Rhoda 'Peggy' Block, East Baltimore optometrist and volunteer

Rhoda “Peggy” Block, a former optometrist who was active in her religious congregation, died of undetermined causes Sept. 29 at Mountain Ridge Health and Rehabilitation in Black Mountain, N.C. The former Owings Mills resident was 85.

Born in Baltimore and raised on Copley Road in Ashburton, she was the daughter of Boris Moser, a chiropractor, and Florence Kuslovitz, a homemaker. She was a 1949 graduate of the Park School and earned a bachelor’s degree at Westhampton College in Richmond, Va.

“On a suggestion from a family friend, she chose to pursue optometric studies at the Pennsylvania State College of Optometry in Philadelphia, where she made the dean’s list and was senior class secretary,” said a daughter, Linda Block of Leicester, N.C. “She was the only woman in her class and in 1955 became one of the school’s first women graduates.”

Her daughter said that soon after graduation, she opened a practice in the East Baltimore rowhouse she shared with her father’s chiropractic practice. The two concentrated on the East Monument Street community near Johns Hopkins Hospital.

She met her future husband, Jerry Block, a Curtis Bay pharmacist, at a music appreciation club. They married in 1957.

Mrs. Block raised a family and became active in Temple Emanuel. She was its sisterhood secretary for many years and worked with congregational fundraising.

Rabbi Gustav Buchdahl described the couple in his eulogy: “Peggy was the leaven to Jerry’s outgoing, exuberant personality. … It wasn’t fireworks and smoke. It was the quiet stuff, the pleasures of routine and consistency. It was the patience and the skill to play Scrabble and to play it well.”

Rabbi Buchdahl recalled that Mrs. Block made baked goods for and helped run sales for her congregation: “What was our synagogue noted for? The lavishness of our baked goods at the Oneg Shabbat and the Almost New Sales. It wasn’t only that the proceeds kept the synagogue fiscally afloat. It was that the women who made it successful became attached to each other. They epitomized what a community could be — providing for those who came for the merchandise but also the joy of bonding on behalf of a cause.”

Her daughter recalled Mrs. Block’s personality.

“Mom was understated, an introvert, someone very content to be by herself doing her own thing,” Ms. Block said. “I believe this quality allowed her to find pleasure in the little things and never lose her will to live.”

She played duckpin bowling n Reisterstown in the Rusty Rock League, and in Pikesville with the Dee Ladies League. She maintained an over-90 average.

“Peggy was a good bowler, but if she got a strike, we all got excited,” said a friend, Lucille Rogers, the league secretary. “We all had a good time together.”

She her husband belonged to Western square dance groups. They were weekly dancers and attended conventions.

“She loved the camaraderie and cutting up with her teammates,” her daughter said. “She made boldly colored square-dance dresses that were admired by her fellow dancers.”

Mrs. Block also assisted her husband at the Curtis Bay drugstore he owned with his brother at Pennington Avenue and Cypress Street. She took inventory, cleaned and helped run its soda fountain.

Mrs. Block enjoyed gardening, cultivating African violets and raising vegetables that she shared with her neighbors. She also made clothes for the family and turned out quilts, pocketbooks and stuffed animals.

“My mother loved animals and babies,” Ms. Block said. “She tuned into children anywhere she went and lit up with pure joy. On her favorite walk from her house in Owings Mills, she’d leave scraps of food on a stump for random critters and stray cats. She’d pause to watch an insect, check out a tree, watch children at play, smell the roses. This never changed.”

Services were held Oct. 2 at Sol Levinson and Bros.

In addition to her daughter, survivors include a son, Paul Block of Washington, D.C.; another daughter, Deborah Basel of Cockeysville; a sister, Beverly Raskin of Tarboro, N.C.; and a granddaughter. Her husband died in 1997.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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