July 30, 2009


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Francis J. Malley

Francis Joseph “Frank” Malley, 67, a structural steel detailer and a folksinger and storyteller who appeared frequently at the Mermaid Inn in Chestnut Hill and other area venues, died July 25 of cancer at his home in West Mt. Airy.

For 35 years Mr. Malley operated his own steel-detailing firm in Mt. Airy, providing steel companies and architects with structural steel construction drawings.

In later years, however, he was better known as a singer and musician appearing at the Philadelphia Folk Festival and the Traditional Irish Music and Dance Festival sponsored by the Philadelphia Ceili Group.

While his repertoire consisted mainly of traditional ballads from the British Isles, he also enjoyed performing cowboy songs from the American West. Two CDs of his music — “Live at the Mermaid” and “The Captain’s Old Dog” — were released in 2000 and 2006 respectively.

Mr. Malley’s daughter, Courtney Malley, of Chestnut Hill, a singer who performs with several musical groups, said her father was the inspiration for her career.

“He was performing and singing around me my whole life,” she said. “There are songs I know because I grew up with them.”

Mr. Malley was a longtime member of the Philadelphia Ceili Group, and served as chairman of its Irish Music and Dance Festival for the past 10 years. He also was a member for more than 35 years of the Philadelphia Folk Song Society.

Jim McGill, of Chestnut Hill, a board member of the Ceili Group and a former president of the Irish Center in Mt. Airy, said Mr. Malley “had a passion for traditional Irish culture … and for perfection!”

“Whatever he did, he wanted it done right,” McGill said. “When you gave him a job, he followed it through to the last detail.”

Mr. Malley was an active member of the Project Learn community when his children were students there and was personally involved in the renovation the building at 6525 Germantown Ave. after it was purchased in 1972 by the school.

Francine Fox, of Mt. Airy, one of Project Learn’s founding teachers, said Mr. Malley played a key role in the school’s early years.

“Project Learn is a cooperative,” she said, “and without parents like Frank, the school would not have survived.”

Mr. Malley was born in Norristown and raised on “The Highlands” estate in Ambler, where his father was the resident farmer. Both of his parents, the late Patrick and Katherine Duffy Malley, were born in Ireland.

He graduated from St. Matthew’s High School in Conshohocken and served in the U.S. Army Reserve during the Vietnam War. After his discharge, he worked for a time with the Fred Fisher steel-detailing firm in Philadelphia before starting his own business.

In addition to his daughter, Mr. Malley is survived by a son, Bryan Patrick Malley; brothers John and James Malley; his longtime companion, Connie Koppe; his former wife, Rose Marie Burke Malley, and five grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 1, at the Irish Center, Emlen Street and Carpenter Lane in Mt. Airy. Memorial donations may be made to any member of “Team Canada” for the Breast Cancer 3Day walk at


William L. Griffin

William L. Griffin, 87, of Elkins Park, owner of a window-cleaning business that had many customers in Chestnut Hill, died July 21 of cancer at Keystone Hospice in Wyndmoor.

Mr. Griffin is survived by his wife, Rosalie; a son, Patrick; a daughter, Beverly Bey, and four grandchildren.

A private funeral will be held at the convenience of the family.


Lenore P. Schwartz

Lenore Propper Schwartz, 88, formerly of Chestnut Hill and Mt. Airy, a business executive, actress and community volunteer, died July 16 of heart failure at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York, where she had been a resident for the past two years.

After serving as publisher of the Knitting Mill News in Philadelphia, Mrs. Schwartz went on to start three companies in which she served as president. In 1965 she founded Lenore Propper Imports, an importer of eveningwear from the South Pacific, and in 1979 she founded the Conshohocken Cotton Co., a manufacturer of the patented Softball Yarns, and Cot’nwash, Inc.

Mrs. Schwartz developed and patented the Cot’nwash detergent formula in 1985, which was rated #1 in Consumer Reports in 1988. Her detergent legacy continues as the formula now serves as the base for Dropps laundry products.

Born Lenore Forstadt in Philadelphia, she graduated from Upper Darby High School and was a scholarship student at Carnegie Mellon University. She studied with Stella Adler, an actress and acclaimed acting teacher, in the first year of the New School for Social Research. She also graduated from the New York School for Radio and Television where she studied television direction.

In the more popular days of radio programming, Mrs. Schwartz was connected with the Children’s Theatre of New York and produced transcriptions for many talent agencies. She was instrumental as assistant producer in raising funds for the stage productions of “Anna Lucasta” and “On the Town”.

During World War II, Mrs. Schwartz served as a lieutenant with the U.S. Army Special Services in Germany. She directed radio shows for the Army overseas, and, in her role as an actress technician, brought entertainment to American troops stationed in Regensburg, Germany.

After returning from Germany, she began a career at Metro Goldwyn Mayer Studios eventually becoming a vice president and head of the public domain story department.

Mrs. Schwartz’s love of the theater always brought her back to the stage. She was an actress with and board member of the Philadelphia Drama Guild of Philadelphia. She performed in “The Subject was Roses” by Frank Gilmore, “Crawling Arnold” by Jules Feiffer and “Clerambard” by Marcel Ayme. She was also the founder of the Stage Door Canteen in Philadelphia.

Mrs. Schwartz was a member of the auxiliary board of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for more than 10 years and was a founder in 1953 of the hospital’s Daisy Day program, which still continues.  She also was co-founder and co-chairman of Philadelphia Chapter of the Plays for Living organization, where she served for more than 20 years. She also served on the National Board of Plays for Living.

Mrs. Schwartz was married to the late William van Berg of New York, the late Judge Leonard Michael Propper of Philadelphia, and the late Ira Schwartz of Philadelphia.

She is survived by a son Jonathan Propper of Chestnut Hill; a daughter, Diane van Berg of New York; a stepson, Nathan Schwartz of Newtown Square; a sister, Janet Malis of Longboat Key, Fla., and three grandchildren.

A celebration service is planned for the fall. Memorial donations may be made to the College of Fine Arts, Office of the Dean, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890.  Please indicate that the donation is in memory of Lenore Propper Schwartz.