D. Ellen Sander Stimler, 94, ACLU founder in South Jersey

D. Ellen Stimler
D. Ellen Stimler
Posted: April 15, 2014

Dora Sander was among those who managed to slip away from the Third Reich after the November 1938 Kristallnacht destruction of storefronts and houses of worship showed its hatred of Jews even more publicly.

In 1936, when she was 17, her parents in Stuttgart sent her to relatives in London, where she worked to perfect her English and where she became a tutor to two daughters of a widowed member of Parliament.

She passed an English university entrance exam in May 1938, conferred with her family on a visit to Stuttgart, and returned to London.

Though her father was arrested during the increasing pressure on Jews after Kristallnacht, her parents, two brothers, and a grandmother were granted visas and joined her in London.

In March 1939, just before her 20th birthday, she left for New York City and a new life, her son, Mark, said in an interview.

On Saturday, April 5, D. Ellen Sander Stimler, 94, who founded the South Jersey office of the ACLU in Camden in 1966 and ran it for three years, died at Medford Leas, the retirement community in Medford where she had lived since 1995.

With a full scholarship granted to Jewish refugees, she earned a bachelor's degree, magna cum laude, in American government at Radcliffe College, her son said.

Before entering Radcliffe, he said, she had spent "some time as a governess," tending to the children of a family in New York City.

After graduating from George Washington University Law School in 1951, she worked as a writer and editor for the U.S. Bureau of National Affairs in Washington for several years, Mrs. Stimler told an Inquirer reporter in 1988.

She married an electrical engineer, Saul Stimler, when she was 37, and, after raising their children, opened her law practice in Moorestown in 1971, when she was 52.

Katie S. Wang, spokeswoman for the ACLU of New Jersey, said that after she passed the New Jersey bar exam in 1969, Mrs. Stimler served as a volunteer ACLU lawyer.

In 1996-97, Wang said, Mrs. Stimler was a board member for ACLU of New Jersey.

In 1980, Mrs. Stimler became chairwoman of the Senior Citizens Lawyer Referral Service of Burlington County, and, in 1988, she was honored for that work by the Advisory Council to the County Office on Aging.

She was a member of the New Jersey Council on Divorce Mediation.

In retirement, she was editor in the 1990s of the newsletter of the Learning Institute for Elders, a group of older adults. Her husband was the group's president.

In 1995, Wang said, Mrs. Stimler developed an 11-session course on First Amendment issues at Burlington County College for the institute.

In addition to her son Mark, Mrs. Stimler is survived by a daughter, Lynn; a brother; and two grandchildren. Her husband died in 2001.

A memorial service was set for 3 p.m., Saturday, May 10, at Medford Leas in Medford.


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