Abraham Makofsky, a former professor at the University of Maryland School of Social Work and an advocate for world peace and racial and social justice, died of cancer yesterday at the Broadmead retirement community in Cockeysville. He was 90.
"He was an extraordinarily humble human being who was authentically concerned about people, and especially the poor. He had great breadth and scope," said Sister Katherine Corr, executive director of the Baltimore-based Notre Dame Mission Volunteers.
"He fervently believed in righting the wrongs of the underdog. He was not a clinician but a community organizer who believed in change. That is what he always believed in," said Lilly Gold, associate dean of the School of Social Work and friend of 40 years.
Dr. Makofsky was born in New York City and raised in Harlem, the son of Jewish immigrants from Poland. His father, a tailor, was also an active unionist.
He earned a bachelor's degree in history from City College of New York in 1931 and a master's in history from Columbia University in 1936.
During the 1930s, he was a teacher and worked for the federal Works Progress Administration in New York City.
He enlisted in the Army in 1943 and served in Europe as a radio operator with the 387th Infantry, earning two battle stars.
After the war, he returned to New York and studied social work at Columbia on the GI Bill, earning a master's degree in 1948. He earned a doctorate in anthropology in 1971 from Catholic University of America.
After holding several social work positions in New York City and Springfield, Mass., he moved to the Loch Raven area of Baltimore County in 1952. He was a social planner from 1953 to 1962 for the Health and Welfare Council of Central Maryland.
He was director for five years of the Health and Welfare Council of Washington, until joining the faculty of the UM School of Social Work in 1967, where he taught community organizing. He retired in 1979.
"His social and peace activism were the most important things to him," said his daughter, Dr. Judy Tanzer, a psychotherapist who lives in Binghamton, N.Y.
Dr. Makofsky worked with Lumbee Indians in Baltimore, and had studied and visited workers in El Salvador in the mid-1970s.
"After retiring from the University of Maryland, he volunteered with the Jobs for Peace movement. He was also a member of the Baltimore Citizens Advisory Commission, which fought military spending and tried to get money used for peaceful purposes," Dr. Tanzer said.
"When I found out he was volunteering for Jobs for Peace, I bumped him up to consultant," Sister Katherine said. "He advised us about networking and how to build a common organization. He gave generously of his time to his community. He was persistent and concerned about the dignity of people. He was always trying to figure out how we could reach them as a community."
Even though he was a combat veteran and proud of the fact that he had fought against fascism during World War II, Dr. Makofsky became an outspoken critic of war.
"He opposed the war in Iraq and had participated last year in peace marches," his daughter said.
"He was a peaceful man and he truly believed that nothing was ever solved by going to war," Mrs. Gold said.
Despite fighting cancer, Dr. Makofsky remained active until the end of his life. In his 80s, he learned to use a computer. He enjoyed writing, reading, traveling and attending the theater.
"He was also an active volunteer for the American Friends Service Committee and the published author of numerous short stories that tried to put a human face on social issues," said Ben Tanzer, a grandson who is a Chicago social worker. The stories were published on the Internet, he said.
Dr. Makofsky was married for 32 years to the former Rose Katof, a social worker who died in 1967. In 1969, he married Louise Rainer, director of the Baltimore County Department of Social Services, who died in 1989.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Broadmead, 13801 York Road.
In addition to his daughter and grandson, Dr. Makofsky is survived by a son, David Makofsky of Oakland, Calif.; three other grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.