Wendy D. Ginsburg, who held a position with the Maryland Consumer Protection division and later was development director for the Center of Talented Youth at the Johns Hopkins University and co-owned a consulting business with her husband, died of ovarian cancer Aug. 25 at Gilchrist Center Towson. The Rockland resident was 81.
“Her life is filled with achievements and the common thread in them is her sense of social justice, outreach to help others, and the spirit of innovation and enthusiasm,” said retired Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Ellen M. Heller, who added that she and Ms. Ginsburg had been “friends for 68 years since we were little girls.”
Judge Heller added: “She was a positive life force to her family, friends and community in so many ways.”
Peggy M. Obrecht, was a friend for about five decades and fellow member of the Panel of American Women.
“She was an extremely remarkable woman,” Ms. Obrecht said. “It was always a sheer delight to be in her company. She was courageous throughout her long illness, beyond anyone’s imagination, and in every sense of the word, was a model for every friend she had.”
The former Wendy Decker, daughter of Ted S. Decker, vice president for manufacturing for Grief Brothers, a clothing maker, and Marion Popper Decker, president of Sinai Hospital Women’s Auxiliary, was born in Chicago and later moved in 1954 with her family to Westbrook Road in Northwest Baltimore.
After graduating from Forest Park High School in 1959, she earned a bachelor’s degree in history and philosophy in 1963 from Temple University in Philadelphia. She later obtained a master’s degree in applied behavioral sciences from the Johns Hopkins University.
In 1962, she married Robert S. Ginsburg, a Philadelphia National Bank banker, and the couple later lived in New York City, where their two children were born. They moved to Baltimore in the late 1960s when her husband was named senior vice president for the National Brewing Co.
In 1979, Maryland Attorney General Stephen H. Sachs appointed Ms. Ginsburg as the director of the Consumer Protection Division Complaint Handling Unit in the office of the attorney general.
“During her tenure at the Consumer Protection Division, Wendy was the person who created a Mediation Unit to resolve disputes between consumers and businesses,” wrote William Leibovici, who was counsel to the Consumer Protection Division, and later former chief of the division, in an email.
“The unit was primarily staffed by citizen volunteers. Wendy’s abilities as a communicator ― involving both informing and listening ― were excellent and the primary reason she was so successful in this position,” he wrote.
“As a person, she was energetic and interested in many things, including books, museums, concerts, plays, sports and science. But when you spoke with her, she was always interested in what you were doing and thinking,” he wrote.
In 1980, The Sun reported on the consumer dispute process: “To the angry, confused or demanding telephone caller who is upset about shoddy consumer goods or services, volunteers in the Maryland attorney general’s complaint handling unit agree that a special approach is needed; ‘To learn to listen,’ they say.”
H. Robert “Bob” Erwin, who was Public Service Commission counsel, became acquainted with Ms. Ginsburg in the 1980s when they worked in the consumer dispute process.
“Wendy persuaded volunteers to come in and man the phones,” Mr. Erwin said. “She was a very caring person and I remember her stopping in to see my wife when she was ill. She was just a really great person who had a remarkable range of interests. She was very interested in local and national politics.”
Regarding her work with the unit, Ms. Ginsburg told The Sun in a 1982 interview, “We’re a law enforcement agency. We’ve got legal clout.”
Reflecting on her time with the unit, she called it “the Camelot of my life.”
After leaving the unit in 1986, Ms. Ginsburg took a position as director of development at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth, a position she held for nine years.
She and her husband formed their own consultancy, the Brooks Group, where they assisted nonprofits with strategic planning and organizational development.
“She cared greatly abut equity and those who showed prejudice or bias,” Judge Heller wrote in an email about her friend.
Ms. Ginsburg and Ms. Obrecht became friends 54 years ago through the Panel of American Women. At the time, Ms. Obrecht became president of the organization.
“Wendy had been a gentle and much appreciated speaker. She’d speak only four of five minutes and then would then take questions,” Ms. Obrecht said. “She had the uncanny ability to speak about the antisemitism that she had experienced and felt without rancor. She could feel the pulse of the people she was addressing
“She never veered away from a calm demeanor, despite what any thoughtless member of the audience might suggest or ask, and she refused to be brought down by her own experiences which would have deeply hurt anyone. Often she might comment on how difficult their situations were, never wavering from her own understanding of not just the sadness of antisemitism by racist experiences of the African American panelists.”
In 2008, Ms. Ginsburg was diagnosed with Stage 4 ovarian cancer.
“She said, ‘I’m not going to let me get that down,’ and she followed her doctor’s regimen,’ Judge Heller said.
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Ms. Ginsburg turned for support to HopeWell Cancer Support in Brooklandville where she was a volunteer, leader of therapeutic groups, and served on its board.
Until a few days before her death, she was still faithfully walking 3 miles each day near her Rockland home. On Sept. 8, more than three dozen neighbors gathered and traversed her route in a tribute to their friend.
“They were confident she was smiling from somewhere that her positive life force was continuing to impact others,” Judge Heller said. “She really was sui generis.”
She was a former member of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation.
Ms. Ginsburg enjoyed music and dancing with her husband. She was a voracious reader and liked spending time at Bethany Beach, Delaware, and “eating crunchy pretzels,” her husband said, who remarked that she had died on their 60th wedding anniversary.
Plans for a celebration-of-life-gathering to be held Aug. 25, 2023, are incomplete.
In addition to her husband, she is survived by a son, Richard Ginsburg of Newton, Massachusetts; a daughter, Emily Ginsburg of Portland, Oregon; two sisters, Susan Schwarz of Tarrytown, New York, and Ann Decker of Pátzcuaro, Mexico; and two grandchildren.