Barbara Levy Gradet, who served as executive director of Jewish Community Services of Greater Baltimore for 12 years, died suddenly from a stroke on May 8 while vacationing in Albuquerque, N.M., with her husband, Howard.

Gradet, who was living in Van Nuys, Calif., was 69.

A Baltimore native, Gradet served at the helm of JCS from 2004 to 2016 and was succeeded by the agency’s current executive director, Joan Grayson Cohen.

“Barbara was bigger than life in so many ways,” said Cohen. “Her compassion for people, especially people in need, was her hallmark. She was a vibrant, creative leader and an enriching mentor for so many people. A great leader never dies.Their creativity, the work they create, remains and will always remain. She created a strong, vibrant JCS and now it’s up to us to continue her legacy.”

The staff of JCS, which is an agency of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, held a private memorial service for Gradet on May 10 in the community room of the Park Heights Jewish Community Center.

“Hearing the news about the passing of Barbara Gradet was shocking,” Associated President Marc B. Terrill said in a statement. “Although I haven’t seen her since her move to California, I will always remember her as a person full of life. She led Jewish Community Services with compassion and will always be remembered for her leadership in the founding of the organization.

“Her memory will be perpetuated for generations in our community; we mourn the loss of this wonderful communal leader, colleague and friend.”

A 1966 graduate of Western High School, Gradet received a master’s in social work degree from the University of Maryland, Baltimore. She worked as a director at the Baltimore County Department of Aging from 1980 to 1991. She also worked at St. Joseph Medical Center and Almost Family Adult Day Care during her career.

Prior to coming to JCS, she worked as a director at the Baltimore County Department of Social Services for four years

Under Gradet’s leadership, JCS in 2008 became a “consolidated agency,” consisting of four Associated agencies — Jewish Big Brother/Big Sister, Jewish Addiction Services, Jewish Vocational Services and Jewish Family Services.

In addition, JCS opened its 20,000-square-foot satellite location at the Owings Mills Jewish Community Center in 2012 under Gradet’s leadership.

Gradet often said that she was inspired by her mother, Joyce Levy, to go into the social services field. Levy was the first executive coordinator of the Sinai Hospital Auxiliary and a longtime volunteer for then-JFS.

A former Reisterstown resident, Gradet moved to California after retiring from JCS to be near her children, Alex Gradet and Regan Gradet Chagal,  and two grandchildren.