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Ida Newman, 101; honored daughter by her philanthropy

Ida Newman, 101, of Philadelphia, a mother whose loss of her only child kindled a philanthropic journey to benefit children, students, doctors, musicians, artists, and uninsured women, died Sunday, Nov. 22.

Ida Newman
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Ida Newman, 101, of Philadelphia, a mother whose loss of her only child kindled a philanthropic journey to benefit children, students, doctors, musicians, artists, and uninsured women, died Sunday, Nov. 22.

Mrs. Newman was a month shy of her 102d birthday when she died at home of causes related to aging, her family said. She had been mentally sharp until late last week.

"Philadelphia has lost a lifelong resident who through generous philanthropy changed the lives of many in her nearly 102 years, and will be remembered for even longer," the family said.

Born and reared in the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood, Mrs. Newman was the eldest of four children. In 1943, she married Milton Newman, a principal in a family-owned recycling and paperboard-making business.

In 1946, they had a daughter, Ann. Shortly after birth, she underwent surgery to correct a congenital heart defect. The trailblazing operation was performed at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Ann Newman graduated from Cheltenham High School in 1965 and earned undergraduate and graduate degrees before moving to London, where she worked as a senior program controller for ABC News.

At age 38, she was battling a respiratory infection when meningitis set in. She died alone in her London apartment in January 1986.

The Newmans were determined to find some meaning from the heartbreak, and dedicated themselves to creating a string of good works in their daughter's name.

In 1986, they underwrote an annual scholarship to support the research of a pediatric cardiology fellow at Children's. To date, 29 fellows have benefited.

In 1987, the couple dedicated the Ann Newman preschool at Temple Sinai Synagogue in Dresher. The school provides early childhood education based on Jewish values and traditions.

In 1988, the Newmans funded construction of new classrooms on the Mandell Elkins Park campus of Gratz College, where Ann Newman was confirmed in the 1960s.

That year, the Newmans endowed a permanent annual scholarship at Barnard College, their daughter's alma mater, affording students the chance to take a semester abroad through the School of Liberal Arts. The scholarship has bestowed more than $2 million.

In a third effort in 1988, the Newmans established the Ann Newman String Quartet at the Settlement Music School in Wynnefield. The scholarship program helps teenage students pursue preprofessional ensemble training.

In 1990, the couple underwrote the Ann Newman Maternity Center at the Albert Einstein Medical Center, which treats many of the city's uninsured and Medicaid patients, delivering many babies annually.

The Newmans also have made ongoing provisions to support the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.

In 1989, the Milton and Ida Newman Foundation developed and sponsored the Literacy Enrichment After-School Program at the Free Library of Philadelphia. Known as LEAP, the program provides homework assistance, computer literacy, and library skills for students in kindergarten through 12th grade, and daily literacy activities for elementary-school pupils.

Mrs. Newman enjoyed painting and ceramics, so it was a natural fit when she and her husband chose to support capital improvements to the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1989. In return, the museum dedicated the Ann Newman Gallery of American Art, focusing on Shaker art.

Mrs. Newman also played a major role in the construction and endowment of the Kimmel Center.

In the 1920s, Mrs. Newman played at Smith Memorial Playground and Playhouse in Strawberry Mansion and loved the giant wooden sliding board.

In 2005, when she learned that the playground had closed because of disrepair, she paid to restore the slide and renamed it in honor of her daughter. She also restored the playhouse and expanded the playground's other areas.

"It is no exaggeration to say that without Ida Newman, there would be no Smith Playground," her family said.

Bud Newman, her nephew and president of the Federation of Jewish Agencies, remembered her as a loving aunt who taught kindness and compassion by example.

She loved to make birdhouses and to throw pots, which she delighted in giving to visitors. She quietly helped family when one of its members was in need.

"She never forgot a name," her nephew said. "She gave sound, solid, whip-smart advice, maybe when you didn't ask for it. She openly shared her recipes for stuffed cabbage and mandel bread, and we are all extremely grateful for that."

In addition to her nephew, Mrs. Newman is survived by nieces and other nephews. Her husband died in 1994.

Funeral services are scheduled for 11 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 24, at Joseph Levine & Sons Memorial Chapels (West), 2811 West Chester Pike, Broomall. Interment will be in Mount Sharon Cemetery.

Donations may be made to Smith Memorial Playground and Playhouse, 3500 Reservoir Dr., Philadelphia 19121.