Date of Birth: May 26, 1934
Date of Death: November 5, 2018
Place of Birth: Detroit, Michigan
A Legacy of Giving
Adele was born in Detroit to immigrant parents, Sam Weinberg and Sarah (Feldman) Weinberg, the youngest of four children. She married Avery Gerald (Jerry) Staller, an only child. Jerry was the love of her life till the very end. Unfortunately, Jerry developed serious heart disease before they were married, and in 1973 they flew to Texas for him to be a patient of Dr. Michael DeBakey for one of the earliest bypass surgeries. He died of complications a few days later. Adele became a widow at age 39, left to raise their three young daughters: Julie (17), Sharon (13) and Mara (7). She did a wonderful job and gave all three daughters strong values and knowledge of who they were. The girls were all given a Jewish education through United Hebrew Schools and all graduated from the Hebrew High School program. All three daughters were given college educations. They all married Jewish men, were given Jewish weddings, and are raising their children Jewish. Adele was so very proud of her eight grandchildren, all of whom had Bar or Bat Mitzvahs; the last occurred in May 2018, just six months before she died. She attended the weddings of her oldest two granddaughters and welcomed their husbands into the family. She was blessed with five great grandchildren.
Adele was a teacher her entire life. This started when she was just 16 years old, teaching a neighbor’s child to read. A graduate of Central High School in 1952, she went on to college and got a teaching degree from Wayne University after her first child was born, with the help of her mother and older sister taking care of the baby. After a few years in a substitute position, she started teaching primary grades at Woodward Elementary School in Detroit, where she earned the respect of the community.
Adele kept up with the times. While still teaching full time, Adele put herself through a program at Wayne State University for “Teaching Math to Elementary Students with Computers”, earning a Master’s degree in Education in 1986. Adele used this knowledge at Woodward Elementary School until her retirement, which occurred 39 years after she started teaching there.
After retirement, Adele continued teaching. She became involved with Jewish Family Services and taught English to Russian Immigrants. She not only taught them to speak English, but she also tutored the immigrants on what they needed to know in order to pass their citizenship exams. It was said that she had a 100% success rate, and all of the immigrants she taught passed their exams on the first try.
Judaism was very important to the Staller family. Adele and Jerry became affiliated with Ahavas Achim Synagogue in Detroit which then merged with Beth Aaron to become Congregation Beth Achim in 1968. All three of their daughters were married there. She joined this congregation in the early 1980’s and became involved in the Sisterhood. She then went on to become the Sisterhood president for eight years. Although not originally a member, Adele was affiliated with that congregation from its beginning on Schaefer in Detroit, through its move to Twelve Mile Road in Southfield and continued when the synagogue merged with Adat Shalom Synagogue in Farmington Hills, in 1998.
The synagogue became Adele’s second family, and she became a frequent volunteer, often serving at Kiddush, and also taking on many leadership roles. She was the impetus behind the Rabbis’ Lunch & Learn program which lasted for over 25 years at both Beth Achim and Adat Shalom. Rabbi Rachel Shere of Adat Shalom recalled that Adele had never missed a single session till the very end. Not only did she participate, she discussed the topic with the rabbi, sent invitations, tracked the registrations, and even helped to cook the meals. In 1997, Adele was named a “Woman of Achievement” and a gift was made in her name to the Torah Fund Campaign of Woman’s League for Conservative Judaism by the Jewish Theological Seminary. She often donated to the synagogue herself. Going through her jewelry box after she died, her daughters found many Torah Fund pins which were given to her for her annual contributions. She was also given the honor of being named a “Woman of Valor” though her synagogue sisterhood due to her numerous contributions of time.
Adele was very involved with Jewish Historical Society. She was the president of that organization twice and received the Leonard N. Simons History Award in 2002. She volunteered as a docent for numerous bus tours of Old Jewish Detroit and later took over the leadership of that program. She continued to update and change the tour over many years. She took tours into neighborhoods which were once Jewish, but where Jewish visitors seldom go today; and to cemeteries which were Jewish but where there were few local relatives to visit. She was responsible for keeping the key to be able to enter the Beth Olem Cemetery, more than 175 years old and located in the middle of the parking lot of the General Motors Poletown plant. She shared an abundance of history with the participants of her tours, giving them respect for what their ancestors had lived through. She used stories of her own extended family, the Weinbergs and the Feldmans, coming to America and to Detroit. She put a face on family folklore.
Adele loved singing, music, and theater. She had standing season-ticket subscriptions to both the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the Fisher Theater. She was known to sing as she did household tasks. As her daughters grew up, they learned the songs from all the musicals and would sing with her on long car rides or while washing dinner dishes. There are many family stories centered on these musicals. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, she joined a performance group that was formed in collaboration between Beth Achim Sisterhood and B’nai B’rith Women’s chapters. It was called “Mama Loved Littman’s” and was composed as a series of musical skits and parodies in English and Yiddish, vaudeville style. She had fun planning her costumes, singing, and performing in it.
Adele was involved with the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit. In 1995 she made a long-awaited trip to Israel when she joined its Miracle Mission II. She had been a child of 14 when Israel became a state. This trip was a “dream come true” for her.
Adele was a true fighter. She was a cancer survivor for almost 10 years. She did not take her remission for granted, but used her time to help others battling the disease. She joined the Cancer Thrivers Network for Jewish Women, working to make knitted blankets for chemo patients during treatment. She gathered with other women who were either survivors or in treatment to socialize as they knitted. The only payment was the knowledge that they were giving of themselves to people who needed it.
Unfortunately, Adele was not able to beat cancer the second time around. She died peacefully, surrounded by her rabbi, her three daughters, their husbands, and six of her eight grandchildren. The rabbi said it was like we created a “cocoon of love,” and it was.
Adele W. Staller was an amazing, strong woman who spent her entire life doing what was important to her. Her family and her religion defined who she was. She was extremely generous and gave willingly; financially, yes, but mostly of her time and her experience. This is the legacy that she left to her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, friends, the Jewish community, and the greater Detroit area.
Written by Sharon Wallach, Julie Pentelnik, and Mara Starr