Francine Klein, who served as executive director of the MetroWest Jewish Community Housing Corporation from its inception in 1980 until her retirement in 2004, died of cancer Sept. 12 at the Ridgefield Crossings senior living facility in Ridgefield, Conn. She was 75.
As the head of JCHC, she supervised over 600 housing units for senior citizens living in Essex and Morris counties. Her tenure coincided with a period of wide expansion for the agency, a partner agency of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ.
“Fran was there from the very beginning and played a key role in seeing all five of the JCHC’s independent living and assisted living apartment buildings completed,” said Harold Colton-Max, who succeeded Klein and is currently the JCHC’s chief executive officer.
“Over these past 30 years, more than 10,000 senior residents have had a roof over their heads and a better quality of life due to her dedicated efforts at the JCHC. These are major accomplishments on the path to tikun olam.
“Hopefully, her legacy will bring some level of comfort to her family during this difficult time,” Colton-Max added. “Certainly, the thoughts and prayers of the JCHC board of trustees and staff are with them.”
Klein was born in Newark. After graduating from Weequahic High School, she began a career in personnel at the now-defunct Good Deal Supermarket chain.
After becoming the first director of the JCHC, she encouraged Jewish residents of the public Seth Boyden Housing Project in Newark to relocate to the JCHC houses in West Orange and Irvington.
“They provided food, housekeeping services, and everything needed to help people — particularly Jewish people — grow old gracefully,” said her brother, Daniel Jonas of West Orange.
“My sister interviewed every tenant and their families,” he said. “She wanted to be sure where they would fit, how they would fit, and get to know them so she could provide them with the most services.”
Services were held Sept. 14 at the Bernheim Apter Kreitzman Suburban Funeral Chapel. “At her funeral there were loads of ex-employees. She treated them like she did the tenants,” Jonas said.
In addition to Jonas, Klein is survived by her husband, Joseph Klein of Ridgefield, her daughters, Lisa Petno and Marcy Thilow, and seven grandchildren.
Contributions in her memory may be made to The Joseph T. Ruggiero Cancer Research Fund, at the Weill Cornell Medical College, 1305 York Ave., 12th floor, New York, NY 10021.