Blanche Rifkin-Comras, described as a pillar of the community, has passed away at the age of 99.
Rifkin-Comras was a longtime Community Board 11 member for three decades, a member of both the Jacobi and Einstein hospital community advisory boards and on the board of directors of Bronx House.
She died on Thursday, December 31.
Elected officials and community leaders recalled that she tirelessly served her community. Several said she had a special affinity for public health issues.
“She loved the Pelham Parkway community and she certainly contributed a lot (to it),” said Senator Jeff Klein, who added that he was a supporter of naming part of Bronx Park East after her late husband, Oscar, who helped bring free concerts to the Pelham Parkway community.
Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj said he remembers her as a generous person and a role model.
“She always had a smile,” he said. “Her loss is not going to be felt only by her family. The entire community is sharing in this loss.”
Councilman James Vacca said the Rifkin-Comras was selfless in her civic-minded efforts.
“Throughout her years of service to numerous local institutions, she exemplified the passion and dedication that makes our community great,” Vacca said. “On a personal level, she never ceased to amaze me. Someone giving so much to her community at such a mature age says a lot about her character and what her community meant to her.”
Howard Martin, Bronx House CEO, said she was a board member for 45 years and was a past president and chairwoman emeritus.
“She always fought so hard for the reputation of Pelham Parkway and the Bronx, as well as Bronx House,” said Martin, adding “She was a staunch defender of how beautiful the community was and what a great place it is to live and spend an entire life.”
Martin said she worked until she retired when she was 94-years old, and that she only increased her involvement in Bronx House after she retired.
Rifkin-Comras worked at a legal unit of Mental Hygiene Legal Services that met at Bronx State Hospital, her daughter Madelyn Katz said.
Katz said that she loved her borough community so much that she never wanted to leave it.
“She loved doing good for the Bronx and for people,” she said, adding “She was always telling me about all the wonderful things that were happening in the Bronx.”
She said that her mother was also involved in helping the handicapped.
Anthony Vitaliano, CB 11 chairman said that Rifkin-Comras amazed him and said that he considered her the board’s matriarch.
“What stands out about her was that she was a good hearted person who gave of herself,” said Silvio Mazzella, a Jacobi Community Advisory Board member who served with her on that committee. “She was a very good person who was very involved in the community.”
Rabbi Moshe Fuchs, a fellow CB 11 board member who gave her eulogy said she used every minute to its fullest.
Chris Fugazy, Interim CEO of Jacobi Medical Center, said that Rifkin-Comras, as a member of the Jacobi CAB, exemplified the values the institution seeks to promote: dedication, empathy and concern for the well being of others.
“She was instrumental in developing community education, awareness and support for our HIV/AIDS daycare program at the height of the epidemic,” he said in a statement.
She is also survived by her son, Donald Comras, as well as grandchildren David and Jay Katz and great-grandchildren.
The cause of death was pulmonary cardiac arrest, said Katz.