Frances Klafter, researcher, activist
By Adam Bernstein,
Frances Klafter, 102, an editor and researcher for a public policy organization who became an activist with the Gray Panthers seniors organization, died July 19 at a nursing home in Minneapolis. She had a swallowing disorder.
Mrs. Klafter, an Oklahoma native, moved to the Washington area in the mid-1930s and did research and administrative work for New Deal agencies while also becoming involved in trade unionism. She became a chapter president of United Federal Workers of America union.
From 1950 to 1972, she was an editor and researcher for the Twentieth Century Fund, a nonpartisan public policy organization now called the Century Foundation.
Throughout the years, she was active in civil rights, antiwar and antinuclear weapons protests. In retirement, she became involved with the Gray Panthers and headed its national health-care task force.
In the early 1980s, at a time when many doctors were reluctant to accept Medicare, she helped compile a guide to Washington area physicians who did. The guide was intended to inform seniors and help push providers to accept the rate of reimbursement established by Medicare.
Frances Elizabeth Lee was born in Hugo, Okla., and was a 1931 graduate of the University of Oklahoma. Her interest in politics was spurred by her father, a pharmacist who was a populist Democrat and delegate to the Oklahoma statehood convention.
A longtime District resident, she moved to New York in the late 1980s and later to Minneapolis. She continued her health-care activism and volunteered for the late Sen. Paul D. Wellstone (D-Minn.), who was among the most prominent liberals on Capitol Hill.
Her first marriage, to Angus McDonald, ended in divorce. A son from that marriage, James McDonald, died in 1986.
Her second husband, Ira Klafter, whom she married in 1941, died in 1972 after being struck by a boat while swimming in a waterway near Annapolis.
Survivors include two children from her second marriage, Janet “Joen” O’Neal of Minneapolis and David Klafter of Brookline, Mass.; and four grandchildren.
— Adam Bernstein