Community pillar’s life an inspirational force
Friends of the late Jean Rita Staiman recalled her as not the tallest in stature but a giant among her peers.
A spirited force in local fundraising and voluntarism, Staiman, who passed away on Sept. 30, was the wife of Marvin Staiman. The couple forged an unbreakable connection and were dedicated to their community and to the Jewish State of Israel.
“While of physical stature, she was small, Staiman was the opposite, she was tall.”
That was part of a limerick shared by Sharon Trachte, wife of Dr. Kent Trachte, president of Lycoming College, who described Jean Staiman as one of the most powerful women in her life.
“As a couple, Jean and Marv were giants in our community for more than 75 years and served as extraordinary examples of commitment, love, family, and faith,” said Steven P. Johnson, president of UPMC Susquehanna.
“Jean’s support for Marv during his 40-plus years of service on the various boards and on the board of Susquehanna Health were as inspirational as they were practical,” Johnson said. “Marv’s wisdom and insight were only eclipsed by Jean’s quick wit, engaging smile, and twinkle in her eye,” he said, adding, “We will miss her from this Earth, but forever be inspired by her example.”
“Williamsport has truly lost a pillar of our community,” said William J. Martin, who sat on many boards with the Staimans. “In my opinion, she was the epitome of all that was good about this community.”
Staiman donated funds to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and made many other contributions toward Judaism and semitism.
Recipient of the Torch of Liberty Award from the Anti-Defamation League of B’Nai B’rith, along with her husband, the Staimans are among founders at Hadassah Hospital, Mt. Scopus, Jerusalem, and Legacy of Light Builders at the Holocaust
Museum in Washington, D.C., said Cynthia Staiman Vosk, their daughter.
As president of the Eastern Region of Hadassah, Staiman forged lasting friendships up and down the East Coast for the organization supportive of Judaism, world aid and the environment.
The couple had a love of Israel and Ohev Sholom Synagogue, their place of worship in Williamsport.
“I had the pleasure of being with Jean since the early 1980s at Ohev Sholom Synagogue and Hadassah,” said Denise Schwartz, wife of Dr. Sheldon Schwartz.
“She mentored many people including myself,” she said.
Schwartz said she often would have meals with her friend who was never without a smile.
Polite but quick to end conversations on the telephone, Staiman would rather get off the line and serve food to guests, Schwartz said.
She was not one to carry a cellphone or use a computer, preferring to write notes or letters and send them by U.S. mail.
Once, while Schwartz and Staiman were helping out the Greater Lycoming County Habitat for Humanity, Staiman asked Schwartz if she would join a women’s building group that she had heard about.
“I bowed out and was surprised she was trying to help, but I couldn’t turn her down for much else,” Schwartz said.
Then, there was the cuteness factor.
“When a friend from out of town was widowed, Jean fixed her up with a local dentist,” Schwartz said. The result: A successful match made, and a new person joined the community, she said.
“One time my family was overheard talking about Montoursville in a New York City restaurant.
“As there is only one Montoursville, the lady wanted to tell us she had lived in Montoursville many years ago, had some family crises, and Jean was wonderful to her. Did I know her?
“She said to ‘be sure to tell Jean’ that she’s very happy now,” Schwartz said.
Staiman tried for years to keep up with tasks that she started many years ago, such as the elegant meals on a Sunday afternoon in November for Hadassah donors, and arranging an interesting speaker who usually was persuaded to come from out of town.
“She was so disappointed when she had to give some things up just recently,” Schwartz said.
“A force of inspiration,” said Davie Jane Gilmour, president of the Pennsylvania College of Technology. “Jean was a remarkable woman,” she said. “She was generous in spirit and passionately dedicated to her family and to her community. Knowing Jean was a bonus in my life.”
“She was a kind, understanding woman and a great partner to Marvin,” said Robin and David Troisi. “They met as children and the partnership never ended … you never thought of one of them without thinking of the other one.”
Intelligent and determined to fight for causes she believed in, Staiman was a summa cum laude graduate of Williamsport Dickinson Junior College, and awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree by Lycoming College in 2016, said Kent Trachte.
“Jean’s extraordinary record of service to her church and her community exemplified the commitment to service that lies at the heart of the college’s mission,” Trachte said. “Indeed she embodied the heart and soul of Lycoming College.
“Awarding Jean this honorary degree is one of my most cherished memories from my time as president of the college.”
Her interaction with friends in the city was renowned.
“My husband and I were blessed to have forged a friendship with Marvin and Jean Staiman,” said Sandra Tosca, district executive with the state Department of Transportation District 3 in Montoursville.
“Jean was an amazing woman that I admired greatly and will miss dearly,” Tosca said.
“Her experiences in life made her the woman she was: Strong, determined, and not afraid to speak her mind,” Tosca said.
“She had a warm smile and kind heart that was evident in the many charitable and cultural organizations she supported in the community,” Tosca said. “Her passing is a great loss to her family, friends, and the community she selflessly served for many decades. She had a huge heart that showed itself in many philanthropic acts toward the community.”
John Troisi, a close friend, said the bond between the Staimans was unbreakable.
“Jean was partnered with her husband in every project he authored and was an active participant in many community organizations,” John Troisi said. “She will be recognized as a genius and for her kindness.”
Her commitment to causes across the spectrum of the city was remarkable, said one friend.
“Jean was an incredible woman,” said Jim Campbell, a former executive at Hope Enterprises.
“She and husband Marvin have hearts of gold in helping all people throughout our community,” Campbell said.
Above and beyond admiration, Staiman was “revered” by everyone who knew her for her community spirit, he said.
While Staiman supported many public causes, her actions in private spoke volumes to those who were recipients.
An accomplished author, Staiman’s piece on family life in Judaism was published in the National Catholic Magazine. She also edited commemorative journals for the synagogue and Hadassah.
Staiman was described as a beautiful, strong and loving woman by her friend, Virgil Probasco. Probasco said he met her in 1999, and said over the past two decades he learned to love and cherish her and appreciate that she was much more than a loving wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.
“Jean was a complete woman who could and would speak frankly about the ills of this community and world,” Probasco said. “She worked hard for the many organizations that she served and did so in the kindest, most loving way.”
She was not one to be ignored, especially if she asked for help — “you could not turn her down,” Probasco said.
Carol Schultz said Staiman offered her their swimming pool during a time when she needed recreation for exercise purposes. That wasn’t all. Schultz began a macrobiotic diet, one that required strict adherence to what kind of food to eat. A kosher cook, Staiman delivered meals to her door.
“It was unbelievable,” Schultz said. “That was how she supportive she was to everyone who knew her.”
The two women chaired the Lycoming County United Way campaigns a year apart.
“I was honored to be have her as a mentor and teammate,” she said.
For her contribution to the Community Arts Center, Staiman was once a recipient of the Director’s Chair Award, given to those few who have placed the welfare of the theater high on their list.
“Jean was one of the most beautiful, genuine persons I have known,” said Charline Pulizzi, another recipient of the coveted award. “She will be missed by many, certainly for what she has done for the community, but also for supporting causes that she truly believed in.”