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February 19th, 2009
Milwaukee native Frema Pittelman (nee Taxey) died on Feb. 5 at the age of 97.
She was born and raised in Bay View above Taxey’s Department Store, which her family owned. She graduated with honors from Bay View High School and from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1932 with degrees in journalism and education.
In 1939, she married Harry Pittelman, owner of Pittelman’s Shoes for the Family, which had several locations in West Allis and Milwaukee.
She worked as a social worker for the County Outdoor Relief program until 1941, when her daughter was born. She returned to work in 1962 when she took a position as the first female teacher at Boy’s Technical High School (now Bradley Technical High School). She taught English there for 14 years, until her retirement in 1976.
An early and ardent supporter of women’s rights, Pittelman enjoyed telling how the male teachers resented losing a bathroom when she was assigned to teach at the school.
“People whom I don’t even know hear my last name and ask if my mother was an English teacher at Boy’s Tech,” said her son Joel (Susan) Pittelman of Milwaukee.
“They always share stories with me about the impact that she had on their lives. Most recently, someone told me that when he shook her hand at the graduation ceremony, my mother said, ‘What kind of a handshake is that? You have to have a firm grip!’ He told me that he has used a firm grip ever since.”
“Family and friends will remember Frema’s zest for life, her commitment to living every moment to its fullest and her erudite vocabulary. She continues to be an inspiration to all who knew her,” her family said.
As a volunteer, she did publicity for Hadassah, the National Council of Jewish Women and Congregation Emanu-El B’ne Jeshurun over many years. She was also a member of Congregation Shalom, the Jewish Home and Care Center, Milwaukee Jewish Federation, Jewish Women International, LX Club of the North Shore and the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center.
A participant in the JCC’s Senior Adult Fun and Fitness classes for many years, she “was an inspiration to others who marveled at her energy and enthusiasm at her advanced age,” according to her family.
She continued taking exercise classes at Chai Point, her home for the past five years, until two weeks before her death, her family said.
She was preceded in death by husband Harry Pittelman, in 1988, and by sister Mauricea Golkin, in 2002.
In addition to her son, she is survived by daughter Maris “Mitzi” (Dr. Richard) Bootzin of Tucson, Ariz; four granddaughters; six great-grandchildren; and two great-great grandchildren.
The family appreciates memorial contributions to Hadassah-Milwaukee Chapter, Congregation Shalom, or the charity of the donor’s choice.