Last Thursday, a memorial service to honor the life of late Northwest Philadelphia activist and City Councilman Edward Schwartz was held at the National Consitution Center.

Schwartz, who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2010 but had shown signs of revitalization lately, died Nov. 29. He was 69.

"He was smart, he was funny, he was articulate, he was loyal, and curious about the world," said Deborah McColloch, a friend who worked with Schwartz in the city's Office of Housing and Community Development, where she now serves as director.

Widely respected

Attendees noted that the timing of his death was particularly cruel considering that the proud Philadelphian had recovered enough to start attending City Council sessions again in recent weeks. "Ed was back" went a common refrain at the service.

"Ed was a friend, mentor and hero of mine," said state Rep. Mark Cohen, whose district covers a small portion of Northwest Philadelphia. "One of the most unforgettable people I ever knew."

As Schwartz was a talented jazz pianist, the service's backdrop was a selection of some of his favorite songs; also, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," sung by Mildred Lewis, preceded the service.

Retired Judge Richard Klein played drums in a jazz quartet with Schwartz. He shared some memories of playing in Reading Terminal.

"Ed was a man of all people, and a man without prejudice. The Reading Terminal symbolizes that. [Bassist] Patrick and I are both Republicans, so Ed could work with anyone," he said. "Ed also was a man of courage. You have to be a man of courage to play in a place with so many tomatoes."

Local religious leaders were in attendance at the memorial service as well, with Rev. Katie Day of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia reading "May the Road Rise Up to Meet You." Rabbi Nancy Epstein led the ceremony.