Phyllis Spatz
April 5, 2020

PHYLLIS SPATZ: On April 5th, 2020, two days shy of her 94th birthday, beloved wife of the late Dr. Sidney Spatz. An accomplished vocalist and actress; a skillful and formidable bridge and tennis competitor; an avid reader and lifelong student; a fabulous cook and entertainer, Phyllis also served as matriarch of her family. With Sidney, her husband of 50 years, she ensured that their daughters had every opportunity to flourish. Phyllis is survived by her daughters: Sandy Spatz (Tracy Hultgren) of Chicago, IL, Pamela Spatz (David Bogen) of S. Dartmouth, MA and Hilary Spatz (Max Levine) who were shaped in many ways by her incredible spirit, impeccable taste, and generous nature. Her seven grandchildren: Alison Spatz Levine (Daniel Carmeli), Deborah Levine (Chris Timmerman), Randall Levine (Tia Scagliarini), Geir Spatz Bogen (Caroline Watson,) Hannah Spatz Bogen (Jamie Hayes), Emma Spatz Hultgren and Seth Spatz Hultgren each in their own way connected with their “Nana” and enriched her life as she did theirs. From what she referred to as “the center of the universe”, her home on the corner of Forbes and Murray, Phyllis generously shared her love of literature, music and politics: inevitably a visit with Nana included a shopping spree at Littles. Known as “Super Nana” to her five great-grandchildren, Ezra, Samuel, Noa, Eden and Miri, each will be blessed with memories of her long and well-shared life. Phyllis was the daughter of Abe Cohen and Minnie (Bernstein) Cohen and sister to the late Sanford (Sonny) Cohen. Phyllis’ musical career began in her teens as she served as vocalist to Tree of Life Synagogue on Craft Avenue. At Schenley High School and during her years at Pennsylvania College for Women, now Chatham University, she studied opera, regularly performing in many productions as a member of the Pittsburgh City Opera, under the direction of Richard Karp. Phyllis relished the opportunity to perform with the Pittsburgh Symphony under William Steinberg.  With roles in productions as varied as Carmen and Oklahoma (which she also performed in Hawaii during Sidney’s army service) she rounded out her career with a bawdy nightclub revue co-starring Esther Lapidus and Joe Negri in 400 Miles off Broadway. Phyllis incorporated her love for music with her deep roots in Judaism. Performing as Phyllis Cohen, Phyllis Owen, and Phyllis Sidney (incorporating her most supportive fan’s name as part of her own,) she enjoyed being the entertainment in JNF, Hadassah, NCJW and Federation fund raising events and celebrations. Her dramatic or lyric soprano voice was well known and well-loved throughout the community. For almost two decades Phyllis sang as part of Temple Sinai’s choir for regular services and b’nai mitzvah and wedding ceremonies. She was also often called on to fill in as a soloist or choir member at area church services. Whether at Oakland’s Greek Orthodox or Presbyterian churches, she had the ability to fill in at a moment’s notice, bringing her beautiful voice and generous spirit to a range of gatherings. Her daughters remember being awestruck during Temple Sinai high holiday services held at Carnegie Music Hall. As Phyllis stood in the alcove balcony filling the hall with Ashamnu and Avinu Malkeinu, they knew that their mother was not only their superstar but a community gem. Across 7 states and 3 time zones her family joined in a virtual service Sunday evening led by Rabbi Weiss of Chicago’s Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation. A memorial service and celebration will be held when the prohibitions and safeguards required by the covid pandemic permit and the family can be together. Thank you to Silver Lining Senior Care who provided uncompromising care. Phyllis supported the Jewish National Fund and the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and if you would like to make a contribution in her memory, these institutions would be a wonderful remembrance. Arrangements entrusted to Ralph Schugar Chapel, Inc., family owned and operated.


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My Deepest Sympathy

By Betty Elias - April 09, 2020

Your mother shall always be remembered in my household and my thoughts.

By Harry and Christine Handmaker - April 08, 2020

My deepest condolences to the family of Phyllis Spatz. I had the pleasure of playing duplicate bridge with her at Rodef Shalom for the past several years. She was always kind, welcoming, witty, and an excellent bridge player. She enjoyed learning that I had gone to school with Pam and that my late father was a former colleague of her late husband. Please accept my sincere sympathies at this particularly difficult time. Carol Feldman Goldblum Nathenson

By Carol Nathenson - April 07, 2020