Common Pleas Court Senior Judge Myrna Field Baum, 71, the energetic judge whose husband said life with her was like living the movie
Romancing the Stone,
died Tuesday of a rare blood disease at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. She lived in Society Hill.
"She was dynamite," her husband of 24 years, Harris Baum, said yesterday.
Though a former administrative judge of Family Court, a onetime assistant district attorney, and a civic leader, she was also an adventurer who scaled the peaks of the Himalayas, said Baum, a Fairmount Park commissioner.
"She believed in justice, but she also loved people," said Baum, who met his wife-to-be through a mutual friend. "She loved being with people, understanding people, understanding cultures. Together we've been on horseback in Iceland, on swinging bridges made of rope, fought leeches, slept in tents. . . . I was lucky to have her 24 years."
Baum said that the much-honored jurist, who was known as Myrna Field during her professional career, was as energetic in seeking to scale the pinnacles of justice as she was scaling the peaks of Nepal.
In 2005, she received the Louis D. Brandeis Law Society's Community Service Award. She was also president of the Middle Atlantic Legal Foundation, part of a national network that intervenes in significant cases with national importance. "She enjoyed law because it brought people together," Baum said.
Her innovations as a court supervisor included instituting night hours to allow working parents and spouses to attend court sessions and establishing a program that helped to find jobs for unemployed fathers behind in their child support.
A Philadelphia native, Judge Field was raised in West Philadelphia, graduated from Lower Merion High School, and attended Smith College.
She later transferred to the University of Pennsylvania, where she received her bachelor's degree in 1959. She went to Penn for her graduate studies, receiving a law degree in 1963 and a master's degree in law in 1972.
Besides working as an assistant district attorney, from 1965 to 1978, she also served as counsel to the Equal Opportunity Commission of Philadelphia and to the Philadelphia Civil Service Commission, and initiated and organized the first Mayor's Office of Consumer Services.
Associated with the law firm of Barbara and Edward Silver, she was elected to Common Pleas Court in 1991 and served in all divisions except Orphans' Court. She supervised the courts as administrative judge from 2002 to 2006. She later became a senior judge.
She was also the former president of the Society Hill Civic Association and was a member of numerous legal organizations.
But to her husband, she was the rare diamond of his life, who died after contracting the rare blood disease amyloidosis, which afflicts only eight out of a million people each year.
Besides her husband, she is survived by a daughter, Jennie Nicaud; stepchildren Sharon Kaplan, Susan Spector and Lewis Baum; a brother; and seven grandchildren.
Funeral services will be held at 10:30 a.m. today at Keneseth Israel, 8390 Old York Rd., Elkins Park. Donations may be made to the Bread Upon the Waters Scholarship Fund at the University of Pennsylvania, College of General Studies, 3440 Market St., Suite 300, Philadelphia 19104-3335.