Margery K. "Margie" Pozefsky, an artist and kidney transplant survivor who supported a kidney swapping transplant program at Johns Hopkins Hospital, died Friday of lung cancer at her Rockland home. She was 71.
"Margie was just a wonderful woman who had been one of our patients years ago and then endowed a professorship of kidney transplant surgery at Hopkins," said Dr. Julie A. Freischlag, chair of the Department of Surgery and surgeon in chief at Hopkins.
"It was a huge gift, and she also helped enhance our kidney swap program and computerized database," Dr. Freischlag said. "This was revolutionary, and she wanted to help as many people as possible get a kidney."
She described Mrs. Pozefsky as a very "sensitive and kind person who was both quiet and modest."
"Margie was someone who gave back to the community. She spoke quietly, kept her peace, and people listened," said Max E. Blumenthal, a Baltimore attorney and friend since junior high school.
"She had a moral compass that never needed to be adjusted," he said. "Wherever she went, she left her mark."
The daughter of a lumber dealer and a homemaker, the former Margery Kolker was born in Baltimore. After her parents divorced when she was 8, her mother married Sam Hecht, whose family was in the department store business.
She grew up on Upper Parks Heights Avenue and later moved with her family to the Velvet Valley neighborhood of Baltimore County.
Mrs. Pozefsky was a member of the last Park School class to graduate in 1959 from its old Park Circle campus and studied for three years at Elmira College.
She returned to Baltimore and earned a bachelor's degree in liberal arts in 1963 from McCoy College of the Johns Hopkins University.
She was married that year to Richard Peyton, and the couple had three children. After a divorce in 1978, she went to work part time in the Office of the Public Defender and for Associated Jewish Charities.
She worked during three election campaigns for Sen. Paul A. Sarbanes, particularly as an assistant to Christine Sarbanes, his late wife, and in Stephen Sachs' campaign for Maryland attorney general.
She married Dr. Thomas Pozefsky, a Baltimore internist and endocrinologist in 1989.
In 2000, she needed a kidney transplant. Her husband's did not match, but her son's did.
"As a result of the transplant at Hopkins, she had the gift of 12 wonderful years," her husband said.
Mrs. Pozefsky's illness raised her awareness that there might be others in a similar situation: the "combination of a needy patient and a willing donor who didn't match," her husband said.
"Why wasn't swapping possible? For example, couldn't her husband donate his kidney to the needy patient if it matched and she receive the kidney from that patient's available donor also in the event of a match?" Dr. Pozefsky said.
"Hopkins was receptive to the idea, and Margie provided the resources to set up a database of potential kidney recipients, their donors, and their tissue types so that live donor transplants could be achieved by swapping," he said.
Mrs. Pozefsky traveled the country speaking at national kidney transplant meetings promoting the kidney database.
Dr. Pozefsky said the program has "expanded exponentially" and affected federal law regulating transplants. He said it has "become a generally accepted standard of care and has dramatically increased the number of live donor transplants in the country."
Mrs. Pozefsky also endowed the Margery K. and Thomas Pozefsky Professorship of Kidney Transplant Surgery at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
She had been president of the League Serving People with Disabilities and the League for the Handicapped of Central Maryland. She had been on the boards and a member of the executive committees of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Baltimore Clayworks.
At her death, she was the longest-serving BSO board member, having joined in 1990.
"She loved the BSO and was such a lovely person and was generous with both her time and treasure," said Paul Meecham, BSO president and CEO. "She was also a longtime subscriber and understood the importance of a symphony to the fabric of a great city."
An accomplished potter who was an expert in majolica and raku pottery, Mrs. Pozefsky established Still Forest Pottery, a clay studio, in her Rockland home. She was also a jewelry designer and a member of Facets, a jewelry-making collective.
"She was an incredibly talented woman. She was totally unassuming as an artist and not a dilettante and was absolutely dedicated to her studio practice," said Deborah Bedwell, who retired last year after 32 years as executive director of Baltimore Clayworks.
She said Mrs. Pozefsky had served on the organization's board for 22 years.
"She was a wonderful trustee and served in many capacities as a board member, and she knew what the organization needed to function," Ms. Bedwell said.
Mrs. Pozefsky had also been active at the Walters Art Museum, where she had contributed to the establishment of a gallery to display its collection of majolica pottery.
"Margie was a passionate philanthropist and passionate specifically about ceramics. Our ceramic gallery is named in her honor," said Gary Vikan, director of the Walters.
"I would go to her home for lunch and would have an agenda, but because she had such an energetic mind and energy of spirit like a graduate student, I would sometimes forget why I came," Dr. Vikan said. "She was very special, and had both the gift of creativity and boundless energy."
A world traveler, Mrs. Pozefsky also enjoyed attending the opera and the theater and spending weekends at a second home in New York City.
Private graveside services will be held Wednesday. Plans for a memorial gathering to be held within a month were incomplete.
In addition to her husband, Mrs. Pozefsky is survived by her son, Kenneth Peyton of Monterey, Calif.; two daughters, Deborah Sottak of Lutherville and Julie Stein of Boca Raton, Fla.; a stepson, Peter Pozefsky of Wooster, Ohio; a stepdaughter, Sara Marks of New York City; and 10 grandchildren.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun