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Obituary

Spruce Hill community leader Mark Wagenveld passes away at 73

January 30, 2018

Mark Wagenveld photographed in Clark Park in 2011 (Photo from Spruce Hill Community Association Facebook page).

UPDATE (2/1/2018): A memorial service for Mark Wagenveld will be held on Saturday, Feb. 17 at Old Pine Street Presbyterian Church at 412 Pine St. Visitation will be from 9:45-10:45 a.m., with a service to follow at 11 a.m.

Longtime Spruce Hill community leader and retired Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Mark Wagenveld passed away on Saturday at the age of 73.

We got to know Mark in his role as president of the Spruce Hill Community Association and a mentor of sorts who took an interest in West Philly Local soon after we began publishing in 2010. He always had solid news tips and words of encouragement for us.

We also know him as the driving force behind the May Fair in Clark Park and the Halloween Parade. Mark became active in community work soon after his retirement from the Inquirer in 2005, according to Barry Grossbach, his friend and colleague in the Spruce Hill Community Association.

“Sometimes we don’t fully appreciate a person’s contribution or importance while they are around,” Grossbach wrote. “Not so with Mark. Everyone knew what he did and what he meant to our community. And everyone will be the poorer for his absence.”  Continue Reading

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Omar, a neighborhood fixture beloved by many and despised by others, passed away last week (updated)

June 12, 2017

This photo portrait of Omar was made by well-known West Philly photographer Kyle Cassidy.

The news has spread very fast – Omar, a controversial, but undoubtedly iconic Spruce Hill individual, has passed away. Although we couldn’t confirm the details, he reportedly died suddenly last week in Long Beach Island, N.J.

A vigil for Omar was held Thursday night at 45th and Locust (photo by Kyle Cassidy).

Many folks who knew him gathered at 45th and Locust Thursday night for a vigil (see more photos below).

Omar was known by many as simultaneously a neighborhood eccentric, dangerous aggressor (sometimes violently so) and idiosyncratic barfly. He showed up in the Spruce Hill neighborhood in the early 2000s, sometimes disappearing for weeks at a time to “the burbs” (his words).

Omar made some people in the neighborhood angry by his erratic and often aggressive behavior (especially toward young women), but he was “a staple of the neighborhood,” as one neighbor put it.  Continue Reading

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Funeral services for UC Green’s Winnie Harris, murdered last week, set for Monday, Feb. 13

February 10, 2017

Funeral services for beloved West Philly community activist and acting executive director of UC Green, Winnie Harris, who was found shot to death in her Powelton home last Friday, will take place Monday, Feb. 13.

The funeral will be at the Christ Community Church of Philadelphia (4017 Chestnut St.), beginning at 10 a.m. A closed casket Memorial Hour will begin at 9 a.m. Burial will be at the West Laurel Hill Cemetery, 215 Belmont Avenue, in Bala Cynwyd, followed by a reception for family and friends.

A number of community organizations where Harris, a longtime Powelton resident and green space advocate, has been involved with posted their messages grieving her tragic death.  Continue Reading

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West Philly woman killed in Orlando shooting (updated)

June 13, 2016

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Akyra Murray (photo from Westcatholic.org)

A West Philadelphia woman, Akyra Murray, 18, was confirmed as one of the victims of the mass shooting that happened on early Sunday morning at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fl.

Akyra graduated from West Catholic High School last week and was on a family vacation in Florida to celebrate graduation and visit her brother, according to information posted on the West Catholic High School website.

“… Akyra was a superstar who was a leader amongst her classmates and teammates,” the posting on the website reads. “She was an honors student whom graduated third in her class, and a 1,000 point scorer on the Lady Burrs basketball team. Akyra recently signed a letter of intent to play basketball at Mercyhurst College. May God bless Akyra’s soul and provide comfort to all family and friends during this very troubling time.”

The school will be holding a vigil service on Wednesday, June 15, at 6 p.m. in the school auditorium to honor Akyra’s memory. Out of respect for those closest to Akyra, the vigil will be private to the school and family community only.

There will be a vigil for the Orlando massacre victims tonight at City Hall (meeting at the North East corner), from 6:30 – 9:30 p.m. If you can please bring a candle. More information is available on the event’s Facebook page.

A University City High School graduate, Patience Carter, was wounded in the shooting and is expected to recover.

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Service for Cheryl Roebuck who passed away on Saturday

June 7, 2016

CherylRoebuckWe’re very sad to report that Cheryl Roebuck, a veteran music teacher, Garden Court community activist, and wife of State Rep. Jim Roebuck, passed away last week.

Mrs. Roebuck has worked for the School District of Philadelphia for over thirty years. She has also been active in her West Philadelphia community for over twenty years. She has served as the secretary of the University City Arts League and was a board member of the Garden Court Community Association.

Funeral services for Mrs. Roebuck will be held on Friday, June 10, at Arch Street United Methodist Church, 55 N. Broad Street. Visitation with the family will be from 10:00 a.m. –12:00 p.m.; service starts at 12:00 p.m.

 

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Remembering Cynthia “Cindy” Roberts, former PIC director and Spruce Hill community leader

February 15, 2016

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Photo from Parentinfantcenter.org

The Parent Infant Center and Spruce Hill community have lost a long-time resident and leader. Cindy Roberts, a former PIC parent and in the recent years, their Executive Director, passed away on February 10th after a year-long battle with cancer. She was 62.

tribute to Roberts posted on the PIC website reads that even in the face of illness, she “continued to show her grace, never-ending generosity, and wonderfully quick wit.”

Roberts and her family moved to West Philly in 1985 and enrolled their two-year-old daughter at PIC. She was a “part of PIC’s culture for more than 30 years — first as a parent, then as a Board member, and finally as an administrator and Executive Director,” according to PIC’s tribute.

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Cindy Roberts serving dessert at Charles Dickens’ Birthday Party in Clark Park in February 2013. (Photo from Friendsofclarkpark.org)

Roberts served as PIC’s Executive Director from 2007 to 2012. She led the expansion of the center and worked on the increase of access to quality pre-kindergarten to at-risk children and families. During her PIC leadership years, she was also behind the development of the innovative outdoor learning space, “Magic Circle.”

Roberts was also a fixture in the Spruce Hill neighborhood. She served as president of the Spruce Hill Community Association and of the Friends of Clark Park. According to Philly.com, Roberts, along with her husband Daniel R. Biddle, “was a tireless civic worker and the driving force behind the revival of Clark Park, just a few blocks from the couple’s home.”

A Memorial Service for Cindy Roberts will take place at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 27 at the Arch Street Friends Meetinghouse, 320 Arch Street. The family asks that donations in her memory be made to fund pre-K slots for disadvantaged children at the Parent Infant Center, 4205 Locust Street.

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