A social circle that included family, friends and service organizations mourn the passing of the vivacious Tampa native.
By MARTY CLEAR
Published February 27, 2004
BAYSHORE GARDENS - For one group of Tampa women, Tuesdays will never be the same. Margie Bernstein's seat at their weekly canasta game will be vacant.
Mrs. Bernstein, 82, died Saturday (Feb. 21, 2004) after a three-year battle with Alzheimer's disease. She leaves behind her husband, Bernie, two children, her brother Albert Segall, four grandchildren and many friends.
"She was outgoing and vivacious and everybody who knew her loved her," said lifelong friend Lois Frank. "She never met a stranger."
Mrs. Bernstein was born Margie Segall in Tampa, where she lived most of her life.
When she was a child, her father owned a clothing store in Ybor City. Her mother was active in the community and founded Tampa Jewish Family Services.
In the early days of World War II, a friend introduced her to a soldier named Bernie, from South Carolina, who was stationed at Drew Field. They married about 18 months later and stayed together for 60 years.
"She was a beautiful lady," Bernstein said. "She went with me wherever I was stationed."
Mrs. Bernstein earned a degree from the University of Tampa and taught elementary school while her husband was in the Army. She later gave up her career to raise her children, Richard and Marilyn.
"She was a wonderful mother, and she was always involved in whatever the kids were doing," her husband said.
After the war, her husband became a salesman for Bulova Watch Co. in Florida. They moved to Tampa because Mrs. Bernstein had family and friends here.
They lived on Davis Islands for many years, then moved to the Atrium high rise on Bayshore Boulevard in the early 1980s.
Mrs. Bernstein never lost her love for community service and was active in Hadassah, Tampa Jewish Family Service and other civic organizations. For 15 years, she worked with the Tampa Chamber of Commerce as a registration coordinator, helping conventions that came to town.
Her husband spent a lot of time on the road.
"He called her every single day," Frank said. "Their's was a real love story. They were so devoted to each other."
Whenever they got the chance, the Bernsteins traveled abroad, often for two weeks to Europe or Asia.
"We liked London and Paris and the Scandinavian countries," Mr. Bernstein said. "We got to go to the Orient, too. We went as far east as Bangkok."
Mrs. Bernstein kept busy when her husband was away working, friends say.
"She loved to go to Vegas," Frank said. "She loved to gamble, and she was lucky, too. She liked going to the dog track and to jai alai, but craps was her game."
Whenever she was home, Mrs. Bernstein would get together with five lifelong friends at 11 a.m. on Tuesdays. They'd play a variation of canasta that only them seemed to know.
Mrs. Bernstein served as the group's unofficial leader. She was few years older than the others and had been the adviser to a social club they formed when they were about 12 and she was about 20.
"We all kind of looked up to Margie," said Patti Frank, Lois Frank's sister-in-law and a member of the Tuesday card game. (Besides the Patti and Lois Frank, the other members are Frimit Gardner, Audrey Haubenstock and Mrs. Bernstein's cousin Barbara Garrett.)
The group has been playing every week for nearly 50 years. Mrs. Bernstein had been noticeably absent since she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's.
"Bernie saw her every day, but he really didn't want us to see her the way she was," Garrett said. "He wanted to remember her the way she was."
Mrs. Bernstein's funeral, just by coincidence, was scheduled for 11 a.m. Tuesday, the same time she and her friends met for cards.
"We went to the funeral and, when we came back, we just had to play," Lois Frank said. "Margie would have wanted us to."