Former Philadelphia City Councilman Ed Schwartz passed away Thursday morning at the age of 69. Schwartz had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2010 but had been feeling better and was frequently spotted attending City Council sessions on Thursday. He last attended two weeks ago, before the Thanksgiving Day break.
Jane Shull, Schwartz's wife, suspects that he died from a heart attack. The cause of death has not been determined.
"He had a pretty serious heart condition that could not be addressed anymore," Shull said. "He'd been living with that."
Shull said Schwartz fell into a deep depression after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's and that made the condition worse. As the depression lifted this year, his health improved. She described him as "forgetful but still himself." He had returned to playing piano with a band at the Reading Terminal Market.
"His quality of life was much better in the last year," Shull said.
Mark Seaman, director of communications at Philadelphia FIGHT, a non-profit where Shull is executive director, said Schwartz had "a big fan" of the recent general election, following it closely.
"He was getting a lot of social interaction, going to City Council," Seaman said. "He was doing well."
Schwartz was elected to a Council at-large seat in 1983 and, after losing re-election, was head of the Office of Housing and Community Development from 1987 to 1992. He also chaired the Philadelphia Tax Reform Commission in 2003 and founded the Institute for the Study of Civic Values.
There was a moment of silence during today's Council session for Schwartz and members reflected on the man whom they admired most for his passion for community service.
"His strength and his ability to pull together communities was quite significant," said Council president Darrell Clarke. "Sometimes you have to read the crowd and he was real good at that and then he came to Council and he was able to pick up not only how to read the crowd but how to read the minds of Council members. He was a person who was very flexible, but he always tried to make his point and continued on the issue that was most important which was service for the people of Philadelphia."
Councilwoman Cindy Bass said Schwartz was a neighbor who helped her during the Council race, adding he "will be sorely missed as a progressive voice here in Philadelphia."