Leah Wainger Waitzer

by | Mar 4, 2021 | Obituaries

Norfolk—Leah Wainger Waitzer passed peacefully at home on February 27, 2021.

She was born in 1936 to the late Paul and Eva Laibstain Wainger in Norfolk. She was educated in Norfolk’s public schools, graduating from Maury High School in 1953. She was a proud and generous graduate of Goucher College in Towson, Maryland, returning to Norfolk to marry Richard, with whom she spent the next six decades serving her family and the larger community with dedication and resolve.

As a newlywed, she volunteered as a teacher at the Florence Crittendon School for unwed mothers that allowed expectant mothers to continue their educations in an era when they were excluded from the public schools due to their pregnancies. Busy as a dedicated young mother of three boys, her community service naturally revolved around their schools. She held every possible volunteer position at Norfolk Academy starting in 1967 from class mother, field trip driver and chaperone, prolific fundraiser, field day chairwoman, substitute Latin teacher, and long-time Trustee.

With her sons off to college, Leah became a professional volunteer, giving her time, talent, and resources to organizations throughout Hampton Roads, primarily supporting children’s issues and the arts. She volunteered as an independent investigator in the Juvenile Courts of Virginia Beach for 22 years. At the request of a judge, she co-founded, was chief fundraiser, and initial chair of Virginia Beach’s Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) to assist others in the juvenile justice system by providing more detailed and personal information than would otherwise be available. That work led to her appointment by the Governor to the Virginia Committee for Juvenile Justice, which she later chaired. She directly helped those in dire circumstances rather than just leading organizations, forming relationships that sometimes lasted for years, 30 in one case, until her health precluded further communications.

Leah passionately supported the arts, serving as a trustee of the Chrysler Museum of Art and the Virginia Arts Festival. She worked tirelessly at everything she touched and was perhaps the only trustee of organizations who read every single word of the voluminous materials typically provided in preparation for board meetings.

Celebrated for her service to the citizens of Hampton Roads, Leah received many awards, including the Judeo-Christian Outreach Center Woman of the Year, YMCA Woman of Distinction, and with Richard, the Humanitarian Award from the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities, and the Philanthropist of the Year by the Association of Fundraising Professionals of Hampton Roads.

Leah and Richard gave transformative gifts to the Virginia Symphony and the Chrysler Museum of Art, where they funded the Waitzer Community Gallery, in addition to many other projects. Their philanthropy at Norfolk Academy included funding annual awards for teaching excellence and numerous facilities. They enthusiastically supported Eastern Virginia Medical School, where they and their sons established the Murray H. Waitzer Endowed Chair for Diabetes Research in memory of Richard’s father. In 2018, they made a historic gift for a new building at EVMS, named Waitzer Hall in their honor.

While known publicly for her hard work, generosity and style, Leah was most proud of her role as mother and grandmother. Her grandchildren, Melanie, Jonathan, and Paige were her pride and joy, and she never missed a school play, recital, sporting event, summer camp visiting day, travel opportunity, or shopping trip.

Leah was predeceased by her parents and Richard. She is survived by her three sons, Eddie (Kathy), Brad (Terry), and Scott (Debbie); beloved grandchildren, Melanie, Jonathan, and Paige; brothers and sisters-in-law Jules and Patti Wainger, Stephen and Liza Wainger, and Valorie Waitzer; and innumerable nieces and nephews.

Online condolences may be offered at www.hdoliver.com. A private service was held graveside at Forest Lawn Cemetery with Rabbi Rosalin Mandelberg officiating. It was streamed live and available later via H.D. Oliver’s Facebook page.

Donations to Norfolk Academy, Development Office, 1585 Wesleyan Drive, Norfolk, VA 23502 or Eastern Virginia Medical School Foundation, P.O. Box 5, Norfolk, VA 23501-0005.