Chara Cooper Haas, 85, philanthropist

Chara Cooper Haas, widow of ex-Rohm & Haas chairman.
Chara Cooper Haas, widow of ex-Rohm & Haas chairman.
Posted: August 23, 2012

Chara Cooper Haas was known for several high-profile philanthropic efforts.

But a small 1999 news report told of a neighborhood program that seemed to fly below the radar.

Philadelphia Reads, a summer program to help children retain reading skills acquired during the school year, was holding sessions at 22 locations in the city that summer.

And it was financed, the article said, in part by Chara and John C. Haas.

Though the Haases were best known for major philanthropies through the Haas family's William Penn Foundation, Mr. Haas' 2011 obituary said he credited his wife with devoting their personal estate to help vulnerable and underserved children and families through their Stoneleigh Foundation.

On Wednesday, Aug. 15, Chara Cooper Haas, 85, a significant philanthropist in a philanthropic family, died of complications from dementia at Stoneleigh, her family home in Villanova.

Her husband was the son of Otto Haas, cofounder of the global chemical firm Rohm & Haas Co. Her husband became the firm's board chairman in 1974. It was sold to Dow Chemical in 2009.

"Her love of children and desire to help those in need was really strong," her son Leonard said.

"She cared intensely about ending gun violence. She was incredibly sensitive to any needless violence."

And her son noted "her love of classical and choral music," manifested for decades in her alto contribution to the choir at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church.

Ann Abbott, a family friend, recalled that Mrs. Haas "cherished friendships. People were attracted to her because of her humor and love, her generous spirit."

And, Abbott said, "she was a warm and down-to-earth person."

One indication was when she accompanied her teenage sons to their first rock concert, a 1970 performance of Iron Butterfly at the Electric Factory.

"She was open to many different things," her son David said.

He and his brother Leonard were not yet old enough to have driver's licenses, David Haas said, and "she didn't want her sons to go unattended.

"What really distinguished her in this area was she could tell we really liked this music and enabled us to do this. I'm sure it wasn't exactly her cup of tea."

Born in Bryn Athyn, she graduated from the Academy of the New Church Girls' Seminary in 1945 and attended classes at the Academy of the New Church College.

She was a founder and a board chair of the Pathway School in Norristown.

Mrs. Haas told a 1996 interviewer that living at Stoneleigh, bought by her husband's parents in 1935, "was like Upstairs, Downstairs. The upstairs maid, the downstairs maid. Dinner parties, formal dress."

But, she noted, "I grew up in a normal little house full of brothers and sisters."

Among her interests, her sons noted, was her commitment to environmental causes.

That was reflected in 1996, when she and her husband granted an easement to the Natural Lands Trust, to keep their 39-acre Stoneleigh estate in Villanova free of development.

Besides her sons David and Leonard, Mrs. Haas is survived by sons Frederick and Duncan; a daughter, Barbara; and 10 grandchildren.

Memorial services were set for 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 15, at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, 625 Montgomery Ave., and at 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 22, at Bryn Athyn Cathedral, 900 Cathedral Rd.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in Mrs. Haas' memory to:

- The University of Pennsylvania Health System Penn Comprehensive Neuroscience Center. Checks should be written to the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania (write "John and Chara Haas Fund" in the memo) Office of Development and Alumni Relations, 3535 Market Street, Suite 750, Phila., PA 19104, Attn: Michael L. Balaban, Senior Major Gifts Officer.

- The Academy of the New Church, Donor Relations, P.O. Box 708, Bryn Athyn, PA 19009.

-  The Boston Symphony Orchestra's Tanglewood Fund, Attn: Chara Haas Memorial Gifts, 301 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, MA 02115.

Contact Walter F. Naedele

at 215-854-5607 or wnaedele@phillynews.com.

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