Rosalind Wofsy, 1920-2009

Rosalind Wofsy: A pioneer community organizer in support of people with developmental disabilities, born September 5, 1920 died on April 23, 2009. She was 88. From 1964 through 1984, Rosalind Wofsy was Executive Director of the Developmental Disabilities Council of Contra Costa County. When she retired, she wrote of those years in a memoir, “The Best Years of My Working Life”, published by the DD Council of Contra Costa in 1992. This was described by the late Henrik Blum, Professor of Public Health, UC Berkeley, as “superb and human-scale history, an important piece about the genesis of relevant and humane services for the developmentally disabled”. Dr. Blum, who was the chief health officer of Contra Costa County, 1950-1966, wrote of Rosalind Wofsy’s key role: “It was by being a perceptive, fair, and conscientious person who believed in the democratic process and the opportunities it offers to citizens to create what they sorely need that she accomplished what she did.” For her leadership, she received a California State Citation in 1983. Diana Jorgensen, who succeeded Rosalind as Executive Director of the DD Council, remembered her: “Roz was revered by all those who knew and worked with her for both her unusually gifted skills and her steadfast commitment to people with developmental disabilities and their families. She was able to accomplish incredible changes in the field of service to this population because of the strength of beliefs combined with her dynamic personality.”

Rosalind was born in Bronx, New York City on September 5, 1920; her parents were Mollie and Chaim Taub. She graduated from Hunter College, NY in 1941. She married Leon Wofsy in 1942 and they have been together until her death. They had two children, Carla Wofsy, who became a Professor Of Mathematics at the University of New Mexico and who died of breast cancer in 2003; and David Wofsy, now Professor Of Medicine at the University of California San Francisco. Roz, as she was called, also leaves four grand children, Danielle, Kevin, Susan and Grace; and her brother, Leon Taub. Roz came to the East Bay in 1964 when husband Leon joined the faculty at UC Berkeley, where he is now Professor Emeritus of Molecular and Cell Biology.

Before her position as Executive Director of the DD Council of Contra Costa County, she directed youth and children’s programs at Jewish Community Centers in New Haven, Connecticut and San Diego, California. In the 1950s, when Leon was Chair of the left-wing Labor Youth League, the young family faced difficult times of harassment during the McCarthy period. During those years, Roz was the main provider and mainstay of the family and was herself actively engaged in the civil rights movement. Since her retirement, Roz had serious health problems that resulted in gradually increasing physical disability. These difficulties she faced bravely while maintaining the sweetness and hopeful outlook on life for which she is so loved. The great joy of her last year of life was the election of America’s first president of color.