Reba C. Weiner, 103, a former textile designer, general-store proprietor, and engaging storyteller, died Sunday, Sept. 2, of cerebral vascular disease at her home in Philadelphia, where she had lived for 70 years.
Born to Russian immigrants Philip and Clara Cohn, Mrs. Weiner grew up near Second Street and Girard Avenue, across from the old Schmidt's Brewery. Her father owned a hardware store in the neighborhood.
She liked to tell stories about her childhood. In one such tale, Mrs. Weiner was 5 years when she won a live turkey at a Saturday matinee movie raffle and walked it home on a rope. The doomed gobbler spent time foraging in the family's backyard before being carted off to the butcher for Thanksgiving.
"That's our favorite family story," said her daughter Patty Fox.
In another story, she told of using the ice cream money her father had given her to buy three fried oysters. The other children in the neighborhood waved their ice cream cones and laughed at Mrs. Weiner, but she didn't care.
"Up until the end of her life, there was little that brought her more joy than a fried oyster," her family said.
Born in Philadelphia, Mrs. Weiner lived here all her life. She graduated from Philadelphia High School for Girls and what is now the University of the Arts. She earned a master's degree in education at the University of Pennsylvania in 1939.
After college, she joined her husband, Milton Weiner, in a fabric design business based in the couple's apartment at Broad and Pine Streets. Articles about their fabrics appeared in Harper's Bazaar, Better Homes and Gardens, and Architectural Digest.
She went on to teach at the Stevens School in Philadelphia, where, her family said, a very young Grace Kelly was one of her students. Later, she became the director of the Saturday School at the University of the Arts.
In 1950, she moved to the Fitler Square neighborhood and became a force in making it into a "family friendly" community, her relatives said.
When her two daughters became old enough to attend school, Mrs. Weiner, along with the Center City Residents' Association, pressured the Philadelphia Board of Education to open an elementary school in Center City because there wasn't one. The board agreed, opening the City Center School in 1954 at 2200 Chestnut St., and later renaming it the Albert M. Greenfield Elementary School.
"She was a real mover and shaker in a lot of things," Fox said.
The store was the pulse of 20th Street until it closed in 2004. Fox said: "It was the first place that a child could go by themselves. The parents knew that my mother was there, and that the child would be safe."
Mrs. Weiner was an avid traveler. She and her husband were among the first Americans to visit China after President Richard Nixon and the Chinese opened the country to foreign travel. The couple also toured South America, the South Pacific, and Israel.
She outlived her husband by nine years, and she credited her longevity to peeling all produce, reading food labels, and eating three gin-soaked raisins each morning.
Besides her daughter Patty, she is survived by another daughter, Frances Schwab; three grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. A brother, Robert, died in infancy.
Shiva was celebrated Sept. 5 and 6. Burial was private.