Mrs. Et Stein, 69, Was Advocate for Children

Et Stein, 69, died on Sunday, July 20 at her Upper Saddle River, N.J., home after a brief illness. Her husband, retired New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Gary S. Stein, and her five children were by her bedside.

She was a passionate, outspoken social worker and mother who taught her five children and other young people that they could be anything they wanted to be.

"As kids we would go to the Stein house and sit around the porch talking with Et," said family friend and Island resident Sharon Strimling. "She always asked the hard and meaningful questions that made you think. And she took an interest in us that was different from anyone else. She could get you to reveal anything."

The Steins, longtime summer residents of Edgartown, had celebrated their 47th wedding anniversary two weeks ago.

"Marrying her was the best decision I ever made," said Justice Stein, who left the bench just last summer to spend more time with his wife and family.

Mr. Stein said he first met Et Tilchin at a wedding in Irvington in 1954. They had only two dates before he had to return to law school at Duke University in North Carolina. Stein said he was worried she might get away from him.

"I was desperately trying to get her attention," he said.

So he sent her a postcard with a chess move at the bottom of the card and invited her to respond. The two played chess by mail; she wrote him letters on personalized stationery that read, "Especially for Gary."

Mr. Stein said he talked about her so much that half the law school class went to the airport to meet her when she finally came to visit him at Duke.

"She was unlike any woman I ever met," Justice Stein said of his wife. "She had a unique combination of independence and confidence that was rare in those days."

They were married July 1, 1956, in Paterson. The reception was in her sister's back yard. They spent $25 and had fruit punch, cookies and printed matches, Justice Stein recalled.

The Steins have been summer residents of the Island for 25 years.

"My mother loved the Island. She used to come up in June and stay through September. She loved the solitude and the low key ways of the Vineyard," said daughter Jo Stein.

Mrs. Stein was on the board of directors of the Katama Association and was treasurer and director of the Ocean Pines Condominium Association.

A New Jersey native, Et Stein was born in Westwood, reared in Paterson and was graduated from Eastside High School. She was the youngest of four sisters. She received her bachelor's degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University and a master's degree in special education from William Paterson College. She also attended Columbia University's School of Social Work in 1955 and 1956 and was one month short of completing her master's of social work when her first daughter was born.

Dedicated to serving young people, Mrs. Stein was the teen director of the Jewish Community Center of Englewood, N.J., from 1965 to 1968 and worked as the teen director at the Paterson and Essex County Y.M. & Y.W. H.A's in Paterson and Essex County. Mrs. Stein counseled, planned activities and mentored countless teenagers.

She also worked as a supplemental instructor in Waldwick and Wyckoff from 1969 to 1976 and taught Sunday school in Paterson and Waldwick, N.J., for approximately 20 years. For the past seven years, she served on the board of directors of the Bergen County Advisory Council for the Youth Consultation Services Foundation.

Her children said their mother was a fierce advocate for them.

"I remember her teaching us how to shake hands," recalls daughter Carrie Stein. "She said it needs to be a firm handshake and she made each of us practice. I remember her telling us that we could do anything and be anything we wanted to be. She taught us to speak up if we didn't like something - to never let anyone push you around. As a result she had five very outspoken, assertive kids."

Daughter Terri Stein remembers when her mother went to school to get her switched out of a class because the teacher wasn't nice to her. The administration told Mrs. Stein that the switch would be acceptable as long as her daughter went to talk to the school psychologist. "My mother said that I would talk to the psychologist after the teacher went to talk to the psychologist."

In addition to her husband, Et Stein is survived by five children, Jill, Carrie, Michael, Terri and Jo Stein; two sisters, Fran Roth and Anne Tilchin, and 13 grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held Sunday, July 27, at Temple Beth Or at 56 Ridgewood Road, Washington Township, N.J.

Donations can be made in memory of Et Stein to Youth Consultation Services Foundation, 270 Union avenue, Hackensack, NJ 07601.