Esther Deborah Rosenbaum Buchsbaum, 84, died on Tuesday, August 25, 2020.
The daughter of Sarah and Louis Rosenbaum of Atlanta, she attended Ponce de Leon Elementary school in Decatur and Henry W. Grady High School in Atlanta. An accomplished classical pianist, Esther attended H. Sophie Newcomb College of Tulane University (where she went by Debbie). She married Savannah native Aaron Levy Buchsbaum just before his departure for service overseas with the Army Audit Agency, in June 1956. She graduated with distinction with a B.A. in Music, in January 1957, before joining Aaron in Paris, where they lived for a year.
In Savannah, Esther taught fifth grade at Jacob G. Smith Elementary School. With the birth of her children, she left full-time teaching and threw herself into community volunteering. For many years she visited elementary school classrooms to read stories and to conduct music appreciation workshops. The schoolchildren loved her animated readings, and to this day her own children vividly recall her audience-participatory renditions of stories like “Boodleheimer” and “Pat the Bunny.” She led Brownie Scout troops and volunteered in Savannah Children’s Theatre.
Later, she was the first female foreperson of the Chatham County Grand Jury. She served on the boards of the Savannah Jewish Federation, Hospice Savannah, Citizens for Clean Air and the Chatham County Board of Equalization, and as president of the Savannah Concert Association. She volunteered extensively with the Savannah Symphony Women’s Guild, the Jewish Educational Alliance and the Agudath Achim Synagogue, and served as a commissioner on the Cultural Affairs Committee for the City of Savannah.
Her lifelong enjoyment of visual art took her to Armstrong Atlantic State University, where she studied ceramic sculpture, art history, drawing, painting, jewelry making and printmaking for several years.
She was a tough cookie. In her later years, she survived breast cancer, was hit by a truck, was laid low by Guillain-Barré Syndrome and in July contracted Covid-19. She had recovered from all of them.
Until she was struck by Guillain-Barré in 2018, she practiced piano every evening. Her children fondly recall drifting off to the strains of Rachmaninoff, Chopin, Bach and Debussy.
Aaron was Esther’s first and only love. She supported him throughout his demanding career as a civil rights lawyer and, after his Alzheimer’s diagnosis, she nursed him at home for years. After a 56-year marriage that Esther said “wasn’t long enough,” Aaron died in 2014.
She is survived by her children, Herbert Buchsbaum and his wife, Letta Tayler, of Brooklyn, New York; Lauren Buchsbaum and her husband, Nick Riggio, of St. Louis, Missouri; Susan Buchsbaum and her husband, Jeffrey Gratz, of Brooklyn, New York; and Elizabeth Buchsbaum of Peaks Island, Maine; grandchildren, Emma Louise Buchsbaum, Sarah Lea Gratz, David Matthew Gratz and Charlie Aaron Buchsbaum Levine; and her sister, Harriet Draluck of Atlanta.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, her funeral service will be private.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Esther’s name to the Esther and Aaron Buchsbaum Fund of the Savannah Jewish Federation, Agudath Achim Synagogue of Savannah or the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum in Atlanta.