Sylvia Karet, school librarian

Sylvia M. Karet
Sylvia M. Karet
Posted: January 24, 2013

Sylvia M. Karet, a high school librarian regarded as "outspoken and ahead of her time" by family and friends, died Sunday, Jan. 20, six months shy of her 100th birthday, at Wyndmoor Hills Health Care & Rehab Center.

The cause of death was congestive heart failure after a fall last year in which she fractured a femur, her family said.

The former Sylvia Mandel had social standing as her family's matriarch. But she was best known for taking a professional job long before women routinely did so, her family said.

"She received a good education at a time when educating women was not a priority since, it was believed, they were not going to be breadwinners but homemakers," said her daughter Toby K. Eisenstein.

Mrs. Karet graduated from Philadelphia High School for Girls in 1930 and the University of Pennsylvania in 1934.

She also earned a master's degree in social work from Penn in the 1930s.

After raising her daughters, she returned to school and in the 1950s received a master's degree in library science from what is now Drexel University. The degree enabled her to pursue a full-time job as a high school librarian in the Philadelphia school system, first at Thomas Edison High School and later at Girls High.

When the new Northeast High School opened in the mid-1950s, she became its head librarian and worked there until retiring in 1979.

"She was well known to a generation of students," her daughter said.

Mrs. Karet loved Philadelphia, especially the Mummers Parade.

Healthy living was her mantra. In her 50s, she and her husband, Edward, took up regular swimming. Until the age of 97 she was still swimming a half-mile five days a week.

Mrs. Karet believed in walking when possible and amazed her cardiologist when, in her 90s, she would walk from 15th and Locust Streets to Washington Square for her appointments.

"She was independent, outspoken, and discerning until the end of her life," her daughter said.

Surviving, in addition to her daughter, are another daughter, Julia; six grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren. Her husband died in 2001.

Services were Tuesday, Jan. 22.

Contact Bonnie L. Cook at 215-854-2611 or

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