June Walker was in working mode two weeks ago.
On July 21, she presided over a farewell reception for outgoing Israeli U.N. Ambassador Dan Gillerman. Two days later she led a meeting of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which she chairs.
Late in the week, however, tests revealed the cancer she had fought for seven years had advanced too far to allow for a new round of treatment. Walker, of Rockaway, N.J., died Tuesday at 74.
"She was such a remarkable fighter," said Walker's rabbi, Amy Joy Small. "She did not let it stop her. She had things to do."
Walker, a former president of Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America, became only the second female to lead the conference last year when she replaced investment banker Harold Tanner as chairperson.
"Leaders of the United States and Israel held her in high regard and respected the person even more than the positions she held," said Malcolm Hoenlein, the Presidents Conference's executive vice chairman, in a statement. "They, as we, recognized immediately her integrity, her intelligence and the sincerity of her advocacy. I am personally, as is the conference collectively, devastated by her passing."
Walker's nomination in April 2007 as chairperson was something of a departure for the Presidents Conference, the main communal umbrella body on foreign policy, which in recent years has been headed by prominent businessmen.
A respiratory therapist, former college professor and health-care administrator, Walker was a longtime community activist whose involvement with Hadassah began as a teenager.
In June, Walker was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Haifa in recognition of her years of work on behalf of Israel, and in particular her devotion to health care in the Jewish state. Walker was one of seven honorees, including a former director of the Mossad intelligence agency and three university professors, but was chosen to deliver remarks on behalf of the group.
"She told me that she was determined she was going to be strong and healthy to get to Haifa and receive this award because it was for her symbolic of her lifetime achievement, something that represented for her a culmination of her accomplishments," said Small, who accompanied Walker to Israel for the ceremony.
Small recalled that the honorees were to walk across a balcony and down a flight of stairs, a feat that she knew would be challenging for Walker, who was suffering back and leg pain as a result of her disease.
"She held herself with such dignity and such honor you would never have known that she was suffering," Small recalled. "And she was beaming."
Later, Small wrote that Walker was "this generation's Golda Meir" in an article published on the Web site of the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation.
Walker rose through a succession of positions at Hadassah before assuming the presidency in 2003, a post she held for four years. Under her leadership, the organization raised $75 million for a $210 million inpatient tower at its hospital at Ein Kerem, Jerusalem, and completed a $48 million emergency medicine facility in Jerusalem.
She also grew the student body at the Hadassah College of Technology in Jerusalem from 600 to 2,000 students.
"It is with a very heavy heart that we begin to mourn June Walker, a unique leader and a wonderful friend to many," said Walker's successor as Hadassah president, Nancy Falchuk. "June once said that Hadassah embodied everything she was interested in: Israel, women's empowerment, Judaism, education, medicine and Zionism. But June personified values that Hadassah stands for: pride, dedication, and spirit enhanced by her own personal grit."
Walker is the first Presidents Conference chairperson to die in office. The group says it has no succession plan.
"We've never had it," Hoenlein said, adding that when top officials have become incapacitated in the past, former chairmen have temporarily stepped in.
Walker taught at Passaic County Community College in New Jersey and was the director of inservice education for pulmonary medicine at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital. She is also a member of the Citizens Committee for Bio-Medical Ethics, the American Lung Association and the Reconstructionist Congregation Beth Hatikvah of Summit, N.J., according to her official Hadassah biography.
She is survived by her husband, Barrett; son, Davi; daughters, Julie Richman and Ellen; and six grandchildren. The funeral was held Aug. 31.
-- Ben Harris, Jewish Telegraphic Agency
Oluwaninse Abhay Charan Adeyemi died July 8 at 11. He is survived by his father, Ayodele; mother, Adrienne Liberman; sister, Parama Liberman; and brothers, Manjari and Daniel Liberman. Hillside
Jacob Barad died July 12 at 75. He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth; and sons, David and Glenn. Hillside
Irene Barton died July 15 at 85. She is survived by her sons, Fred and Mark. Hillside
Mervyn Max Becker died July 21 at 78. He is survived by his wife, Yetta; son, Aaron; daughter, Carla; one grandchild; and sister, Elaine. Groman
Lynda Belasco died July 21 at 61. She is survived by her husband, Steven; son, Joshua; and uncle, Irving (Charlotte) Nudell. Malinow and Silverman
Dr. Murray Gill Boobar died July 7 at 85. He is survived by his wife, Helen; and daughters, Robin Lappen and Mindy Cahan. Hillside
Larry Chalfin died July 20 at 68. He is survived by his wife, Vicki; son, Charles; and daughter, Leah Gordon. Hillside
Edward Chersky died July 17 at 83. He is survived by his wife, Evelyn; and sons, Robert, Barry and Stewart. Hillside
Mania Sara Cymer died died July 12 at 97. She is survived by her sons, Harry and Max. Hillside
Ilse Erlanger died July 13 at 97. She is survived by her daughter, Susan (David) Leveton; and grandchildren, Steven Leveton and Stephanie Kinedale. Hillside
Frances Gordon died July 15 at 97. She is survived by her nephew, Peter Spring. Hillside
Dr. Lawrence Gosenfeld died July 19 at 67. He is survived by his friends. Hillside
Victoria Harris died July 21 at 100. She is survived by her sons, Godfrey (Barbara), Micheal and David. Hillside
Philip Kozin died July 20 at 96. He is survived by his daughter, Gail (Stan) Holander; and son Howard. Hillside
Anna Landsberg died July 12 at 92. She is survived by her sons, Abe and Raymond. Hillside
Charles Robert Lever died July 16 at 78. He is survived by his wife, Pamela; and stepson, Mark Neilson. Hillside
Diane Rita Mehlman died July 17 at 75. She is survived by her son, Lon; and daughter, Dina. Hillside
Emily Bell Miller dies July 14 at 93. She is survived by her daughter, Joyce (Stephen) Ranger; and granddaughter, Courtney Ranger. Hillside
Terry Lee Miller died July 12 at 69. She is survived by her daughters, Allison and Julie; four grandchildren; and companion, Norman Lieberman. Hillside
Gerald David Novorr died July 13 at 91. He is survived by his wife, Pearl; son, James; and daughter, JoAnn. Hillside
Bernard Rumack died July 21 at 87. He is survived by his daughter, Robin; and sister, Vella Bass. Hillside
Lillian Schafer died July 13 at 86. She is survived by her daughters, Sue Sanders, Lyn Caron and Elaine Thomassian. Hillside
Rubin Schieren died July 21 at 93. He is survived by his daughter, Phyllis (Ben) Berkley; son, George (Ellen); and seven grandchildren. Malinow and Silverman
Ira Schulman died July 20 at 81. He is survived by his sons, Alan and Russell; daughter, Leslie Mendoza; sisters, Davida Racine and Diane Friend; and partner, Nora Graham. Hillside
Mike Simon died July 10 at 75. He is survived by his wife, Angela; sister, Billie Evenas; and stepdaughter, Patricia Garza.
Harry Talsky died July 17 at 93. He is survived by his children, Leland and Martha. Hillside
Marla Lynn Waldman died July 20 at 51. She is survived by her father, Gerald; mother, Barbara; and brothers, Ron and Craig. Hillside
Hilda Weiner died July 15 at 93. She is survived by her sons, Arnold (Elaine) and Edward (Susan). Hillside
We welcome your feedback.
Your information will not be shared or sold without your consent. Get all the details.
Terms of Service
JewishJournal.com has rules for its commenting community.Get all the details.
JewishJournal.com reserves the right to use your comment in our weekly print publication.