The Way We Were: Barbara “Bobbi” Margol

The Way We Were: Barbara “Bobbi” Margol
Margol family photo circa 1968
Bennie Margol and sons Seth, Oren and Drew

Bennie Margol and sons Seth, Oren and Drew

Born to George and Shirley Hirshfield in Newark, New Jersey, Barbara “Bobbi” Margol lost her natural mother to polio when she was just four years old. When she was five, her father married a woman named Eva, who had a daughter named Elaine. “Elaine and I became lifelong sisters immediately,” recalled Bobbi, “and a few years later, our brother, Alan, was born. I was blessed with two mothers. Eva was a wonderful parent.”

George Hirshfield worked for Prudential Insurance Company and gave his family a good life. The Hirshfields lived in Hillside, New Jersey and Bobbi graduated from Hillside High School, where she was an active thespian, and was treated to many Broadway Shows and Operas. “I saw “The King and I” on the night before Mrs. Lawrence [Gertrude Lawrence] died,” said Bobbi. 

She was in her first year at Rutgers University when her family moved to Jacksonville as the result of a Prudential transfer. It was when she was attending Jacksonville Junior College (now Jacksonville University) that she was president of BXA Sorority. A classmate named Dorothy Katz kept telling Bobbi she wanted her to meet her uncle, Bennie Margol. Uncle? Bobbi was certainly not interested in older men…until she saw a handsome man in the college library and pointed him out to Dorothy, who said, “That’s my uncle.”

Bobbi and Bennie Margol wedding photo

Bobbi and Bennie Margol wedding photo

Bennie Margol was born and raised in Jacksonville, the youngest son of Annie and Oscar Margol’s seven children. He graduated from Andrew Jackson High School, went on to the University of Florida, and then served in Japan during the Korean War as an Army intelligence officer. Upon returning from the war, he joined the family business of Associated Iron & Metal Company. 

Bobbi’s first date with Bennie was to the Jacksonville Symphony, which at that time was held in the Armory. “We sat on wooden chairs. I couldn’t believe it. I was used to Broadway,” Bobbi declared, “but then Roberta Peters came on stage and I forgot about everything else. We belonged to the Symphony for 57 years.”

During their courtship, Bobbi taught nursery school at Congregation Ahavath Chesed (The Temple) on San Jose Boulevard for one year and loved it. She was teaching the children when she was preparing for her wedding and one day she brought in her wedding veil (borrowed from her best friend, Marilyn Freedman) and let her students try it on. A couple of years ago, she ran into one of her former students and said, “I’m Miss Bobbi – you probably don’t remember me.” The student looked at her quizzically and said, “Not remember? You let us try on your wedding veil!”

Bobbi’s best friend, Marilyn Freedman, shared more than her wedding veil – she and Bobbi share the same birthday, July 18, and have celebrated nearly 60 birthdays together. On July 18, 2018, they celebrated at Enza’s Restaurant on San Jose Boulevard.

Bobbi and Bennie were married on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 1955, at the Jacksonville Jewish Center. They honeymooned for a month, traveling to Haiti and Jamaica. Recently, Bobbi found an old, yellowed, handwritten letter from her father, George Hirshfield, congratulating the young couple and writing, “The whole city is talking about your wedding.” “My father was a wonderful man,” Bobbi said. “I loved him so much, I thought no one could compare with him… but then I met Bennie, and he was just as wonderful.”

Drew Margol and his granddaughter, Sadie

Drew Margol and his granddaughter, Sadie

The three Margol boys were born three years apart, Seth first, then Andrew “Drew,” and then Oren. When Seth graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design, he wanted to go on a world tour and his parents sent him. He stopped in Israel and has been there ever since. He is a scribe – an extraordinarily talented calligrapher who uses his God-given gift to write beautiful words. He has five sons, Yitzy, Asher, Yoni, Yakov and Shuey, and because of his location, his parents have traveled to Israel nine times.

Closer to home, Bobbi was president of the Cassia Garden Club, chartered with the Garden Club of Jacksonville, a life member of Hadassah, a member of Wolfson Children’s Hospital board, the Child Guidance Clinic board, and the Jacksonville Public Library board, as well as a founding member of the JCA and a longtime member of the Jacksonville Jewish Center. For the past 10 years, she has been a member, with her friends, Marilyn Freedman and Shirley Mirkis, of Stacy Goldring’s book club that meets at Epping Forest. She enjoys allowing her imagination to travel through the written word, and she has also traveled a great deal throughout her lifetime.

Bennie and Bobbi enjoyed traveling with friends, Marilyn and Harvey Freedman and Bobbi and Harry Yoffee. They took an Alaskan cruise together, traveled to Paris, France, toured Denmark, Norway and Sweden, and visited Bennie’s relatives in London, England. “We were at Epson Downs, the race track, and had a box,” said Bobbi. “The Queen Mother and Queen Elizabeth rode by in an open vehicle – nearly within touching distance.”

Bobbi Margol truly appreciates elegance and style. The fact that she made the City of Jacksonville’s “Best Dressed” list in 1977 is not at all surprising to anyone who knows Barbara “Bobbi” Margol. She is a neat, petite, attractive lady whose hair, make-up and attire are always just right, and yet, despite her friendly air and polite greeting, there is a shadow of sadness in her eyes. In the past five years, she has lost two of the most precious men in her life…her youngest son, Oren, and her husband of 60 years, Bennie Margol. “I try not to grieve for them, and to just be thankful that they were in my life,” said Bobbi, “but there are days when I am overwhelmed with memories and miss them so much.” 

Oren’s death in 2013 at age 48 as the result of a brain tumor (glioblastoma) was particularly hard on his mother. “Bennie had a good, long life and died at a ripe old age and I miss him, but Oren was so young and his death so untimely. I guess God wanted Oren as much as all of us did.” 

Stepmother Eva and Father George Hirshfield, parents of Bobbi Margol

Stepmother Eva and Father George Hirshfield,
parents of Bobbi Margol

Nicknamed Uncle “O” by his nieces and nephews, Oren Margol was a popular Jacksonville native who attended Jacksonville Country Day School, Bolles, Wolfson, graduated from the University of Florida, was an avid Gator fan, a partner at Vandroff Insurance Agency, an art collector, a charming philanthropist who supported many good causes, an accomplished athlete who was once 13th in the state in tennis, loved to play golf and ski, and most particularly, loved his family, especially his children, Eden and Joel. 

When doctors in Jacksonville told him his tumor was inoperable, he sought treatment at Duke University’s Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center, where 85 percent of his tumor was removed, and his life was lengthened by three years longer than predicted. On Monday, Nov. 19, at San Jose Country Club, the Oren Margol Foundation will sponsor the 2nd Annual Big “O” Memorial Golf Tournament to benefit Duke’s Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center. 

“I was awed by the sea of friends who came out to the tournament last year in Oren’s memory,” said Bobbi. “He and Drew were like twins…they were so close, and Drew has made sure that his brother’s life will not be forgotten. Oren would have loved the golf tournament – he would be right there, greeting everyone with his beautiful smile and warm handshake. Of course, knowing Oren, he would have dressed in the latest golf attire and a game of this magnitude would have demanded a new set of clubs!” 

Bobbi noted that Oren’s favorite song was “The Impossible Dream” from “Man of LaMancha,” but he was unable, like Don Quixote, to beat the unbeatable foe… “so now his foundation is carrying on his battle and raising money for a cure.”

Drew is the son who Bobbi leans on these days. She lives in a Lakewood high-rise on the river, but because of close family like Drew, she never feels alone. Owner of Margol Realty, Drew has been married to Michelle for 34 years. They have two daughters, Gabrielle, who works at Mayo, and Lauren, who  married Brandon Trager in 2014. Lauren and Brandon are now the parents of Bobbi’s first great-grandchild, Sadie Olivia – or Sadie “O” as she is called in memory of her beloved Uncle Oren – gone but never forgotten. “Sadie O is the light of our lives,” said her great-grandmother. “She is the heart of our family. I see in her shining eyes a reflection of both Bennie and Oren. God is good.”

By Susan D. Brandenburg
Resident Community News

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