Marjorie Joy Nemarow Katz, 70, of Cherry Hill, philanthropist and wife of Lewis Katz, one of the owners of The Inquirer, died Friday, Dec. 20, at a New York hospital from complications of a stroke.
Mrs. Katz was a perpetual learner who took courses all of her adult life. But she will be best remembered for her acts of personal generosity.
"It wasn't about writing checks," her daughter Melissa Katz Silver said. "She gave her time, and she gave her love."
Mrs. Katz grew up in Vineland and graduated in 1961 from Vineland High, where she was president of the Elvis Presley fan club. She studied French at Pennsylvania State University and in Strasbourg, France, and earned her bachelor's degree from Penn State in 1965.
In 1966, she married Lewis Katz, whom Mrs. Katz had met at a party when she was 16 and he was 17.
She began taking courses at the New School in New York when she moved there after college, and continued studying subjects she found interesting until she fell ill in July.
"She had no aim of a degree," Lewis Katz said. "She took classes purely to be as stimulated as possible educationally."
Mrs. Katz was hooked on the political commentary of Chris Matthews, and was an avid reader and a keen observer of world events, said her lifelong friend Phyllis Sherman.
"She was smart academically, and she was smart about people," Sherman said.
Mrs. Katz was a French teacher for a short time and later owned the Cat's Meow, a gift shop in Cherry Hill. She also had homes in New York and Florida.
When Mrs. Katz was in college, her father fell on hard times, and she began selling her clothes to earn pocket money. But she remained cheerful, adventurous, and fun-loving, said Sherman, who met her in college.
After Mrs. Katz became wealthy - her husband built a lucrative career in parking, banking, billboards, and real estate - "she never changed, not one second," her husband said.
She treated everyone equally, whether dignitary or elevator operator.
"Actually, she was skeptical of the dignitary, and would treat the elevator operator or the woman behind the counter with enormous kindness and compassion," said her son, Drew Katz.
Mrs. Katz gave freely to causes she cared about, most often with little fanfare.
Once, she met a 3-year-old in a nail salon. She was charmed by the boy, and moved him and his mother into a house she bought for them. She became another mother to the child, helping to raise him while his mother worked - attending PTA meetings, sending him to college.
"She saw him as one of her children," Lewis Katz said.
Her life was full of such stories. She adopted a church in Camden, providing scholarships to children there. She moved one of the church members she particularly connected with to an apartment in Pennsauken, and paid her rent for 20 years.
When her children were young, Mrs. Katz took them to play with physically and mentally disabled children. A group home in South Jersey will soon be named for her.
"She gave on a one-to-one basis," Drew Katz said. "She got her hands dirty. She didn't give to charities that she had no connection to. She worked to make a difference in the lives of people who touched her."
But family was always Mrs. Katz's first priority. She was the adored "Nana" to four grandchildren. When they were away at camp, a day rarely passed without her sending them a package.
"She was relentless in her love and connection to her family," Drew Katz said.
Survivors include her husband, son, and daughter; grandchildren; and her father, Irwin Hyman.
Family and friends are invited to call beginning at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 22, at Congregation Beth El, 8000 Main St., Voorhees, where the funeral will begin at 2 p.m. Interment will follow at Crescent Memorial Park in Pennsauken.
Shiva will be observed on Sunday evening, Dec. 22, at the Katz residence in Cherry Hill, and on Monday evening, Dec. 23, at the Katz residence in New York City.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to either the Katz Academy Charter School, 1725 Park Blvd., Camden, N.J. 08103; the Boys and Girls Clubs of Camden County, 1709 Park Blvd., Camden, N.J. 08103; Covenant House International, Times Square Station, Box 731, New York, N.Y. 10108; or a charity of the donor's choice that would have resonated with Mrs. Katz.