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Dancer, Luna Negra benefactor spurned Hollywood as teen

June Bild PinsEdwM. Pinsof

June Bild Pinsof and Edwin M. Pinsof

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Updated: April 7, 2013 6:13AM

June Bild Pinsof embraced the arts, especially dance, all her life.

When she was young, she gained local fame as part of a professional Latin dance duo. Much later, she became a patron of Chicago’s Luna Negra Latin dance company, underwriting two original ballets for that group and winning its “Woman of the Year” award when she was 90.

In between, Mrs. Pinsof gardened ardently, read voraciously, traveled the world and supported the arts. Above all, family members remembered this week, she taught them open-hearted friendship.

“She would say ‘Welcome to our family’,” daughter Judith Meyer of Pennsylvania said Monday. “That was Mommy. I will always remember her friendliness, as well as her consummate elegance and her tremendous curiosity about life.”

Mrs. Pinsof, formerly of Winnetka and Wilmette, died Feb. 24 in Scottsdale, Ariz., after suffering a stroke. She was 94.

Born in July 1918 in Detroit, Mrs. Pinsof was raised in Chicago. Her parents encouraged her artistic talents with piano and dance lessons, the latter with well-known Chicago teacher Edna MacCrae.

She chose dance over piano; the path almost led her to Hollywood, daughter Madeleine Pinsof Plonsker of Glencoe said.

As a teenager, only a warning from her mother that “If you pick up that suitcase and go, don’t come back” prevented her from taking a screen test for Cuban band leader Xavier Cugat.

“Her mother said, ‘You look like Rita Hayworth, and if you go to Hollywood, I’ll lose you.’ So she didn’t go,” Plonsker said.

Mrs. Pinsof reluctantly maintained her full scholarship to Chicago Normal College. She also continued dancing professionally, as half of a duo styled “Jose & Delores” at the famed Edgewater Beach Hotel. The Chicago Herald and Examiner on Dec. 5, 1936, reported that the duo “. . . have scored the hit of the Winter season.”

Shortly after giving up on Hollywood, Mrs. Pinsof met Edwin M. Pinsof at a Valentine’s Day party. They were married in December 1938, until his death in 1999.

They moved to Winnetka in 1948, where Mrs. Pinsof cultivated her beloved lilies and roses and, later, orchids, Plonsker said. She helped run a Brownie troop and was an active PTA member.

In the 1960s, she became head of the Women’s Division of the Jewish United Fund, and in the 1970s was a board member of the International Visitors’ Center. In that position she often showed ministers of foreign countries around Chicago and entertained them at home. She and her husband also traveled extensively, including trips to Russia, Cuba and China.

After her husband died, she moved to Wilmette and also had a home in Scottsdale. She donated money to create the Chicago Botanic Gardens’ Butterfly Garden, and underwrote summer concerts at Ravinia for more than a decade.

In addition to her daughters, Mrs. Pinsof is survived by six grandsons and eight great-grandchildren. A son, Lawrence Daniel Pinsof, died in 2004.

Services were held March 1 at North Shore Congregation Israel in Glencoe. Burial was at Shalom Memorial Park in Arlington Heights.

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