Frances R. Schoenbach, 1915-2003

CHAPEL HILL - Frances R. Schoenbach, J.D., age 88, died December 17, 2003 at UNC Hospital in Chapel Hill, NC. Ms. Schoenbach attended Morris High School in Bronx, NY, and received her B.A. with honors in mathematics from Barnard College in 1934. She then attended Boston University Law School as one of the first women law students in Boston. She was associate editor-in-chief of the Law Review and graduated first inthe Class of 1937.

Photo of Frances SchoenbachShe married her high school sweetheart, Emanuel B. Schoenbach, while he was a student. at Harvard Medical School. During her husband's medical residency, she worked for a prominent New York City attorney where she experienced first-hand the challenges of being a woman in a predominantly male profession. She then put aside her professional career to start a family and support her husband's career and military service in World War II. Widowed at the age of 37, she raised their three small children at home, carefully managing the proceeds of insurance and Social Security.

When the youngest child was in high school, she returned to work in the public schools as a mathematics teacher and high school guidance counselor, and as a mental health legal consultant and community liaison for Downstate Medical Center, Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in New York. Then, at the age of 59, she returned to the law as an attorney with the Second Department of the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court. At the Appellate Court, she again experienced the intellectual excitement of legal scholarship and the satisfaction of promoting justice, reaching the level of principal appellate law assistant and handling some of the most complex cases. She worked there for 11 years until she retired at age 70 and moved to Chapel Hill to be with her then youngest grandchildren.

Throughout her life she was a woman of great dignity, loving, generous, an advocate for children and minorities, and a lover of intellectual pursuits and opera.