Doris Snyder Bernheim, 89, of Mt. Airy, an advocate for women’s reproductive rights and a leader of health care organizations for women and families, died March 28 of heart failure at Chestnut Hill Hospital.
Mrs. Bernheim’s 35-year career included directing Planned Parenthood’s lower Bucks County health center in Bristol, followed by five years as national director of clinical services for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
She was a tireless advocate for women’s reproductive rights, and contributed to Planned Parenthood’s strategic collaboration in the historic Roe v Wade Supreme Court case that established women’s right to choose.
Mrs. Bernheim went on to lead Easter Seals Society of Bucks County, a nonprofit organization providing services, education and advocacy for children and adults with disabilities, through two decades of growth.
Renowned professionally for her executive and fund-raising abilities, Bernheim left Bucks County Easter Seals with a service center and preschool three times larger than when she started, and inspired many people who served with her.
“Doris was a strong woman, but she could communicate well with everyone, from children to adults,” said Beverly Carter, a colleague who worked with Bernheim throughout her 35-year career. “And she was generous. No job was too small or too big for her to care about. She was always right there, giving to anyone who needed it, alongside her employees.”
Mrs. Bernheim was born Mohrsville, Pa., and attended Perry Township High School, graduating in 1942 as valedictorian. She attended Albright College and graduated summa cum laude from Syracuse University in journalism.
Her first job was as a reporter for the Reading Times, covering what was then known as “women’s news.” She met John Bernheim, a fellow reporter at the Times, and they married in July 1949. John Bernheim went on to work as an editor for the Federal Bureau of Information Services in Tokyo, Japan, where Mrs. Bernheim quickly became fluent in Japanese and studied Sumi-e painting. The couple were divorced in 1976.
After retirement Mrs. Bernheim volunteered at the Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion in Germantown, reflecting her interest in architecture and history. Her own flower garden, grounds and Mt. Airy home were legendary in the neighborhood.
She is survived by a son, Alfred; a daughter, Emily; sisters Helen Dornblaser and Grace “Jackie” Miller, and two grandchildren. She was preceded in death by a sister, Emily; a brother, James Herbert, and by her former husband.
A celebration of Mrs. Bernheim’s life will be held at 707 Westview St., in West Mt. Airy, at 3 p.m. Saturday, May 17.
Donations in her memory will support low-income access to services at Planned Parenthood’s Bristol Health Center. Donations may be designated to the ”Doris Bernheim Fund” and sent to Keystone Planned Parenthood, P.O. Box 813, Trexlertown, PA. 18087. – WF
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