Stephanie Epstein, 63, dedicated social worker

Posted: August 02, 2012

STEPHANIE Kacur was a teenager in Uniontown, Pa., when she was first exposed to Philadelphia — by watching "American Bandstand."

Seeing the happy teens dancing on Dick Clark's iconic TV show might not have presented a complete picture of the city, but it was enough to stir Stephanie's imagination. And she decided she wanted to live here one day.

She got her wish after graduating from Penn State. Her parents gave her $100, and she arrived in the city in 1971. She got a job with the Children's Aid Society, launching a career in social work that extended almost 40 years. She specialized in caring for needy children.

Stephanie K. Epstein, as she became after marrying William Epstein in 1972, died July 26 after a battle with ovarian cancer. She was 63 and lived in East Falls.

She was director of community-based treatment programs for Presbyterian Children's Village in Southwest Philadelphia when she retired in 2010. In that job, she oversaw cases involving children and families in crisis, offering therapeutic, preventative and educational services. She also dealt with children in foster care and adoption programs.

Before she became a supervisor, Stephanie was one of those dedicated workers who visit children and families in their homes to make sure they are being properly cared for.

Often, she was called upon to make the hard decision to remove a child from his or her home.

"She was thoroughly involved in her work," said her husband, director of communications for United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 1776. "She would come home and tell disturbing stories of her day's work. It was intensive, heart-tugging work."

Before joining the Presbyterian Children's Village about 10 years ago, Stephanie worked for Episcopal Community Services and Children and Youth Services of Delaware County.

Her husband said she dealt with her illness with "humor and grace."

"She liked to call her weight loss due to chemotherapy ‘one of her cancer gifts,' " said Bill Epstein, a one-time reporter for the old Evening Bulletin.

"When she met her Crozer Hospital oncologist for the first time, he asked how old she was. ‘I'm 59,' she answered, and, noting his youthful look, she asked, ‘How old are you?' He was 34," Bill Epstein said

Stephanie, who also earned a master's degree in social work from the University of Pennsylvania, was a busy volunteer. She was president of the Friends of the Falls of Schuylkill Free Library and was co-chairperson of the parent-teacher association of Germantown Friends School.

Even after she was diagnosed with cancer and retired, she volunteered as a literacy tutor for elementary-school students and adults studying for their GED.

She met her husband, a fellow Penn State grad, on a blind date.

"She set goals throughout her illness," her husband said. "She lived to see both of her children get married, the birth of two grandsons and a 40th-anniversary trip with her husband. Her last goal was to live long enough to vote for Barack Obama in the November election."

Besides her husband, she is survived by a son, Matthew Epstein; a daughter, Amanda Devercelli; and two grandchildren.

Services were Sunday.

Contact John F. Morrison at 215-854-5573 or, or on Twitter @johnfmorrison.

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