Cover photo for Barbara A. Bloom's Obituary
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Barbara A. Bloom

d. December 7, 2020

Barbara A. Bloom

Barbara Anne Bloom’s passion for sharing knowledge led her to stretch beyond academia and tap the skills of her neighbors to launch the Mount Airy Learning Tree (MALT). Bloom took the name of the organization from a novel by the late African American photographer Gordon Parks, who once gave a lecture at MALT.

In 1980, Bloom and a group of volunteers began teaching non-credit courses to fellow residents of Germantown, Mt. Airy, and Chestnut Hill. Classes range from basic plumbing to belly dancing. On one occasion, Bloom co-taught a class on Wonder Woman with a 12-year-old girl “who knew more about the comic-book character than I did,” Bloom said. “Over 40 years MALT has helped thousands of people grasp hundreds of topics.”

A shrewd diplomat, Bloom chose locations belonging to different ethnic, racial, and cultural groups to host classes, an approach that ensured contact among people of different backgrounds. She also made sure that ALT’s board included a cross-section of her neighbors.

MALT offers classes for children, but Bloom also addressed the needs of young people, many of them of African heritage, through a tutoring program she established in the early 2000s. In the program, volunteer tutors work one-on-one to strengthen the reading skills of students at the Henry Houston School, a public elementary school in Mt. Airy.

Bloom returned to Denver twice a year for meetings of the Sam S. Bloom Foundation, which makes grants to organizations that provide transitional housing and other services.

Bloom, 79, who had a gift for enlarging others’ lives, died of complications from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease on December 7, 2020. Born in Denver, Colorado, on May 9, 1941, she came east to attend Wellesley College, a private women’s liberal college in Massachusetts. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English in 1963, then earned master’s degrees in American civilization and adult education from the University of Pennsylvania and Temple University, respectively.

Bloom went on to direct Temple’s Regional Continuing Education Program for Women and later served as an associate professor of English at the Community College of Philadelphia of Philadelphia.

A woman of both compassion and courage, Bloom laid bare dysfunction in her family of origin in Ephemeral Blooms: A Memoir with Roots in Colorado, published by Amazon in 2018. In the memoir she considers why she lived to become the last member of her immediate family after her parents died of natural causes and her brothers, Marshall and Alan, her only siblings, committed suicide years apart.

Recognition crowned Bloom’s final year. A few months ago, Historic Germantown inducted her into its Hall of Fame for her contributions to community life.

Bloom is survived by her husband, Robert Rossman, and, in Rossman’s words, “also by the Mt. Airy Learning Tree,” he said. “Barbara had no children, but MALT was her child.”

Donations may be made to the Mt. Airy Learning Tree, 6601 Greene Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19119.

A memorial service will take place in May, 2021, when Bloom would have turned 80.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Barbara A. Bloom, please visit our flower store.

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