Virginia “Jenny” Weisz (1945-2024)
Virginia “Jenny” Weisz of Newtonville, MA, passed away on Saturday, January 20, 2024, at the age of 78, after months of treatment for ovarian cancer. She was a beloved wife, sister, mother, and grandmother and a devoted legal advocate for children. Born in Charlottesville, Virginia, to Helen and Allen Graves, and raised mainly in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Louisville, Kentucky, Jenny was one of six children in a tight-knit family. After graduating in 1967 from Blue Mountain College in Mississippi, where she studied English and history and was actively involved in the civil rights movement, she married John Weisz of Clinton, Mississippi. Their 56-year marriage included three years in the Peace Corps in Nairobi, Kenya, where their daughter, Dawn, was born; three years in New Haven, Connecticut, where their daughter Allison was born; three years in Ithaca, New York, where Jenny earned her JD at Cornell; twelve years in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where they became lifelong Tar Heels; fourteen years in Los Angeles, California, where their son, Daniel, and daughter, Tamara, were adopted; and almost twenty years in Newtonville.
Jenny was a passionate advocate for child welfare. In 1981, just a few years after finishing law school, she created the Volunteers for Youth program, which is still thriving, now based in the courthouse in Chapel Hill. She was then selected by the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts to build a new statewide Guardian ad Litem (GAL) program. In this role, she engaged judges, attorneys, and community volunteers in each of North Carolina’s 100 counties, training them to protect the wellbeing of children who had been abused or neglected. This GAL network now includes over 5000 volunteers and serves more than 17,000 children a year. After moving to Los Angeles in 1990, Jenny oversaw the Children’s Rights Project at the prominent pro bono law firm Public Counsel, where she led efforts to promote adoptions, help loving adults in children’s lives become legal guardians when their parents could not care for them, provide legal services to students through legal aid clinics at high schools, and support teen parents, especially those in foster care. In Massachusetts, where the family moved in 2004, Jenny joined the Court Improvement Program at the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, where, as training director, she oversaw initiatives designed to increase child welfare expertise within the legal community.
The daughter of a Baptist seminary dean, Jenny was guided by the directive in Micah 6:8 to “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly,” and throughout her life, she and John sought out progressive communities of faith that shared their commitment to social justice. At Binkley Baptist Church in Chapel Hill, Westwood United Methodist Church in Los Angeles, First Baptist Church in Newton, and Union Church in Waban, Jenny was a committed and beloved member, joining mission trips, serving in leadership roles, and singing in the choir.
Jenny’s bright smile, sharp wit, charm, and generosity of spirit left a mark on all who knew her. She is survived by her husband of 56 years, John; her sisters, Joyce Olney and Cannan Hyde; her brother, David Graves; her children, Dawn Brown, Allison Brettschneider, Daniel Weisz, and Tamara Weisz; her grandchildren, Tyler Brown, Hannah Brown, and Sophie Brettschneider; and many other beloved family members and friends. She was predeceased by her brothers John Graves and Thomas Graves.
Her memorial service will be held at Union Church in Waban, 14 Collins Road, Waban, MA, on Feb. 24th at 2 pm. Relatives and friends are invited.
In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be sent to Union Church in Waban for The Jenny Fund. The Jenny Fund is an educational equity fund established in Jenny’s honor that provides college scholarships to deserving, under-resourced students. Donations may be made online at http://tinyurl.com/Jenny-Fund or by check specifying “Jenny Fund” mailed to Union Church in Waban, 14 Collins Road, Waban, MA 02468.
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