Eight Over 80

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Eight Over 80 is a four-part series. Check in Tuesday and Thursday this week and next for profiles of vital seniors whose daily pursuits of activism, art, science and more make Baltimore a far more inspiring place to live. – The Eds. 

Photographs by Anne Sachs.

 

In the case of eight Baltimoreans, age 80 seems to be the new 64. These eight men and women remain active in work and in Baltimore.  Although official retirees, they could hardly be considered “retired.”  

While Americans are often labeled workaholics, these eight fall into another category. They are still following their passions, passions born sometimes in childhood, others at mid-career. All have received numerous awards for their achievements, some honorary doctorates. While they say they have slowed down physically, all push themselves with regular exercise. All are fully engaged mentally.

Most, in the course of their lives, have had to overcome discrimination because of race, creed or gender. One of these giants said of his peers, “We were fortunate. The world changed so much in our lifetime.”

Three are over 90 and were alive during World War I. All lived through the Great Depression, World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the civil rights movement. These eight have experienced the proliferation of the automobile, air travel and computers. They are connected to a world and to times that most of us alive today have not known. Our Baltimore is different because of their work in the past and their work today.

 

Clinton Bamberger, Jr.

D.O.B.: July 2, 1926, Baltimore, Maryland

Education: Loyola High School, ’44, Loyola College, ‘49, Georgetown Law School, ‘51

Military Service: Army Air Corps, 1945-46

Career, Present and Past:
Clinton Bamberger recently returned from “Utopia,” a.k.a. six weeks at Chautauqua Institution in upstate New York. A dedicated Baltimorean with an international reach, he read The Sun every day while there. One item still bothers him: why Baltimore city students are overlooked for summer employment in Ocean City. He’s just e-mailed the executive director of the Baltimore Safe and Sound Campaign to discuss the issue with her. 

She’s one of many “young people” who are his focus these days. So is the young man he’s connecting with a brilliant South African judge and the woman who runs a program for young prisoners who were children when they committed a crime and were charged as adults.

“I’m a busy-body,” he says in characteristic humor. That’s why he’s up at 7:30 a.m. emailing before breakfast, which he often postpones to 10:30 when his wife Katharine returns from errands. Many around the world seek his counsel.

The former Piper & Marbury (now DLA Piper) partner in 1963 represented a death row inmate; the case prompted the Supreme Court to write the Brady rule requiring the prosecution to make evidence available to the defense. In 1965 he accepted Sargent Shriver’s invitation to create the first federal effort to establish and support civil legal aid offices. Under his leadership the national budget for Legal Aid increased from $5 million to $25 million with offices in every state. “That year changed my life,” he says. 

All of his work since then has stemmed from that experience. “Through my year in Washington, I became involved in clinical legal education where law students, under the supervision of faculty, practice law for people who can’t afford it.” He left Piper to become Dean of the Law School at Catholic University, which then opened one of the first clinical law offices in a nearby depressed area. 

In 1979 he became executive vice president of the congressionally chartered Legal Services Corporation and later worked in Harvard’s clinical law office in a depressed area of Boston. He thought he would retire in Boston but was recruited to run the clinical teaching program at the University of Maryland Law School. 

After all of his work as Senior Fulbright Fellow in Nepal at 66, with visiting professorships at law schools from Stanford to South Africa and legions of awards, Bamberger feels passionately that more work needs to be done. “Legal Aid still only meets about 25 percent of the need… Any way you calculate it, the United States lags behind every developed Western democracy in its support for legal assistance for the poor.”

Key to Longevity of Engagement: “I just keep moving.”  He’s recently retired from 13 years as a founding board member of the Open Society Institute-Baltimore, where a community fellowship was established in his honor. 

Current challenge: “My pacemaker,” he jokes then adds, “The direction in which the country is headed…I’m 85. I will help wherever I’m asked.” The phone rings. 

 

Beatrice L. Levi

 

DOB: July 12, 1919, Baltimore, Maryland

Education: Western High School, 1936; Goucher College, 1940

Career, Present and Past:
“I don’t do much,” says Beatrice (Beatty) Levi, age 92, then rattles off a list of books she’s just read. During her 6 a.m. breakfast, she watches Charlie Rose on TV then thoroughly reads The New York Times and tends a massive balcony garden of vegetables, herbs and geraniums, which also grow in her spacious apartment. 

In good weather Levi drives out on errands, meets one of a wide circle of friends for lunch, attends a program of the Art Seminar Group whose executive committee she recently left for the first time in 55 years. “I don’t miss a program if I can help it,” she says from a chair in her library that’s her command center, complete with cell phone, land-line, Web TV, printer and iPad she’s had since they first came out. 

Because of a nine-month bout with lymphoma, she now “says ‘no’ to everything” like board memberships, but she still travels regionally with the Art Seminar Group which she helped found in 1956. “A group of us, led by Sue Baker, went on the ‘Ladies’ Day Special’ train to New York for $6.75 roundtrip.” Over the next 55 years the group expanded and diversified; it now numbers 299 members, including men.

Most importantly, the Art Seminar Group in the 1950’s was, she says, the first group in Baltimore to bridge the great divide between Christians and Jews. “Deep friendships were made that would otherwise never have been made….Baltimore’s a different city because of the Art Seminar Group,” says Levi whose active life still revolves around its membership.

Levi not only led the Art Seminar Group for more than a half century, in 1971 she also co-founded in Tips on Trips and Camps, an international business that served parents, in Baltimore and abroad, looking for unusual travel opportunities for children. As vice president of the League of Women Voters, still a passion, Levi worked on revision of the district court system and on redistricting to make government more representative of all races.

Key to Longevity of Involvement: “I’m an optimist. I’m not negative.” She attributes that attitude to her leadership accomplishments and to her comeback from lymphoma. “My two daughters keep me challenged. One is a leading art dealer in New York, and one has a chair at the University of Washington and also at the University of Sydney. I’ve learned so much from them.”

Current challenge: “The weather,” she says on a warm late-summer afternoon. “I have to water everything.” Sometimes twice a day. 

 

Up Next Tuesday, 11/15: Martin Millspaugh and Iris Rosenblatt

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