Hannah Block, Wilmington advocate dies at 96

Posted by Debra Worley - email

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - One of Wilmington's most profound women died in her home Friday morning.  Hannah Block who died at 96, stood out in the community for marking several "firsts."

"She's done it all," said George Edwards, the Chairman of the Historical Society.  "She's had a rich and full life and made so many contributions to Wilmington."

She was the first female to serve on Wilmington's City Council.  She served on council from 1961-1963 and was also the first female mayor pro tempore.

Hannah's daughter, Mary Levine, said her mother ran her whole campaign using volunteers.

"They divided the phone book into sections and they got on the phone and made personal calls," said Levine.  "She was elected and ended up being mayor pro tempore at a time when women were just not in that position."

Additionally, Hannah was the first female head lifeguard in North Carolina.  She was a lifeguard at Carolina Beach and taught swimming lessons and lifesaving classes for the American Red Cross.

But, according to her son, Frank Block, many people remember Hannah for involvement with the first Miss North Carolina pageant.  She directed the first pageant and trained girls competing for Miss America.

"I remember vividly when she was coaching girls for beauty contests," Levine recalled.  "She would have them marking through the living room, around the dining room table, and I was the caboose.  I got to walk behind them all and had my very own pair of high heels - which I could barely walk in."

According to Edwards, Hannah worked with the troops during WWII.  He said she was an entertainer and worked in the USO building at Second and Orange Streets in downtown Wilmington.  The building was later named in her honor as she was a charter member of the local USO board.

Recently, the Historic Wilmington Foundation honored Block as part of their "Celebration of Coastal Treasures" event.  The annual gathering is a fundraiser for the foundation that works to protect historic resources in the city.

Hannah's son said downtown Wilmington was one of her passions all her life.

"She wanted to be able to help preserve the great beauty and charm of downtown Wilmington," explained Block.

Hannah bought part of South Front Street and turned it into an apartment building, where Levine says she happily spent her last days.

"This is not a tragedy," said Block.  "My mother's had a very long, full life.  She's led her life the way she's wanted to lead it - so she has a lot to be thankful for."

Hannah's funeral will be at Bnai Israel Synagogue on Sunday at 2.30,  with burial following the service at Bnai Israel cemetery.

Shivah minyayim will be at Sea Path Towers the residence of Frank and Wendy Block as follows:

  • Sunday evening at 7 pm
  • Monday morning at 8 am
  • Monday evening at 7 pm

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