tennis, and she hosted annual backyard football games for family and friends on Thanksgiving. She was an opera buff, and showed videos of her favorite performances to friends at Beaumont.

She was independent, and her childhood in the Northwest was full of nature hikes and outdoor adventure.

She was especially close to her three daughters-in-law, Sarah, Rebecca, and Julia. “She had a very powerful personality,” said her son Peter. “Yet she was warm and loving. I can’t tell you how many people told me, when I’d meet them on some occasion, ‘Your mother saved my life.’”

In addition to her sons and daughters-in-law, Mrs. Solmssen is survived by eight grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, and other relatives.

Private services are to be later.