Edith Alice Lobe, Civic Activist, Fought Social Injustice All Her Life

The life of Edith Alice Lobe, a German immigrant who became a civic activist here, was a beehive of activity intended to help other, less fortunate people.

Her strong social conscience came from being a refugee from Nazi Germany, said Margaret Ceis, a longtime friend and community activist from West Seattle.

"She was very strong about social injustices; she fought them all her life," said Ceis.

Mrs. Lobe and her sister, Hilda, fled Germany in 1933. Their parents joined them here in 1938.

Mrs. Lobe, 78, former president of the League of Women Voters of Seattle who was chosen the Municipal League's Citizen of the Year in 1970, died of a heart attack in Palm Springs Jan. 15, where she was on a visit with her husband, Ludwig.

It was under Mrs. Lobe's leadership that the League of Woman Voters of Seattle, formerly considered a middle-class white woman's organization, opened itself to the community, Ceis said.

When Mrs. Lobe was league president in the late 1960's she moved the office from downtown to 18th Avenue and East Union Street, the heart of the Central Area, Ceis said.

Mrs. Lobe felt that if the league wanted to do good it should be where it was needed the most, Ceis said. Mrs. Lobe helped organize voter-registration drives, political forums and community meetings.

"She was the leader and she brought the rest of us along with her," said Ceis, who served on the league's board of directors at the time.

"She felt she was not doing her bit for society unless she was doing these things," said Lois North, a longtime acquaintance and former member of the state Legislature and King County Council.

"She was a very caring person about other people. She really was interested in helping them anyway she could," North said.

U.S. District Judge William Dwyer, who knew Mrs. Lobe for 35 years, says she was a perfect example of how the United States has benefited from its immigrants.

Albert Einstein is the most famous of the German Jews who fled Germany in the 1930s, but Seattle gained "some outstanding men and women who became citizens here, and Edith Lobe is one of them," Dwyer said.

"She is the kind of leader who gets the job done by cheerfulness and intelligence. She created that atmosphere everywhere she went," Dwyer added.

Mrs. Lobe served at least 15 years on the board of directors of the Washington Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Its executive director, Larry Fehr, said Mrs. Lobe exemplified the citizen volunteer, becoming involved because she wanted "to make this community better."

To honor Mrs. Lobe, the council, which each year presents achievement awards, is creating a new award, "the Edith A. Lobe Award for Outstanding Achievement by a Citizen Volunteer."

The award will be presented for the first time next year, Fehr said.

Mrs. Lobe was born in Frankfurt, Germany, but left as teenager when Adolph Hitler came to power. She came to Seattle in the late 1930s, graduating from the University of Washington in 1942. She received her master's degree in social work in 1952.

Besides her work with the League of Woman Voters, Mrs. Lobe also served on the boards of United Way of King County, the Washington Association for Social Welfare, the Municipal League, Planned Parenthood and the Council of Planning Affiliates, a coalition of volunteer social organizations.

From 1974 to 1976, Mrs. Lobe was president of the Crisis Clinic, and she also served as president of the United Community Services. She also was the first non-attorney member of the Washington Bar Association's disciplinary board in the early 1970's.

Mrs. Lobe and her husband were founding members of Temple Beth Am in North Seattle.

Besides her husband, Mrs. Lobe is survived by her sister, Hilda Birnbaum, of Seattle; two sons, Tom Lobe of Vermillion, S.D., and Jim Lobe of Takoma Park, Md., and five grandchildren.

Memorial services will be held at noon tomorrow at the University of Washington School of Social Work.

The family suggests remembrances to any charitable organization.