Lillian Margulies Meizlik

Lillian Margulies Meizlik
Arthur, Seymour and Lee Margulies with sister Lillian Meizlik

Lillian Magulies Meizlik, “Aunt Lil” to her friends, is truly a “golden girl.” At 99, she radiates the same poise and elegance that can be seen in the photographs of her when she was a striking tall young woman, one who always wore a red rose in her hair.

Lillian Meizlik

Lillian Meizlik

“She’s the type of person you can always count on, an exceptional lady,” said Debbie Rubens Gottlieb, who, growing up, was a neighbor. Debbie is married to Mel Gottlieb, whose late mother Ilse Gottlieb was one of Lillian’s closest friends.

“Everyone loves her. She’s the most caring person,” Gottlieb said, recalling a time when her father-in-law, Sol Gottlieb, was dying. “Lillian had heard his potassium was low so she bought bananas late that night to put in her freezer and left them on our doorstep the next morning. Lillian knew Sol liked his bananas cold. That’s the type of person she is,” she said.

A native of New Jersey, Lillian was the daughter of Max and Anna Margulies and had two famous uncles – Vienna-born American painter and printmaker Joseph Margulies of New York City, and Samuel Margulies, an engineer-inventor who was on the team that constructed the first elevator for the Otis Elevator Company.

Lillian moved to Jacksonville after her husband, Leo, was discharged from the Army. She had met him while vacationing in Miami Beach and fell immediately in love with the handsome, wavy-haired school teacher from Pennsylvania, marrying him in April 1942.

“While Leo was away serving in the military, my father was invited by a friend to attend a lecture. Dad’s friend described the speaker as excellent, a schoolmate of his from Europe. When my father couldn’t attend, I went instead,” said Lillian. “We arrived late, everyone was already seated. As we entered, the speaker asked me, ‘Is that your husband?’ I said no, my husband was serving in the army overseas and I mentioned that I happened to have a letter in my pocket I hadn’t mailed to him yet. The speaker asked if he could add a message for my husband. I said yes and handed him the letter. He wrote on it, ‘with kindest regards, Albert Einstein,’” she recalled.

When they moved to Jacksonville, Leo, who earned both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in languages from New York University, taught at Andrew Jackson High School. “When I’m asked if we had children, I always say, no, because Leo had so many at school,” Lillian said, laughing.

Lillian and Leo Meizlik

Lillian and Leo Meizlik

The Meizliks used their talents to help the community through both work and volunteer activities. “Our motto was always ‘Volunteer, volunteer, volunteer!’” Lillian said, noting many of their efforts centered around memberships in the Beth Shalom Congregation, the Jacksonville Jewish Center and the Temple Congregation Ahavath Chesed.

Leo originally studied at Yeshiva University to become a rabbi, and later used his rabbinical education to teach Hebrew and Jewish History at the Jacksonville Jewish Center.

Lillian, meanwhile, majored in business administration at Hunter College in New York where she excelled in finance. In Jacksonville, she held several civil service positions for the city and at Florida National Bank. During her career, she completed IBM courses and converted countless handwritten bank record into IBM electronic records. She was also instrumental in the start-up and success of several local businesses by offering merchant and physician billing/collections and financial services.

Lillian and her good friend the late Jay Aronson of San Jose, started the Jacksonville chapter of the American Red Magen David for Israel, Israel’s American Red Cross. She is also a member and former president of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, and the River Garden Auxiliary. Over the years she has supported St. Augustine’s School for the Deaf and Blind, the Smile Train, which provides surgery for children with cleft lips and palates, and Theatre Jacksonville.

When Leo passed away in 1976, the Jacksonville Zionist District planted 1,000 trees in American Bicentennial National Park in Israel in his memory. He had been a member and past local president of ZOA-Zionist Organization of America.

“It’s sad because I miss my husband every day,” she said, noting that she is always delighted to run into Leo’s former students from Andrew Jackson High because they always recognize her. “But after his death I saw some humor in what happened and I know he would, too. We were leaving the house when Leo suffered a heart attack. Emergency rescue arrived and tried to resuscitate him. When they could not revive Leo, one young man looked up at me, so upset, and said, ‘Mrs. Meizlik, I’m so sorry. He’s gone. I was in his class at Andrew Jackson High School.”

Lillian with her brother Julius

Lillian with her brother Julius

We never know when or where we’ll meet our teachers again, she said.

After Leo’s death, Lillian moved to a new condominium in San Jose to be near her friends. One of six children, Lillian remains close to her only surviving sibling, a brother Lee, as well as her large extended family in the Northeast. Nearly 70 turned out to celebrate her 99th birthday at Maggiano’s in March.

Lillian said she misses traveling with Isle Gottlieb and Jay Aronson, who have passed away and noted that they three of them were known as “The Golden Girls,” because they were inseparable. But Lillian keeps active and still attends River Garden, Temple meetings and other cultural events with her friends and caregivers Curline Darden and Robin Simmons. Failing eyesight prevents her from enjoying many artistic hobbies as well as the fine oil paintings and drawings done by her Uncle Joseph and her father, but she is still a master at answering crossword and jumble puzzle questions.

She also said she fully intends to surpass the age of 100 like her friend, Tessie Taxier of San Jose. Taxier died at 104.

“Tessie came to visit me, saw my piano and said she would like to play for me,” Lillian said. “Even though she was over 100 years old then, that’s exactly what she did, played an entire composition!”

By Julie Kerns Garmendia

Lillian’s parents Max and Anna Margulies

Lillian’s parents Max and Anna Margulies

Lillian Meizlik

Lillian Meizlik

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