Dene Stern Mayer was born October 1st, 1925, in Philadelphia, PA. Her parents were Edith Katzenberg Stern and David Stern, DDS. Edith attended the Curtis Institute (music conservatory) where she majored in Piano. She was also the Director of Tripp Lake Camp, a summer camp in Maine, for many years. David was a dentist by trade but was best known as a widely published poet. He was a member of the Franklin Inn Club, an exclusive club for novelists, poets, scholars, and journalists. David and Edith were talented and popular within the family and in the Philadelphia and Elkins Park communities at large. Dene Stern grew up in Elkins Park, PA, with her brother, Peter, and extended family of Kinds and Katzenbergs whom she adored. Dene attended Western College for Women, now part of Miami University (of Ohio), where she majored in Art History and minored in English Literature. After college she returned to Philadelphia and worked at Macy’s and then Gimbels. She met her husband, David Bernard Mayer, at a square dance, and more again shortly thereafter at her own home at the invitation of her father. David Mayer was from Detroit, had served in the Navy in WW2 as a Radio Operator, had graduated from Oberlin College, and was a talented singer, musician, actor, and mathematician. When David Mayer asked David Stern for Dene’s hand in marriage, the elder David, being a dentist, famously asked to look at the younger David’s teeth, to which young David responded to his future father-in-law (both being punsters), that one should not look a gift future son-in-law in the mouth. Dene and David were married on February 20th 1955. They bought a model home in Barclay Farm, Cherry Hill, NJ. David worked for RCA (Radio Corporation of America) in Moorestown, NJ. The RCA building housed one of the first computers in the world, a giant room of vacuum tubes and transistors. On top of the building was mounted a large RADAR, housed inside a white geodesic dome, one of a number of such installations along the Atlantic coast that were used as part of the US Early Warning System during the Cold War. Dene would say that David worked under the golf ball. Dene also worked for the local Democratic Party and was an active member of the PTA (Parent Teachers Association). She ran for and was elected to the Cherry Hill School Board, the only Democrat on the Board, beating out a Republican incumbent. During her years on the School Board, many schools were built in the growing town, and to this day her name can be found on plaques in numerous school entrances in Cherry Hill. In 1963, Dene was asked by the local newspaper, the Cherry Hill News, to travel with a group of housewives to Washington, DC, where Martin Luther King told 250,000 protestors, “I Have A Dream." Her fascinating article summarizing the day was published the next day. In 1967 David left his job at RCA and joined IBM, moving to Chappaqua,NY, with their two children, Peter and Lisa, aged 7 and 9. Dene again became an active participant in the local Democratic Party. She also worked at Grafflin Elementary School, and then at the Chappaqua high school, Horace Greeley. She had a number of jobs but was most remembered there as a much-loved assistant in the Language Department for many years. Dene also became the Supervisor of Elections in Chappaqua where she met Hillary, Chelsea & Bill Clinton. As Supervisor, she was designated to sign them in at the polls. As a hostess with the mostess, Dene hosted frequent dinner parties for family and friends. She was a good cook, and she self-published two cookbooks, "Blubs & Slurps" and "I'm Getting Polyunsaturated Over You," recipes from which continue to be hits with family and friends. Regionally famous recipes include Aunt Susie’s Cheesecake, Pumpkin Chiffon Pie, Golda’s Detroit Women’s Exchange Hot Fudge Sauce, Company Casserole, Mary Glodt’s Brown Rice Casserole, and Claire Holland’s Cornell University Granola. Recipes came complete with an anecdote. The second of these cookbooks was written after David developed heart disease and Dene changed their diet and lifestyle. She herself changed her life entirely, becoming one of the most physically fit members of the family well into her 90s. Notably, at 85, she broke her hip when she slipped and fell during step-aerobics. After that the aerobics instructors agreed to let her back in only if she promised not to use the step. At barely 5’ tall at that age, she was proud of the fact that she could out-pace women half her age or less. In both Cherry Hill and Chappaqua Dene was also a league bowler, winning several trophies. She was also a baseball fanatic. Her team was the Mets. At night she could be heard stomping her feet and yelling at the television, with choice phrases such as, “Swing! Aargh!” After Dene retired, she began to travel with family and friends. She visited many countries including Costa Rica, Egypt, Czech Republic, Italy, China and Vietnam with dear friend Joanne Clementoni and cherished family members John and Barbara Mayer, among others. She had a close relationship with her brother and sister-in-law, Peter Stern and Joan Johnston-Stern, who were also successful leaders of the Democratic Party outside of Philadelphia. A lifelong supporter of human rights and environmental protection, Dene supported these causes with her actions, her money, and her vote. In the 1970’s, when David bought her an electric garage door opener for her birthday one year, she made him return it, noting that it was a waste of electricity. For decades she picked up of cans and bottles on her daily walks around her neighborhood to bring them by the dozens to the recycling center. After she retired and moved to Medford Leas, she volunteered regularly in a thrift shop in a rough part of Camden, NJ, even though she had her purse stolen there, twice. To the very end of her life, she supported numerous human rights and environmental causes. She would write $40 checks to (literally) hundreds of charities every year. Dene eventually moved from Chappaqua to Medford Leas, a large, Quaker-run retirement community in Medford, New Jersey. It was close to where she had grown up and lived for the first half of her life, and was where her own parents retired to some 30 years before. Medford Leas was as beloved a place to Dene as were Elkins Park, Barclay Farm (Cherry Hill), and Chappaqua, and the staff adored her; many reached out to tell us so over the years. Dene had a cute, charming, and funny personality. Dene Stern Mayer is survived by her children, Lisa Dene Mayer-Thompson (Roddy) and Peter Mayer (Jennifer), and four grandchildren, Benjamin Kleinman, Jillian Mayer, Michael Dene Mayer, and Madelyne Mayer. Memorial donations may be made to any of the following organizations: Healthcare for the Homeless of Boston, Planned Parenthood, Southern Poverty Law Center, ACLU or the Sarasota Memorial Healthcare Foundation.
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Boston Healthcare for the Homeless
780 Albany Street, Boston MA 08103
Southern Poverty Law Center
400 Washington Avenue, Montgomery AL 36104
P.O. Box 60173, Philadelphia PA 19103
Sarasota Memorial Hearlthcare Foundation
1515 S. Osprey Avenue, Suite B4, Sarasota FL 34239
Camden NJ 08103