Louise Shaffrath, a former Sacramento resident who was a prominent organizer and fundraiser for arts, civic and medical groups for almost 50 years, has died at 90.
She died Dec. 10 of pneumonia in Marin County, where she moved in 1997 with her husband Max D. Shaffrath, an orthopedic surgeon, said her daughter Ann Reed.
Mrs. Shaffrath was a community leader at a time when many civic-minded women dedicated themselves to volunteer work. She was president or a board member of many civic and cultural groups, including the Sacramento Children’s Home, Junior League, Opera Guild, Sacramento County Medical Auxiliary and Sacramento Cancer League. She led a public campaign that resulted in a $1 million Ford Foundation grant to the Sacramento Symphony Association.
Besides supporting a regional fundraising effort for portable dialysis machines, she was active in promoting careers in the health field. She served on the Golden Empire Health Planning Council and a curriculum advisory committee for medical assistants at American River College. She oversaw planning for “Health Career Day” at UC Davis Medical Center that drew hundreds of local high school students.
As president of the Sacramento County Medical Auxiliary in 1971, Mrs. Shaffrath “expanded the vision of what was a very conservative organization,” former Sacramento Mayor Anne Rudin said. Rudin, who also belonged to the auxiliary, recalled a discussion about whether the group should join the Environmental Council of Sacramento, a coalition of community organizations.
“The question was whether the medical auxiliary really had environmental interests, and she said, yes, there is a relationship between health and the environment,” Rudin said. “We were kind of compartmentalized because our husbands were in the medical field, but she saw the relationship. From then on, the medical group was very involved in environmental issues.”
A striking woman who wore her signature dark hair in a tight chignon, Mrs. Shaffrath was often in the public eye as a model as well as a civic activist. Poised and elegant, she appeared frequently in regional TV shows, newspapers and magazines and volunteered as a model at fundraisers for charitable and nonprofit groups.
Besides strolling the runway, she often wrote scripts, selected music and hired directors and musicians for the programs. She had a down-to-earth charm and genuine interest in meeting and helping others that drew people to her, friends said.
“As stunning as she was, she had an uncanny ability to put people at ease,” Pat Baker said. “No matter who you were, she made you feel comfortable. That was part of her success in pulling people together and getting things done.”
The daughter of a former mayor of Omaha, Neb., Louise McManis was born July 17, 1923, in Nebraska and raised in Colorado and California. She graduated from high school in Santa Monica, attended University of Redlands and married her husband, an Army physician, in 1946. They settled in Sacramento in 1950 and raised three children.
Mrs. Shaffrath was active in the Crocker Art Gallery Association, People to People and the World Affairs Council. In 1970, she was named woman of the year by the Sacramento Soroptimist Club. The Sacramento Symphony Association honored her fundraising efforts the same year with its presidential citation.
Besides her husband, she is survived by two daughters, Ann Reed and Margaret Lanzone; a son, James; three grandsons; and two great-grandchildren.
No service is planned. Memorial donations may be made to charity.