Leon Shore, 84, Philadelphia teachers' union founder

Posted: October 27, 2012

Leon Shore, 84, who helped win higher pay and better benefits for area educators by founding the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, died Thursday, Oct. 25, at Abington Hospice at Warminster.

With his sense of humor and enthusiastic laugh, Mr. Shore won over almost everyone he met, even as he battled to help other people, said Ted Kirsch, president of the American Federation of Teachers Pennsylvania and a former president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.

"It was never about Leon. He was never fighting for himself," Kirsch said. "He was always fighting for somebody else."

Perhaps the biggest war he waged was to unionize the city's teachers. In 1965, Mr. Shore led the effort to have the PFT represent teachers because he believed they deserved better treatment.

His wife, Bernice "Bunny" Shore, recalled how irritated her husband was when the Board of Education offered teachers a 5-cent raise in the 1950s.

"These were men and women who had to support families, and they were earning $2,000 a year," she said.

Leon Shore grew up in South Philadelphia, born into a family of union members. He met his future wife on a blind date. They married in 1953.

"The man kept me laughing all 59 years. He's bright. He was attentive, sensitive, kind, and full of fun. I used to say that to him, 'Leon, if you didn't keep me laughing, we wouldn't be married this long. I blame it on you,' " she said.

His first job was teaching at what was then Audenried Junior High School, which he liked to call "Ornery Junior High," more because he simply enjoyed wordplay than because it described the school, his wife said.

He moved on to Dobbins Vocational Technical School, where he taught math, English, and computers.

Bunny Shore recalled attending an event at Dobbins where one of his former students gushed about her husband.

"He said, 'If it weren't for Mr. Shore, I don't know where I would be. I run a whole photography business now thanks to Mr. Shore. I'm so grateful,' " Bunny Shore said.

Mr. Shore was an organizer of the city's Labor Day Parade for many years.

He was devoted to his five grandchildren, taking them to classical music concerts and to Disney World. He received many honors for his work on behalf of union members.

Mr. Shore suffered from multiple ailments, his wife said, including lung cancer, heart problems, and stroke.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by a son, Stephen, and a daughter, Jacqueline "Jackie" Hovav.

Services will be at 11:30 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 28, at Goldsteins' Rosenberg's Raphael Sacks, 310 Second St. Pike, Southampton, Bucks County. Burial will be in Forest Hills/Shalom Memorial Park, Huntingdon Valley.

Contributions can be made to the Camp Galil Scholarship Fund, Box 1245, Newtown, Pa. 18940.

Contact Miriam Hill at 215-854-5520, hillmb@phillynews.com or @miriamhill on Twitter.

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