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Amy M. Zeckhauser, 98, community volunteer, artist, poet and outspoken letter writer

Feb. 15, 1920 – Dec. 8, 2018

Amy M. Zeckhauser wrote a letter to the editor published in The Buffalo News last August after being outraged by a My View writer who she thought lacked empathy for the poor and underprivileged.

“Does (the writer) have a heart?” Mrs. Zeckhauser wrote in her letter.

She was 98½ years old at the time. Advancing age never seemed to put a dent in her activism.

A passionate community volunteer, artist, fundraiser, poet and letter writer, she died Saturday in the Delaware District home where she lived for the past 71 years.

Born in her parents’ home in Philadelphia, the former Amy Markovitz earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1941, majoring in art history. During World War II, she worked as a nurse’s aide in Fort Lee, N.J.

She met J. Milton “Zeke” Zeckhauser on a blind date, was engaged to him three weeks later and they were married in May 1946. The following year, they moved to Buffalo.

Mrs. Zeckhauser ran the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra’s fundraising campaign in the 1970s, but in addition to raising three children, most of her community efforts were as a volunteer. And some of those volunteer activities extended into her 90s.

For about 15 years, Mrs. Zeckhauser read to 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds every Thursday morning at School 78 and the Bennett Park Montessori School. She didn’t retire from that volunteer job until 2015, at age 95.

Other volunteer efforts included serving as president of the School 56 PTA in the 1960s, soliciting legacy donors for the Food Bank of Western New York, driving for Meals on Wheels, fundraising for both the United Way and the United Jewish Federation, and reading books for the Niagara Frontier Radio Reading Service.

An unabashed liberal, Mrs. Zeckhauser loved sharing her views with other Buffalo News readers, writing in support of immigrants, abortion rights, the poor and underrepresented and even legalized prostitution.

She was an avid poet for more than 90 years, starting at age 4 or 5, before she could write. She read poems to her children when they were young and wrote poems to them on their special occasions.

She and her husband often performed poetry duets at weddings and bar mitzvahs, and close friends could expect poems on their birthdays and in get-well wishes. One example of her poetry: “Hershey's, Nestle's, Ghirardelli/What’s good for the mouth/Ain’t good for the belly.”

The former art history major was a prolific artist throughout her adult life, as a painter and sculptor working in watercolors and oils, clay and alabaster. All of these activities and passions continued into her 90s.

She returned to Philadelphia for her 65th, 70th and 75th college reunions, the last time in May 2016, when the University of Pennsylvania president celebrated her being the only class member to attend.

Her husband, a businessman and stockbroker who founded Grassroots Gardens, died one month short of their 60th wedding anniversary in 2006.

Survivors include two daughters, Margery and Judith; a son, James; and a grandson.

Services will be held at 1 p.m. Tuesday in Temple Beth Zion, 805 Delaware Ave.

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