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Social worker Ida Davies of Falcon Heights was a pioneer in the care of the mentally ill, helping patients live productively in the community and working to make large mental institutions a thing of the past in Minnesota.

Davies, an active volunteer into her 90s for an agency that helps at-risk youths, had a stroke while at Orchestra Hall on Nov. 26. She died the next day in Minneapolis.

She was 96.

"It was as if she had three careers," said Gary Schoener, executive director of the Walk-In Counseling Center in Minneapolis, where Davies became a volunteer in her 80s.

"Her career spanned from dealing with severely mentally ill adults to kids and their families, struggling with problems," said Schoener. "In the twilight of her life, she volunteered to reach people that otherwise wouldn't get help" at the Counseling Center.

Ida Jerome grew up in Excelsior, graduating from the old Central High School in Minneapolis. After receiving a bachelor's degree in social work at the University of Minnesota in 1934, she worked for Hennepin County in its relief program during the Great Depression.

In the 1940s and 1950s, she played leadership roles for various service agencies and mental health organizations. She was also active in helping to reform mental institutions.

She trained volunteers to help patients in mental hospitals and wrote a training manual for volunteers.

"It was pioneering work," said Schoener.

Role-playing for patients

In 1955, she received her master's degree in social work from the university. Then she led a group in St. Paul that helped former psychiatric patients live in the community.

For much of the 1960s and 1970s, she established programs and supervised social work interns at the Hennepin County Mental Health Center, serving as a clinical assistant professor for the University of Minnesota. She also helped pioneer role-playing for patients, in which they practiced accepted social behavior.

Joan Calof of Roseville, a retired social worker, was a colleague at the Mental Health Center. "She was a truly committed social worker, a real force," she said.

From the late 1970s to 1991, Davies worked for agencies including Bridge for Runaway Youth, and she continued to supervise graduate interns for the university.

She and her husband of 64 years, Jack, were founding members of a seniors group at the North Star Chapter of the Sierra Club, OWLS, or Older, Wiser and Livelier Sierrans, taking ski and canoe trips.

Besides her husband, she is survived by sons Richard Sommer of Quebec and David Sommer of Minneapolis; daughters Diana Davies of Feusisberg, Switzerland, and Wanda Davies of Roseville; 10 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

Services will be held at 1 p.m. on Dec. 15 at the First Unitarian Society, 900 Mount Curve Av., Minneapolis.