Leona Epstein: South Bronx educator, modern woman, 98


Leona Friedman Epstein passed away peacefully on March 12, 2021, in New York City. She was 98.

Born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in 1923, to Helen Weiss and Emanuel Friedman, she earned her bachelor’s degree in music from Syracuse University, where she fell in love with Milton Epstein of the Bronx.

They married at Love Field in Dallas in 1944 before he shipped out to India with the U.S. Army Air Corps. She then moved to the Upper West Side, beginning her lifelong love affair with New York City.

Her first job was with Musicraft Records, where she worked with musicians such as the classical guitarist Segovia.

After the war, she and Milton moved to Riverdale and started their family. For more than 25 years, starting in 1966, she dedicated herself to teaching music and elementary school to under-privileged children in the South Bronx public schools.

She was an active and ardent member of the United Federation of Teachers, always emphasizing the support the union provided teachers and their families.

She was a true New York liberal. Above all, she advocated for women’s rights and equality, which she taught to her children and grandchildren.

In all these respects, she was a very modern woman. She loved music, literature and art, and held artists and authors in the highest regard.

Her mind was sharp to the end, trained by her expert bridge playing and crossword puzzle solving.

She attributed her longevity to Transcendental Meditation, which she practiced for 45 years.

She is survived by her children, Ellen Epstein of Alexandria, Virginia; Peggy and Alan Barnett of West Orange, New Jersey; Philip A. Epstein and Linda Armstrong of Manhattan; and her grandchildren: Ayumi, David, Emma, Josh and Alexandra.

Donations in Leona Epstein’s memory may be made to the New York Philharmonic at

Leona Epstein,