Barbara Granger Jaffe, 78, of Wyncote, a researcher and advocate for many social justice causes and a longtime community organizer in Philadelphia, died Saturday, Feb. 6, 2021, of cancer at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.
Mrs. Granger Jaffe had a bachelor’s degree in social science and women’s studies, a master’s degree in city planning, and a doctorate in social work and social research. But it was her acute personal awareness and overwhelming kindness in both her professional and private relationships that defined her for others.
“She was the most patient and nurturing person I ever met,” said her husband, Robert Jaffe.
Beginning in 1970, Mrs. Granger Jaffe found ways to improve services and affect public policy for issues that dealt with, among other things, mental health, housing, long-term care for people with disabilities, women’s rights, and the environment.
In 1972, she was drawn to a new organization called Age and Youth in Action, eventually better known as the Gray Panthers, and worked closely with Maggie Kuhn, the group’s famous founder.
Over the next 40 years, as she pursued degrees at the University of Pennsylvania and Bryn Mawr College, she wrote and obtained public and private grants, published articles and training curriculums, produced a film, and oversaw conferences, symposia, and workshops.
From 1985 to 2008, Mrs. Granger Jaffe worked in the Philadelphia area as a project director at Triad Associates, Matrix Research Institute, and the Matrix Center at Horizon House. She also taught social policy, research methods, administration, and related subjects at Bryn Mawr and La Salle, Temple, and Antioch Universities.
She created her own consulting firm, Granger Consultation Services, in 2008 that specialized in research and training for psychiatric rehabilitation professionals. “If something needed to be done, she did it,” said her daughter, Nicole Jaffe.
Mrs. Granger Jaffe was born in Brockton, Mass., on Aug. 9, 1942, and raised by her aunt and uncle. She enjoyed summers with her family on Cape Cod, picking blueberries, swimming in the Atlantic Ocean, and dining on seafood.
After high school, a relative suggested she relocate to Glenside and attend Beaver College, now Arcadia University. She dropped out but got a job as a secretary at Penn and went on to earn her bachelor’s there in 1972 and master’s in 1974. In addition to caring for her husband and daughter, and overcoming two earlier bouts with cancer, she received her doctorate in 1997.
“I was so proud of her,” Robert Jaffe said.
She met her husband’s sister, Sherry, while working for the Gray Panthers, and he was smitten after answering the phone when she called for Sherry. “She was vivacious even on the phone,” he said.
They finally met Christmas 1974, became a couple by New Year’s Eve, and married in 1978. They lived together for eight years in a shared housing project in part of Kuhn’s Victorian twin in Germantown. They moved to Northeast Philadelphia in 1984 when Nicole was 2, and then to Wyncote three years ago.
Mrs. Granger Jaffe doted on her grandsons, Laith and Zayd, and filled in for her daughter and son-in-law, Khalid Hoummadi, so they could work and go to school. She enjoyed baking, poetry, and ceramics. She liked to watch the birds in her backyard at breakfast and was a member of the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club.
She was a founding member of Citizen’s Voice, a neighborhood advocacy group in Cheltenham Township, and relaxed at night with her husband by watching classic French and Italian mysteries on TV. They also vacationed frequently at Grand Manan Island off the coast of Canada.
“She was curious and had a passion for knowledge,” her daughter said. “She loved to be part of something and was always looking for ways to bring justice and better people’s lives.”
In addition to her husband, daughter, son-in-law, and grandsons, Mrs. Granger Jaffe is survived by other relatives.
A service was held on Feb. 23. Donations in her name may be made to the Humane Society of the United States, 1255 23rd St. NW, Suite 450, Washington, D.C., 20037.