Stanley I. Morstein, attorney who also enjoyed acting, dies

Stanley I. Morstein, a semi-retired attorney and actor who brought depth ands color to his theatrical roles, died Aug. 7 from cancer at his Mays Chapel home. He was 87.

“Stanley was a really good guy who cared about people,” said Alvin J. Filbert Jr., a partner in the Towson law firm of Sagal, Filbert, Quasney & Betten P.A.

“He was a bit of a bulldog and an old-fashioned type of lawyer. He was detailed, meticulous and committed to the way a case should go,” Mr. Filbert said. “He was thorough and very hard-working and was willing to put in the hours to produce a good result.”

The son of David H. Morstein, founder and owner of Morstein Jewelers, and Sophie Morstein, a homemaker, Stanley Irwin Morstein was born and raised in Northwest Baltimore.

After graduating from City College in 1947, he entered the University of Maryland, College Park and obtained a bachelor’s degree in business in 1951. He received a law degree, also from Maryland, in 1954. He was admitted to the Maryland Bar that year.

Mr. Morstein served in the Army from 1954 to 1956, and taught military justice at Fort Jackson in Columbia, S.C.

After being discharged, he opened a law practice. In the 1960s he had offices in the American Building, then in the 1970s moved to 14. W. Saratoga St.

In 1979, he joined the law firm of Jacobson, Weinstein, Harris & Morstein in the Court Square Building in downtown Baltimore. In 1981 the firm’s name changed to Morstein & Losin P.A., and changed to just his name in 1989. He also served as counsel for Wartzman, Omansky, Blibaum & Simons P.A., which later became Sagal, Filbert, Quasney & Betten P.A.

His area of legal expertise was workman’s compensation, motor vehicle tort and injury.

“When he joined us we took over the handling of his files, yet he wanted to stay committed to his clients,” Mr. Filbert said. “He had a very loyal client base who continued to call and bring cases to him. They would leave satisfied and knew they were well protected.”

“He often remarked that the practice of law was not just an occupation, but also an opportunity to help people navigate difficult challenges,” wrote a daughter, Debra Sloss of Santa Cruz, Calif., in a biographical profile of her father. “He worked tirelessly for the equitable treatment of all of his clients and continued to do so for the rest of his life.”

His professional memberships included the Maryland Bar Association, Maryland Trial Lawyers Association, Baltimore City Bar Association and American Bar Association.

In theater, Mr. Morstein was known for the depth he brought to character roles.

“His love of the theater started during his days in the Army,” said Ms. Sloss.

In 1956, he was a founding member of the Towne Drama Club, an informal play reading club that performed occasionally and has been meeting for more than six decades — currently in the Annen Woods community in Pikesville.

“Only the members and guests usually are there … but they do costuming, and it was a way for those with a love for the theater to participate in it without having to make the huge commitment of learning a whole part and lines,” Ms. Sloss wrote in an email.

Mr. Morstein also performed with groups including the Vagabonds, the Spotlighters, Theater Hopkins, the Jewish Repertory Theater of Baltimore and at the Gordon Center for the Performing Arts and Towson University.

Some of his memorable roles included Otto Frank in “The Diary of Anne Frank,” Bradley in “The Cocktail Hour,” Shelley Levine in “Glengarry Glen Ross,” Andrew Makepeace Ladd III in “Love Letters” and the sheriff in “The Trip to Bountiful.”

“Working with Stanley was a great pleasure,” said Tom Blair, a York, Pa., actor, who performed over the years with Mr. Morstein.

“He was emotionally giving on stage which inspired all of the rest of the actors to give as well,” he said. “If you were in the audience, Stanley brought a total believability to whomever he was playing.”

In 1994, the two performed together in Arthur Miller’s “The American Clock” at Theater Hopkins.

“The play is set during the Depression of the 1930s, and Stanley brought a tremendous amount of intensity to the role of a protest worker. It really impressed me,” Mr. Blair said. “In ‘Love Letters’ he made it a sensitive and beautiful production ... In ‘Glengarry Glen Ross,’ he played the selfish real estate executive Shelley Levine as a kind of Donald Trump.”

Another notable role, Mr. Blair said, was Mr. Morstein’s portrayal of the controversial conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, Wilhelm Furtwangler, in “Taking Sides,” produced in 2000 at the Gordon Center for the Performing Arts.

“Furtwangler decided his place was to stay in Nazi Germany and to conduct the orchestra for Hitler. I played the prosecuting attorney,” Mr. Blair said. After the end of World War II, Furtwangler, who was not a member of Nazi organizations, was charged with conducting Nazi concerts. He was later cleared of all charges.

“It was a very intense role and Stanley had a wonderful way of portraying this very controversial figure,” Mr. Blair said.

At the conclusion of the performance, the two men conducted a question-and-answer session with the audience.

“His whole approach was that truth comes through discussion,” Mr. Blair said.

Mr. Morstein and his wife of 35 years, the former Susan Basch, endowed the Susan & Stanley I. Morstein Performance Theater at the Jewish Community Center of Great Baltimore, where he worked collaboratively on several productions that featured Peabody pianists Saar Ahuvia and Stephanie Ho.

Mr. Morstein narrated “Schumann & Brahms Letters,” “Beethoven’s Letters,” and most recently, “Music and Words of Felix Mendelssohn’s ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream.’ ”

The former Pikesville resident also taught drama and coached tennis at Friends School in the 1990s.

He was a sports lover who enjoyed canoeing, camping and bike riding. He was a member of the Baltimore Bicycling Club and competed several times in Cycle Across Maryland and Senior Olympics.

He was a former member of Oheb Shalom Congregation.

A memorial gathering will be held at noon Sept. 9 at the Gordon Center for Performing Arts at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore, 3506 Gwynnbrook Ave., Owings Mills.

In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Morstein is survived by two other daughters, Sandy Saul of Sandy Spring, Ga., and Ruth Nickens of Tallahassee, Fla.; two stepsons, Jonathan Basch of Syracuse, N.Y., and Ben Basch of Tinton Falls, N.J.; a stepdaughter, Rachel Ignatoff of Boca Raton, Fla.; and 12 grandchildren. An earlier marriage to the former Mildred Golda “Go-Go” Rothberg ended in divorce.

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