August 6, 2009


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The Chestnut Hill Local
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Debra P. Symonette

Debra Pinder Symonette, 52, of East Mt. Airy, an elementary school teacher, architect and craftsperson, died July 22 of complications of endometrial cancer at Chestnut Hill Hospital.

Mrs. Symonette, who was diagnosed with the disease about a year ago, had recently completed her second year of teaching at the William Penn Charter School in the East Falls section of Philadelphia.

Earlier, she had taught for two decades at Greene Street Friends School in Germantown and, for a time, had served as the school’s admissions director.

Mrs. Symonette’s husband, Alan Symonette, a Philadelphia lawyer and labor and employment arbitrator, said his wife was “a big believer in the Quaker value that there is the light of God in everyone, no matter who they are.”

“She understood that kids have different ways of learning,” he said. “She believed that schools should complement the learning style of each child.”

Before beginning her teaching career, Mrs. Symonette had worked as an architect with the Philadelphia firms of Alesker and Reiff, Livingston Rosenwinkel and the Vitetta Group, and had gained a reputation as a skilled freehand drafter. She was one of a relatively few African-American women working in the field.

Mrs. Symonette also was a committed and creative craftsperson, particularly in the needlework area. At First United Methodist Church of Germantown, where she was a member, she established a chapter of the Prayer Shawl Ministry, which combines knitting and crocheting with prayer on behalf of people – especially women – in special need of such comfort. The ministry will be renamed in honor of Mrs. Symonette.

At FUMCOG, Mrs. Symonette also founded the Paper Crane Studio, a crafts project that encouraged church members and neighbors to come together in quiet reflection to engage in doll-making, basket weaving, calligraphy, origami, quilt-making and other crafts taught by Mrs. Symonette.

She also taught a variety of crafts at Mt. Airy Learning Tree.

Mrs. Symonette was a graduate of Friends Select School, the Philadelphia High School for Girls and Swarthmore College. She received a master’s degree in architecture from Rice University.

She was an active member of United Methodist Women and served on the board of Weaver’s Way Co-op in Mt. Airy. She was also actively involved with the Nursing Mothers Association and the Babysitting Cooperative.

In addition to her husband, Mrs. Symonette is survived by sons Andrew, Matthew and Jason; her parents, Florence Sheppard and Herbert Pinder; sisters Stephanie Pinder-Amaker, Kristen Pinder and Laurel Pinder Jones, and a brother, Herbert Pinder.

A memorial service was held July 31 at First United Methodist Church of Germantown. Memorial donations may be made to any of the following: Greene Street Friends School, Germantown Friends School, William Penn Charter School, Abington Friends School, Swarthmore College or the First United Methodist Church of Germantown.


Marvin Thall

Marvin Thall, 83, who with his late wife, Harriet, formerly operated the Erdenheim Bicycle Center, died July 27 at his home in Chestnut Hill.

Mr. Thall and his wife started the business in 1980 as a family-oriented, recreational bicycle shop and soon developed a reputation for providing safe and reliable bikes for all ages and for all kinds of cycling.

The Thalls sold the business in 1992 and retired, but continued to remain active in progressive causes, such as civil rights and the peace movement.

Mr. Thall wrote poetry and took part in poetry and sculpture workshops at local colleges. A collection of his poems, titled “Passage,” was published in 2007.

A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., he attended Lafayette High School and enlisted in the Army after graduation. He graduated from Pennsylvania State University with a degree in electrical engineering in 1948 and married the former Harriet Cohen the same year.

Mrs. Thall died in January.

Mr. Thall is survived by a son, Michael Freed-Thall of Vermont; a daughter, Rachel Grossman of Vermont, and two grandchildren.

Memorial contributions may be made to Veterans for Peace, Chapter 31,11 Price’s Lane, Rose Valley, PA 19065.


Parker M. Seymour

Parker M. Seymour, 66, an emergency room physician at Chestnut Hill Hospital for 30 years, died July 28 of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at his home in Chestnut Hill.

Dr. Seymour retired from the hospital in 2002, when he became ill, but continued as president of Chestnut Hill Emergency Associates.

Dr. Seymour was raised in Toledo, Ohio, and in his junior year in an engineering program at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute decided to become a physician. He received a bachelor’s degree in science from the University of Toledo and a medical degree from Thomas Jefferson University. He interned at Chestnut Hill Hospital.

He served as a Navy doctor aboard the Inchon, a Marine helicopter transport, in the Mediterranean from 1971 to 1973. After he was discharged he joined the emergency room staff at Chestnut Hill Hospital.

Dr. Seymour is survived by his wife of 27 years, Evelyn Berry Seymour, and sons Peter and Michael.

A memorial service was held Aug. 3 at the Epiphany Chapel at Chestnut Hill Academy. Memorial donations may be sent to Chestnut Hill Academy, 500 W. Willow Grove Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19118, for the Parker M. Seymour Memorial Fund.