Lovely to look at, smart, gracious and kind, Florence Yellen passed away on April 15, 2020.
Born in Houston to Celia Juran Kless and H. L. Kless, Florence was exceptional from the start. As children, she and her sister Ruby Lee were a couple of cuties singing and dancing in variety shows and appearing on the radio as “The Kless Sisters.” In junior high, she was awarded the prestigious American Legion Medal for Most Outstanding Student. She received her B.A. from Rice Institute in 1942.
Florence married Dr. Milton Yellen in 1944. In support of his orthodontic practice, she joined the Houston and the Texas Dental Auxiliaries, eventually presiding as President of each. During that time, she created entertaining puppet shows for state-wide K-3rd grade programs to educate children on proper dental hygeine.
Florence loved art in all flavors. She sketched and painted in oils and watercolor, made paper sculpture, mosaics, metal jewelry and other objects of beauty. She supported the careers of local and national artists, and led art appreciation courses for the Brandeis National Committee.
The Yellen home was a fun and welcoming place where friends and family gathered. Nieces and nephews often dropped by to get their baby teeth pulled, be measured for hand-made holiday costumes, do their homework, or just hang out.
After her beloved Milton died, Florence broadened her community work. She became the Director of The Judaica Museum at Congregation Beth Yeshurun where she actively promoted the museum through group tours for schools and church groups, membership drives to raise funds and encourage new acquisitions, a docent program, and an adult learning program. In her twelve years at the museum, her world travels raised the profile of the collection among the international community.
Other groups to which she generously gave her time include the Organization of Rehabilitation Through Training (Board Member), Texas Hadassah Medical Research Foundation, Houston Area Parkinsonism Society and the Holocaust Museum Houston. She refurbished the Jewish History exhibit at the Institute of Texan Cultures in San Antonio, and transcribed books and periodicals into Braille for the blind.
In her last years, when her eyesight and memory failed, Florence shared her loving, generous heart with her wonderful caregivers. In her world, every day was happy, and everyone she met was a dear friend.
Florence is survived by daughter Gay Yellen, her husband Don Reiser and children; son Marc Yellen, his wife Joan and children; sister Ruby Kless Sondock; sister Jackie Wolens Mazow, her husband Dr. Malcolm Mazow; and many nieces and nephews.
A scholarship was created at UT School of Dentistry to honor Milton’s role as a founder of the inaugural Orthodontic curriculum and Florence’s dedication to the dental community at large.
Graveside services were held to celebrate Florence’s life. In her memory, contributions may be sent to The Dr. Milton and Florence Yellen Scholarship Fund, UTHealth, PO Box 1321, Houston, TX 77251-1321 or made online at https://giving.uth.edu/memorial. Donations in her name are also welcome at the Houston Jewish History Archive of Rice University at https://donate.rice.edu/jewish-studies, or to your charity of choice.