Alice Belew Lonsdorf, 89, of Gladwyne, a former assistant dean for alumni affairs at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and a tireless civic leader, died Thursday, April 10, of pulmonary fibrosis at her home in Waverly Heights.
"She was entertaining visitors and going to meetings until a week ago," said her son, George. "She was fierce about maintaining her activities until she couldn't."
A Fort Worth, Texas, native, Mrs. Lonsdorf graduated at age 19 from the University of Texas with a bachelor's degree in fine arts.
In 1949, she moved to Pennsylvania with her husband, Richard G., so that he could set up a psychiatry practice.
From 1980 to 1986, she served as the assistant dean for alumni affairs at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, but she was best known in the Philadelphia area for her civic accomplishments, all done as a volunteer.
In 1972, she was a founding member and chairman of the Friends of Independence National Historical Park, a group that started tours and purchased furniture to fill the historic buildings in the park.
In 1977, Mrs. Lonsdorf accepted the U.S. Department of Interior Conservation Service Award in recognition of the group's work.
She served as president of the Junior League of Philadelphia, was named a Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania by Gov. Dick Thornburgh in 1980, and was a member and leader of the Women's Committee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Mrs. Lonsdorf was a founding member of Friends of Chamounix Mansion International Hostel. The mansion in West Fairmount Park was built as a country home in 1802. It accepts visitors for overnight stays.
The house had burned and was slated for demolition, but the group lobbied to restore it, her son said.
In 1979, she became founding chairman of Philadelphia Open House, an annual fund-raiser sponsored by the Friends of Independence National Historical Park. The program gives visitors a glimpse of private homes in historic neighborhoods from various periods.
She was a member and president of the Cosmopolitan Club of Philadelphia. She also was on the board of directors for the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance in the 1970s, and on the executive committee of the Penn's Landing Corp. in the 1980s.
Mrs. Lonsdorf lived in Villanova and Penn Valley where she and her husband, a professor of psychiatry and law at Penn Law School, raised three sons.
The two moved from Penn Valley to Waverly Heights in 2001. Once there, she served on the board of trustees and also found herself showing other seniors the ropes of retirement.
She fielded questions about how to downsize from a multiroom house to an apartment at a place like Waverly Heights, and encouraged people to make the changes.
"People said we'd never get out of there," she told SourceBook, an online guide to retirement living. "It can be done, and you can get organized if you give yourself enough time and assistance."
Besides her son and husband of 64 years, she is survived by sons David and Robert; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
A life celebration will be at 3 p.m. Saturday, April 19, in the Waverly Heights Auditorium, 1400 Waverly Rd., Gladwyne. Burial is private.
Donations may be made to the Autism Society of America, 4340 East West Highway, Suite 350, Bethesda, Md. 20814, or via www.autism-society.org.