Transitioning from housewife to executive wasn’t easy for women in the 1970s — but then again, it’s not easy now.
Bea Meltzer knew that first hand, stepping into the high-profile role of spokeswoman for Con Edison, donning a bright blue helmet over her wavy gray hair with the likes of Mike Taibbi or John Tesh interviewing her.
That’s the way Carl Rips Meltzer remembers his mother, who died July 22 at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale. He wrote a tribute to a woman everyone in the borough seemed to know, highlighting her role as not just a mover and shaker, but as someone who always gave back to the community that offered so much to her.
Meltzer was one of the keys to the expansion of Riverdale Neighborhood House beginning in the 1960s, eventually becoming the community center’s president. She also was the founder of the Network Organization of Bronx Women which, in 1980, connected women with women, whether they were career professionals, or just volunteers in the community looking to move into paying jobs.
“She was a true-blue Dodger fan from Brooklyn who never forgave Walter O’Malley for his devil’s bargain to sell out the Brooklyn faithful,” Carl Meltzer wrote. “She dutifully hated the Yankees — until she fell in love with Derek Jeter. She became a big Yankee fan just in time to enjoy baseball again, and watched The Pinstripes win four rings in five years.
“But in her heart, she was a Riverdalian in the true sense of the word, taking that can-do community spirit into action, in a Riverdale where awareness was on the rise in the ‘60s, and the belief that we could all make a difference became a reality.”
Meltzer grew up in Canarsie, who her father Harry Aronson called “the garden spot of the world,” according to Carl Meltzer.
On Friday nights, when her parents went out, Meltzer would hold dance parties for her friends.
Later, she majored in political science in what was then Adelphi College on Long Island, getting a taste of politics herself as part of the John Lindsey mayoral campaign.
At the same time, she became a community leader, Carl Meltzer said, involving herself in local issues including what would become Riverdale’s Special Natural Area District.
While she was tasked with talking to the media and the public whenever ConEd had an outage or gas explosions, she also had a chance to be a part of community projects as well, like raising money for children’s programs, homes for the aged, and, of course, women’s causes.
“It was a lifetime of dedication and support,” Carl Meltzer said, “not just to woman’s causes, but to programs for education and the poor, which was so needed in a New York City that was transitioning from the turbulent ‘60s to the burnt-out ‘70s, and finally into the ‘80s where it was reborn into the New York and the Bronx we know today.”
“That spirit is coming back, and I wish my mother could be here to see it,” the younger Meltzer said. “But she will look down on all of us from heaven as we, back here on Earth, keep hope alive, and remember her, always, as a true warrior of her time.”