Elizabeth Y. Gentieu, teacher and community leader

Obituaries January 24, 2013 0 Comments

Elizabeth Y. Gentieu, 91, a retired teacher and librarian and a former president of Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion museum, died Nov. 25 of brain cancer at the home of a daughter in Germantown.

Mrs. Gentieu retired in 1986 as librarian at the Conwell Middle School in Kensington after a long career as a high school English teacher in Philadelphia and suburban schools. After starting her teaching career in Lewes, Del., she went on to teach at Yeadon High School and John Bartram High School.

Interrupting her career to raise a family, she returned to teaching English at Cheltenham High School and then at her alma mater, Olney High School. In the 1980s she received a master’s degree in library science from Rutgers University.

As president of Maxwell Mansion, Mrs. Gentieu was instrumental in saving the building from the wrecking ball. Using her organizational skills and gathering a supportive group of friends and neighbors, she helped to make the site the successful house museum it is today.

She started “Dickens Christmas,” a fundraising December open house at the mansion featuring readings from the works of Charles Dickens. For her leadership, she was awarded the museum’s Maxwell Award in l990.

During the 1930s and 1940s she was a member of the Young People’s Interracial Fellowship Project organized by the Society of Friends and was part of a “Tolerance Trio,” consisting of one white Protestant, one black Protestant and one Jewish member, that would address various groups in an attempt to dispel rumors and prejudice rampant at the time in Philadelphia.

Born in what is now the Northern Liberties section of Philadelphia to parents who were immigrants from Galicia in Poland, she attended Olney High School and won a full scholarship to Temple University, where she met her future husband, the late Norman Gentieu. The couple in 1951 purchased a 100-year-old Victorian twin in Germantown where Mrs. Gentieu lived until her death.

She also served as president of the Lingelbach Home and School Association while her children were students there.

A music lover and an avid traveler, both with her children and in her later years, she crisscrossed the globe, visiting South America, China, Russia and most of Western Europe.

She is survived by daughters Mary Meloscia, of Germantown, and Eve Gentieu, of Mt. Pleasant, S.C.; a son, Peter Gentieu, of Alexandria, Va., and seven grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, March 2, at St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, 817 N. 7th St., in Philadelphia. Memorial donations may be made to St. Stephen Cathedral, 8598 Verree Rd., Philadelphia, PA 19119. – WF

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