On October 19, 2018, Vella R. Potash (nee Rosenthal), former wife of the late Dr. Michael Potash; devoted mother of Dr. James Potash (Sally Scott) and John Potash (Janine DiStephan); beloved daughter of the late Rona and Joseph Rosenthal; cherished grandmother of Joshua and Jacob Potash.
A lawyer, educator, mother and grandmother, she in the first wave of women to enter the legal profession in the early 1970s. She was a resident of Levindale Senior Living Center. The Baltimore native was 81 years old.
Vella was the daughter of the highly successful Baltimore criminal attorney Joseph Rosenthal. She entered the University of Baltimore Law School in 1970 at a time when the women’s liberation movement had just begun to open up new professional opportunities for “the fair sex.” There were just four women in her class at the time that she started. She graduated in 1974 and became an assistant public defender in Baltimore City from 1975-78. She later worked in the Guardian Ad Litem Program Family Law Section in Broward County, Florida, from 1987-2002. While in Florida, Vella was on the board of directors of the Broward County Family Mediation Association and the board of directors of the Boca Raton chapter of the National Organization of Women. She also lectured on the Changing American Family.
Vella was raised in the Forest Park section of Baltimore and attended Forest Park High School and the Park School. She received her B.A. in education and child development from Goucher College. While in college she married Michael Potash, of Washington, D.C., who went on to become a Baltimore psychiatrist. While he was completing his medical training, Vella worked for three years as an elementary school teacher in the Baltimore City school system. Later she worked for two years as the public relations director of the Citizens Planning & Housing Association.
She loved golf, reading, politics, and her own American family. She was a lifelong staunch Democrat, aficionado of Baltimore politics, and champion of liberals nationally. Among her favorite politicians was Hillary Clinton, whom she felt embodied all of the values she had always embraced, not least of which was the advancement of women in America. In a 2008 letter to the editor of the Florida newspaper The Sun Sentinel, she wrote: “I can no longer tolerate [the] tireless attacks on Hillary Clinton…as a student at Yale Law School, many classmates envisioned her as the first woman president, due to her campus leadership. After graduation, she was offered exceptionally high-level jobs in New York and Washington, D.C., but moved to Arkansas to marry classmate Bill Clinton. Besides working for years at prestigious law firms, she was actively involved in her husband’s career…Coupled with being a two-term senator, this amply qualifies her to serve as an effective president.”
Vella raised two sons, Jimmy Potash, the Director of the Department of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Medicine, and John Potash, a social worker and author of two books about politics, drugs, and popular culture. She was also an active and devoted grandmother to Joshua and Jacob Potash, a beloved mother-in-law to Sally Scott and Janine DiStephan, and a cherished lifelong friend to Millicent Cierler, who was like a sister. She was preceded in death by her ex-husband, as well as her father and her mother Rona Rosenthal. She will be missed deeply by all who knew her.
Services at SOL LEVINSON & BROS., INC., 8900 Reisterstown Road, at Mount Wilson Lane on Wednesday, October 24, at 11 a.m. Interment Workmen’s Circle Cemetery, German Hill Road. Please omit flowers. Contributions in her memory may be sent to National Organization for Women, 1100 H St. NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20005. In mourning at 9 Midvale Road (Roland Park), Baltimore, MD 21210, Wednesday 6 to 9 p.m.