Edward A. Schwartz, 69, a longtime community activist and a former Philadelphia City Councilman, died Nov. 29 of a possible heart attack at his home in East Mt. Airy.
Mr. Schwartz had been an at-large councilman from 1984 to 1987 and later served as director of the city’s Office of Housing and Community Development, but he was probably best known as a community organizer.
In 1973 he founded the Institute for the study of Civic Values and soon after joined forces with the Rev. Joseph M. Kakalec, a Jesuit priest who had brought people together to improve their neighborhoods. The pair in 1976 established the Philadelphia Council of Neighborhood Organizations (PCNO). When the council held a convention that year, 1,000 people attended, representing 100 community groups.
He also chaired the Philadelphia Tax Reform Commission in 2003, and around that time wrote occasional columns in citywide issues for the Chestnut Hill Local.
William H. Ewing, a former president of East Mt. Airy Neighbors who had worked with Mr. Schwartz at PCNO, described him as “extremely bright, very dedicated,” and as having an “incredible sense of humor.”
“He devoted his life to enhancing peoples’ involvement in civic life,” Ewing said. “He cared that people be educated in civic values and that schools teach citizenship.”
Dan Muroff, also a past president of EMAN, said Mr. Schwartz was a “smart man” who could “operate in a provincial way with local concerns and also at higher levels with housing issues in the city and the state.”
A computer and Internet pioneer, Mr. Schwartz was instrumental in bringing computers to City Council. In recent years he became interested in using the Internet as an organizing tool and wrote the book “NetActivism: How Citizens use the Internet.”
Mr. Schwartz also had served on the board of East Mt. Airy Neighbors.
He also was a jazz fan and played piano at the Reading Terminal Market with a group called The Reading Terminals.
Born in New York City, Mr. Schwartz received a bachelor’s degree from Oberlin College and a doctorate in political theory from Rutgers University.”
He is survived by his wife, the former Jane Shull, and a daughter, Ruth.
A memorial service for Mr. Schwartz will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 13, at the National Constitution Center, 525 Arch St., in Center City Philadelphia. – WF