Sally Jane Adnopoz Gendler, horticulturalist, educator

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Sally Gendler, a resident of Chestnut Hill, died on April 22 at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital, due to complications Secondary Acute Myeloid Leukemia. She was 60.

Gendler was born in Hamden, Conn. to Jean and Robert Adnopoz.  She graduated from the Hopkins Day Prospect School in New Haven, Conn and Dartmouth College, where she was a member of both the varsity lacrosse team and Sigma Kappa sorority. She graduated in 1982.

Following college, Gendler began a career in television. She worked for ABC’s Wide World of Sports as a production assistant, covering Monday Night Football, college football, the Professional Golf Association Tour and two Olympics. After her job with ABC, she was hired as a production assistant by The Television Workshop to work on the PBS children’s show “3-2-1 Contact.”

Gendler left television production, to pursue an ED.M and M.S. in Special Education from Bank Street College of Education in Manhattan. 

Gendler met her husband, Steven, in 1987 while the two were stranded during an ice storm in New Haven. Steven was on a business trip and was invited to the home of Sally’s father. After they were married, Steven and Sally held the reception at Sally’s parents’ home where they had stayed during the storm. The couple moved to Philadelphia in 1989, and Sally began a career in early child education, first at United Cerebral Palsy in Chestnut Hill and then at Children’s Seashore House in New Jersey and later at the Hall Mercer Child and Parent Center of Pennsylvania Hospital.

Working and raising two daughters didn’t prevent Gendler from donating a great deal of time to numerous volunteer activities. She served as the Greene Towne School Board President in 1997 and was a member of the film selection committee of the Greater Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival. She was also a volunteer at the Morris Arboretum where she was an education guide and a co-chair of the arboretum’s 2019 Moonlight & Roses gala.

Gendler was also active in the Garden Club of Philadelphia, where she played multiple roles and won numerous awards, among them the Dorothy Sims Keith Award for Shows Participation and Stimulation of Horticulture Interest, The Heckscher Bowl for Horticulture and the Peggy Dilks Award for Exhibition. She was a Chair of Competitive Classes at the Philadelphia Flower Show, in which she loved participating and winning blue ribbons.  Sally volunteered for the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society for many years and also worked there.

Sally was a Judging Candidate for Horticulture; Garden Club of America. She held a Master Gardeners’ Certificate from Penn State Extension Philadelphia County.  When she could no longer garden safely, she used her talent to produce a striking series of botanical illustrations to help escape the rigors of leukemia treatment cycles. She honed her love of travel and culinary adventure while working at Robertson’s Travel and through a Post Graduate Certificate in Culinary Arts from the Arts Institute of Philadelphia.

Before she became ill, Gendler combined her love of early childhood education with her passion for gardening and horticulture. She created a program called Cooking from the Garden: Seed to Table that she implemented with the staff at the Mount Airy Recreation Center aka Mt. Airy Playground.  This after school program taught students at the Center (or Playground) to propagate vegetables and herbs from seed, care for the crops, and team together to use the weekly sequenced harvests to prepare a meal with an international flavor for themselves and their families. The program gained national attention and Gendler was selected by the American Horticultural Society's National Children and Youth Garden Symposium to present the program at its national conference.

Gendler is survived by her husband, Steve Gendler, daughters, Liza Gendler and Abigail Gendler, brother Stephen Adnopoz, parents Jean and Robert Adnopoz and nieces Kara, Dana and Hayley Adnopoz.   The family will hold a celebration of life when conditions permit.

In lieu of flowers, please consider donations to Sailing Heals (sailingheals.org); Morris Arboretum (www.morrisarboretum.org); or the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS.org)

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