Wexler sought to do best she could for Janesville

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011
— Tom Stehura remembers what Sima Wexler told him in his first year on the Janesville City Council in 1981.

“Do the best you can for the whole city,” Wexler told him.

Wexler mentored Stehura that year—her sixth and final year on the council.

She told him that even though 100 people might be in the council chambers, there were thousands of residents at home.

“You wanted to do what was best for all the city and take input you got from the room and remember that there are people out there trusting in you to do the best for the city,” he recalled her saying.

Wexler carried that message through her life, devoting countless hours to numerous community organizations and boards in Janesville.

Sylvia “Sima” Wexler, 84, died Saturday at Mercy Hospital and Trauma Center, Janesville.

Wexler and her late husband, Robert, owned and operated J.J. Smith Jewelry in downtown Janesville for many years until retiring in 1991.

“She was not a person who was going to be just watching,” said John Anderson, a friend who worked with her on the chamber of commerce.

The United Way of North Rock County recognized Wexler in 2005 with its Alexis de Tocqueville Award for outstanding community volunteerism.

Wexler’s service spanned organizations and elected office.

She ran for the Rock County Board after joining the League of Women Voters in the 1960s and was the first woman elected to the board in 1972. She also was city council president and served on the plan commission and other committees during her three two-year terms.

Wexler told the Gazette at the time that she didn’t see herself as a trailblazer for women.

“I don’t think it makes any difference whether you are man or woman, green or have spots. It’s important that you are a quality person,” she is quoted as saying in a January 1982 Gazette article.

Wexler was president of the Janesville Public Library board, Arrowhead Library board, Glen Oaks School board, Janesville Area Chamber of Commerce board and the local American Red Cross chapter board. She was a member of the Zonta Club of Janesville and Zonta International, a women’s service organization, and she was named a YWCA Woman of Distinction in 1980.

She also served on the boards for ECHO, Mercy Hospital, Cedar Crest, Badger Council Girl Scouts and Rock County Institutions overseeing the county hospital and Rock Haven.

“She was a good person, her heart was in the right place,” Stehura said. “She loved Janesville, and she wanted to do the best she could for the city.”

Wexler’s grandfather was one of the founding members of Congregation B’nai Abraham in Beloit, where she was a lifetime member.

She was involved at the synagogue and always loved reading on high holy days the prayer for those who had passed away, said Kevin Manhart, a fellow member and former neighbor.

“She was very outgoing, always willing to help,” he said.

Last updated: 5:51 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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