Marsha Bolnick Bacal, 87, a city advocate and former Inquirer employee, died of cancer on July 3 at the Penn Hospice at Rittenhouse.
Ms. Bacal worked in the Inquirer's promotions department in the 1950s. In 1957, the paper announced her special commendation by the Philadelphia Women in Advertising Exhibition for her booklet on a patrolman hit by a bullet.
Later in life, she took on advocacy roles in the city, showing an ongoing passion for Philadelphia and its people. Her family said she pushed for racial integration and drug education in schools in the 1960s and 70s.
More recently, she helped found and run the Society Hill Towers Political Action Committee in 2001 to ensure representation for the development she called home for 36 years. She also was a founding member of the Central Delaware Advocacy Group, formed from advisory group appointed by Mayor John Street in 2006 to create a vision and plan for the waterfront.
A member of that group, Joe Schiavo, said Ms. Bacal was involved in many projects to improve the space along the river and make it useful to the community, such as the renovation of the Race Street Pier and the proposed redesign for Penn's Landing.
She spent much of her career working at the Philadelphia publishing company J.B. Lippincott as associate director of advertising. There, she helped promote the first scholarly medical textbook on AIDS as well as a widely acclaimed book on cancer, colleagues recalled.
Whether in her professional or personal roles, Ms. Bacal was defined by her friends and colleagues as passionate and caring.
"You couldn't ask for a more true friend," said Joan Blumberg, who met Ms. Bacal almost 40 years ago, working together at J.B. Lippincott. "She really cared about you and just really remembered everything."
Ms. Bacal was described by several friends and colleagues as someone who was respectful but would push to see through the causes she cared about.
"She was very diligent in sticking up for what she believed in," said longtime friend Florence Klein.
"She was somebody, if something was important to her, she kept on it," said Mary Purcell, who worked with Ms. Bacal on the Society Hill Towers PAC. "...She worked her issues with respect and in a gentle way, but if she felt something needed to be done, she kept up. She was tenacious."
Ms. Bacal, a Philadelphian for most of her life, loved attending the Philadelphia Orchestra. She moved from her home in Elmer, N.J., to attend Temple University for one semester, her family said. Despite high marks in high school, her daughters said, Ms. Bacal didn't finish college because she could no longer afford it, and began looking for jobs at newspapers.
"She was fiercely independent and self-reliant to the very end," daughter Judith Bacal said.
In June, Ms. Bacal received a letter from Mayor Jim Kenney thanking her for her years of service to the city.
"I have always believed there is no better pursuit than a life of service to others, and I will be hard-pressed to find a better example of that pursuit personified," he wrote.
Ms. Bacal is survived by her daughters Judith Bacal and Jane Stein, son-in-law Andrew Stein, two grandchildren, and a sister, Evelyn Stark. She was predeceased by her husband, Murray, in 1976, and by her daughter Suzanne, in 2000.
A memorial service will take place on Sundayat 2:30 p.m. in the Hamilton Room of the Sheraton Philadelphia Society Hill Hotel, One Dock Street in Philadelphia (across from Society Hill Towers).
The family has asked that contributions in Ms. Bacal's name be made to Crown of Israel Synagogue, P.O. Box 552, Elmer, N.J., 08318.