Genevieve G. Wyner
Genevieve Gloria (Geller) Wyner, 88, a long-time resident of Brookline MA, and more recently of Newbridge on the Charles in Dedham, and Edgartown died October 17, 2019. For 64 years, the beloved wife of Justin Wyner. Devoted mother of George Wyner and his wife Barbara, Daniel Wyner and his wife Norma Stokes, and James Wyner and his wife Giang. Adored grandmother of Samuel, Hannah, Madelyn, Oliver, and Lam An. Dear sister of Harriet Greenfield and her husband Michael.
Known for her warmth, quick wit, and spirituality, Mrs. Wyner lived a rich and varied life in which she balanced a deep dedication to her family, with a lifetime of service and leadership in civic, religious and business life.
Genevieve was born on November 28, 1930 in New Rochelle, NY, the fourth and youngest child of Max and Ida (Wachstein) Geller. She attended New Rochelle High School. She then enrolled at Wellesley College as a member of the class of 1952 where she majored in Biblical Studies to pursue her interest in Jewish learning and in spirituality.
At Wellesley, Mrs. Wyner, a talented young writer with a sense of humor that became one of her trademarks in life, rose to become Editor in Chief of the Wellesley College News. It was the first step in a budding journalism career that took her first to The Daily Times of Mamaroneck, N.Y., and then as a writer with a New York public relations firm. Then, in what she later remarked was a sign of the times in which she lived, she turned down a job at the Jewish Times in order to focus on raising her three children, though her writing and editing skills would continue to play an important role in her life as both a volunteer and a business woman.
It was at a Wellesley College mixer that Genevieve Geller captured the attention of Justin Wyner as they passed on a staircase and won his heart with her famous sense of humor, an encounter that a friend on the scene observed as love at first sight. It was the start of an inspirational life-long partnership that lasted through more than 64 years of marriage.
The couple moved to Brookline in 1955, where Genevieve cut her teeth in Brookline politics as co-chair of a controversial ballot initiative to introduce fluoridation into the local water supply. She then went on to serve the town in a variety of roles including as an elected representative to the Town Meeting, President of the local PTO, a METCO host mother, a member of the Brookline Bicentennial Committee, and a central figure on the Brookline Cable Commission that oversaw the installation of cable services in the town and started what is now known as the Brookline Interactive Group. She was also active in a variety of leadership roles in her synagogue, Temple Israel of Boston, where she served as President of the PTA, as a Trustee, and as President of the Congregation.
Among her many activities and accomplishments, Genevieve always viewed motherhood as her best and most fulfilling work. She raised her three sons, George, Daniel and James in a household filled with dogs, cats, hamsters, chickens, parakeets, and joy. She played the piano. She sang and played her favorite records, encouraging her children to dance throughout the house. She was as excited as her children about having a family play day when a snowstorm cancelled school. She loved being a mother and everything it involved. “For me it was what I was meant to do,” she wrote.
As her children grew, Genevieve turned her focus back to professional pursuits. A life-long competitive tennis player, former Brookline Singles Champion and USTA certified instructor, Genevieve took on the management of the Sudbury Tennis and Skating Club, a struggling family investment. She put her writing and marketing talents to work growing the membership with innovative community-building initiatives and with marketing partnerships with the Boston Bruins and the Boston Lobsters of the newly launched World Team Tennis league. The business grew rapidly under her leadership and developed into a vibrant social hub for avid tennis enthusiasts, before merging with a nearby facility.
In the early 80’s, with her three sons off to college, Genevieve’s life took a new turn. Inspired by her son’s Harvard graduation, she enrolled at the Harvard School of Education where she received her Masters in Education and Adult Development. In parallel with her master studies, having been denied the chance as a young woman, she undertook Bat Mitzvah studies and became Bat Mitzvah at Temple Israel in 1984, the year of her graduation from Harvard.
This marked the beginning of a phase of her life where she focused on using her considerable capacity for empathy and listening to helping people in need. After graduation, she embarked on a career in counseling, beginning with volunteer work at Wider Opportunities for Women, then a long tenure at the Cambridgeport Problem Center, and ultimately in private practice as a licensed mental health family counselor. But her deep sense of caring and considerable counseling skills informed almost everything she did.
While maintaining her small private practice, Genevieve created a formal human resource function at Shawmut, the family textile business. As Vice President of human resources, she led the implementation of modern supervisory skills training that taught old line supervisors how to treat employees with respect, and to listen and respond with empathy even as they gave important feedback. She launched English-as-a-second-language instruction for the largely immigrant workforce. It so inspired the students they arranged a trip to Washington DC with their instructor to celebrate. She had an open-door policy and spent countless hours listening to the professional and personal concerns of employees. Outside of work, she remained in contact with countless people whose lives she had touched. She would reach out to people who were otherwise feeling isolated or forgotten. She was a trusted listener and advisor. Loving, caring and without judgement, she made people feel that they mattered.
It was for these rare qualities that she was drafted by her peers to serve as the President of Temple Israel, at a tumultuous time in 1994 when divisions threatened to split the congregation apart. It was perhaps her greatest challenge as a leader, but one for which she was uniquely qualified. She worked diligently and tirelessly, to overcome an atmosphere of deep mistrust, and through her warmth and strength of purpose she helped the congregation to create an environment of unity, cooperation and healing and helped to the temple unify around a new direction.
Throughout their marriage, Justin and Genevieve spent their summers sailing together on Seabiscuit, their 54-foot sailboat, and took many winter vacations sailing in the Caribbean. In the later stages of their lives, Genevieve and Justin moved from Brookline to Rowes Wharf in Boston and bought a house in Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard, where Genevieve, in her fashion, became active in the island community in both a social and civic capacity.
Services at Temple Israel, 477 Longwood Avenue, Boston (Parking on the Riverway) on Tuesday, October 22 at 11:00am with interment at Temple Israel Cemetery, 500 North Avenue, Wakefield.
Memorial observance will be at NewBridge on the Charles, 5000 Great Meadow Road, Dedham in the Great Hall on Tuesday 3-5pm. Tuesday evening at James’ home from 7-9PM, continuing on Wednesday and Thursday from 3-5PM and 7-9PM.
In lieu of flowers, you are invited to make a donation to the Genevieve Wyner 1952 Fund for Religious and Spiritual Life at Wellesley College, 106 Central St., Wellesley, MA 02481
- Temple Service Tuesday, October 22, 2019