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Ray Katz, 89

Ray (Kriger) Katz of Westport died July 17 from complications of heart failure. She was 89.

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Westporter since 1978. Contributed photo

She was born in Rokiskis, Lithuania on March 10, 1929, the daughter of the late Philip Kriger (Pesach Tsvi Kruk) and Riva (Kavalsky) Kriger.

In 1931 Ray immigrated with her family to Cape Town, South Africa. While studying law at the University of Cape Town she was elected to the Students Representative Council (SRC), became treasurer of the Law Society, and was elected Head Woman Student.

She was a founder and chairperson of the university’s Liberal Party. Ray was on the Executive of the National Union of South African Students (NUSAS) which oversaw the rights of students and worked towards including black students, who were excluded from membership under the Nationalist apartheid government.

Ray started the NUSAS Loan Fund Scheme to help poor black students pay university fees and served on various other NUSAS committees. She graduated from the University of Cape Town with a law degree in 1950.

At the time of her admission to the Bar to practice law as an advocate (barrister) there were only a handful of women advocates in South Africa, but none practicing in Cape Town, and she began her criminal law practice amid much discrimination against women in the profession.

In addition, she taught English and Latin in the night schools established for black students to obtain their school leaving certificates. She also taught English to Polish ex-servicemen after World War II.

In 1950 Ray married Robert Katz, a civil engineer with his own construction company in Cape Town. Later Ray did administrative work for her husband’s company, and, because of her superb organizational and leadership skills, was much in demand by various charitable institutions.

She was elected to the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, helped found the Jewish Welfare Council, served on the B’Noth Zion Executive, Magen David Adom and WIZO.

For many years she served as president of Highlands House, the home for the Jewish aged in Cape Town. As its first woman president, she cleaned up corruption and instituted organizational reforms that improved the daily lives of the residents.

She was an attractive, vivacious woman who wore stylish clothes, many of which she designed herself.

In 1978 Ray and her family immigrated to the United States and settled in Westport where she provided administrative help for her husband’s companies.

She was a devoted wife, mother and grandmother, as well as a charming hostess, in whose home extended family and friends were always welcome. She liked giving dinner parties and children’s birthday parties.

In later years she enjoyed cooking traditional Jewish dishes and baking elaborate birthday cakes for her grandchildren. With her energy, charm and astuteness, her love of family and hospitality, her moral integrity and sense of justice, Ray was an inspiring role model for her family.

She is survived by her children, Amanda and husband Isadore Jermyn of Longmeadow, Massachusetts, Joanne and husband Scott Zeger of Baltimore, Maryland, Anton of New York City, Adrian and wife Dana of Weston, and grandchildren Eva, Adam, Michael Jermyn and wife Marie Hains, Max and David Zeger, Mia, Noah, Ty, Jonathan and Lara Katz. She was predeceased by her husband Robert Katz, her brothers Solly and Sam Kriger, and sisters Leah Todres and Anne Stein.

The family wishes to thank her wonderful caregiver, Linda Brown-Jarrett, for her exceptional kindness, care and devotion.

The graveside service will be held Wednesday, July 18 at 1 p.m. at Agudath Sholom Cemetery 552 Westhill Road, Stamford.

Memorial contributions may be made to the American Heart Association, The Lown Foundation or the Alzheimer’s Association.

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