Margarete “Leah” (Deutch) Linton fled Nazi-controlled Austria as a young teenager, broke female stereotypes working men’s jobs in her 20’s, helped start a kibbutz in Israel and became a beloved nursery teacher for decades in the Trenton, NJ area. She passed on Tuesday, September 7, 2021 in Southbury, CT after a courageous battle with cancer. She had just turned 96, and to the very end, she maintained her legendary and contagious sense of humor.
While universally seen as a strong, loving and supportive wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, she remained a trailblazer, a community pillar and inspiration to all whose lives she touched. According to Jewish tradition, her passing on the High Holy Day of Rosh Hashanah deems her a “tzadik,” or “person of great righteousness,” which she indeed was throughout her storied life.
Having escaped Vienna, Austria with her mother for the United States as a young teen in 1939 and having lost many family members, including her father, in the Holocaust, those experiences shaped her self-prescribed mission: to bring the phrase “Never Forget,” to life and spend a lifetime educating children and others about the dangers of hate. Thus, she freely shared her experiences in person and online about the dislocations and terror she experienced as a young girl with thousands of students in Connecticut and elsewhere, as well as providing an oral history to the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. and speaking to the Connecticut State Legislature on Holocaust Remembrance Day at the request of the Governor.
In 2017 at age 91, Leah and her daughter Leslie Linton, celebrated a joint bat-mitzvah at B’nai Israel in Southbury, where she was an active congregant, the first bat mitzvah for both of them. “Thirteen represented a terrible time in my life, in our world,” she said during her bat mitzvah speech” I am here today for the millions of girls who were killed during those years and were never able to even dream of a bat mitzvah.”
Yet despite the trauma she experienced, Leah was incredibly optimistic and funny, an inveterate joke teller with a quick wit that was never used to denigrate anyone but herself. It was a common saying that Leah Linton “made me laugh.”
As a former resident of Lawrence Township, New Jersey, Leah was the favorite nursery schoolteacher of thousands of children who attended Herzl Zion Hebrew School in Trenton (later the Abrams Hebrew Academy in Yardley, Pa.) and to the end she maintained connections with many of her students, who are now in their 60s and 70s.
Leah and her beloved husband Ted, upon his retirement from Princeton Plasma Physics Lab, moved to Los Alamos, New Mexico in 1979, where he continued work on scientific projects. They later returned to settle in Southbury, Connecticut, ultimately to the Watermark retirement community. After Ted passed in 2006, Leah became an even more active member of that community, where she was universally loved and acted as an unofficial mayor and ambassador for prospective residents. She also founded a writer’s circle, another passion of hers, and loved her time participating in drum circles and other activities.
Leah was a believer in the independence of women. “I have always had strong views on women’s equality,” she also said in her bat mitzvah speech, noting that as a young woman, “I went out of my way to prove women can do anything men can do.” So, it made perfect sense that Leah pushed the envelope for women, whether as the first woman upholsterer in a New York upholsterer’s local union or the first woman hired as a tree trimmer at the Bronx Botanical Gardens. Even before these jobs, she was a founding member of Kibbutz Sasa in Upper Galilee, Israel.
Leah will be deeply missed by her children, David (Hope) Linton of Lawrenceville and Leslie Linton (Bruce) of Colts Neck, N.J, grandchildren Jaime Bunn (Matt), Adam Whitten, Josh Linton and Dana Whitten, and great grandchildren Tyler and Zachary Bunn. Leah is predeceased by her loving husband, Ted Linton.
Private funeral services will take place Friday, September 10, 2021 in Farband Cemetery, Morris, Connecticut. Memorial contributions can be made to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum or the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
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