Philip Filner, Biologist



Philip Filner
Philip Filner

Philip Filner, a retired molecular biologist and biochemist who lived in Lutherville, passed away Sept. 6 at the age of 75.Remembered by family and friends as a smart and outgoing man, he studied physics at Johns Hopkins University and earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the California Institute of Technology.

Filner was born in Philadelphia in 1939 to parents Samuel Filner and Lily Cohen Filner, The Baltimore Sun reported. At a young age, he and his family moved to Queens, N.Y., where he was raised.

After leaving CalTech in 1965, he was hired as a faculty member at Michigan State University’s U.S. Department of Energy Plant Research Facility in East Lansing, Mich., said his son, Ethan Filner.
In 1981, he took a research leadership position in the biotechnology industry in California.
Filner spent the later years of his life in the Baltimore area, first moving to Owings Mills in 1993 after joining Becton Dickinson, said his son, who lives in California. When he retired a year later, Filner decided to stay in the region.

Never one to shy away from a fight, Filner became heavily involved in community activism in retirement. One of his proudest accomplishments, said his son, was the creation of the Tollgate Wyndham Preserve near his former home in Owings Mills.

As president of the Tollgate Action Group, he and some neighbors secured seven acres of land across the street from his home for a green space for area residents and schoolchildren to enjoy.
Dave Fuller was recruited by Filner to serve as property manager at the preserve. He described Filner as “the type who would always get involved in things,” noting the numerous projects he spearheaded, such as the placement of speed bumps in the neighborhood and the creation of a greenhouse for residents to use.

As a young man, Phillip Filner (first row, third from left) played in the San Marino (Calif.) Lacrosse Club.

His involvement in the community continued after he moved to Lutherville in 2007, said his neighbor, Miriam Winder Kelly.

When Kelly heard about a plan to revitalize an old greenhouse on the roof of her alma mater, Northwestern High School, she immediately thought of Filner. After getting IKEA to donate the materials needed to fix up the structure, Filner become the caretaker of the project. He was around the school so often, said Kelly, that students began to think he was not a volunteer, but rather a full-time employee.

While living in Baltimore County, Filner also began to look into his own Jewish history. Though he was raised in a Jewish family, he had never been particularly spiritual, said his son. In the later years of his life, however, he developed a friendship with Rabbi Aaron Prero. The pair would meet every Wednesday to discuss and debate religious topics, and Filner even grew some etrog trees for the Pearlstone Center.

“He looked forward to those discussions with relish,” said Kelly, adding that he would give her a recap each Thursday morning, as the pair walked their dogs. Filner is survived by former wife Diana Kay Filner, sons Ethan Filner, Daniel Baer Filner and David Howard Filner and grandchildren Edison, Eloise, Sebastian and Matilda Filner. He was predeceased by both parents and his sisters, Barbara Filner and Donna Miller.

Services were held Sept. 8 at Sol Levinson & Bros. funeral home.


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