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Edith Wattenmaker

Edith WattenmakerEdith Wattenmaker, the daughter of the late Rabbi Chaim and Rose Davidovich, passed away Sept. 24, 2015 in Pittsburgh.

Ms. Wattenmaker lived in the Pennsylvania city for more than 60 years, but the family’s roots were in Hungary. She was born there and was taken as an infant in 1927 to Buffalo, NY by her mother.

There they were reunited with her father, who had arrived several months earlier. He had accepted a position as the spiritual leader of Buffalo’s largest Orthodox synagogue, Congregation Anshe Zedek, whose members were mostly Hungarian immigrants. He also became the Jewish chaplain at Attica State Prison and at municipal jails, hospitals and a facility for the mentally ill.

Family health issues required relocation in 1945 to Denver with less cold and snow and cleaner air. Ms. Wattenmaker’s father became the rabbi at Yeshiva Toras Chaim in Denver and the religious education director at the Children’s Asthma Research Institute and Hospital. Rabbi and Mrs. Davidovich moved to Jerusalem in 1968. Mrs. Davidovich passed away in 1982 and Rabbi Davidovich in 1994.

Ms. Wattenmaker attended the state teachers college in Buffalo for a year. She finished college at DU, then earned master’s degrees in social work and public health. She was an intern at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem and at St. Francis Hospital in Pittsburgh.

She was a lifetime learner. At the time of her husband’’s passing, she was learning Italian. She was proud of the fact that all four of her children put “doctor” before their names, two as physicians and two as professors.

She worked as a medical social worker at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital and Bellevue Hospital, where she met her future husband, Dr. Bernard Wattenmaker, a staff psychiatrist. They were married and moved to Pittsburgh, where Dr. Wattenmaker took a position at the Western Psychiatric Clinic and Institute. He also was on the faculty of the University of Pittsburgh and in private practice, 1954-1997, when he passed away.

In Pennsylvania, Ms. Wattenmaker left social work to study public health out of frustration at seeing children from poor families removed from their homes because of their poverty or being in non-traditional families.

““The depth with which she cared about others, her continuous quest for knowledge, and her generous spirit were constant, unwavering characteristics throughout her life,”’’ her son William said.

After her husband’’s passing, Ms. Wattenmaker insisted on living independently in the house that they bought early in their marriage, despite physical disabilities stemming from polio that she contracted as a toddler on a visit to Hungary. She survived the first attack, but the disease returned years later as post-polio syndrome.

This eventually deprived her of the use of her legs and made using her hands difficult. She seldom mentioned it, and it didn’t prevent her from traveling to Israel and elsewhere, attending concerts, becoming an ardent fan of her city’s professional hockey and football teams, and staying involved in civic affairs. One of her causes in Pittsburgh was establishing neighborhood ice rinks, where young people could play a sport that was impossible for her as a girl.

She is survived by daughters, Dr. Suzanne Mankowitz of Teaneck, NJ, and Dr. Patricia Wattenmaker of Charlottesville, Va; sons, Dr. Ian Wattenmaker of Leesburg, Va., and Nashville, Tenn., and Dr. William Wattenmaker; sisters, Dorothy Davidson of Denver and Rita Alicandro of New Bern, NC; brother, Nathan, of Efrat, Israel; six grandchildren; and numerous nieces and nephews.

Memorial contributions may be made to Yeshiva Toras Chaim in Denver.

Copyright © 2015 by the Intermountain Jewish News

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