Fighter for freedoms: Tributes paid to Manny Margolis
Updated 10:09 am, Monday, October 10, 2011
Two bridges figured prominently in the life of Westport lawyer Emanuel "Manny" Margolis, a fierce defender of civil rights and free speech, who died in August at the age of 85.
In March 1945, he earned a Purple Heart when he was injured during the U.S. capture of the Remagen Bridge in Germany, a World War II event that was memorialized in the 1969 film, "Bridge at Remagen."
On Saturday, family and friends of Margolis gathered on the other span -- the Ruth Steinkraus-Cohen Bridge in downtown Westport -- to continue the weekly tradition that he and his wife Estelle established to protest the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, just as they had protested the war in Vietnam in the late 1960s to early 1970s. Under a cloudless sky, the group held signs that read, "War is not the answer," "Honk for peace" and "Already against the next war."
Scott Kimmich of Norwalk said there are usually anywhere between five and 20 people participating in the Saturday vigils. This past Saturday there were almost four times that many, a tribute to the man who devoted his life to human rights, civil liberties, justice and protecting the U.S. Constitution, particularly the first amendment. Margolis was honored this year by the state Supreme Court and the Connecticut Law Tribune.
"He knew war to be totally insane. It is why we have stood on the bridge for more than six years," said Estelle Margolis, his wife of 52 years.
"He left a huge hole in the world, not just our family," she said.
"He wrote the supporting legal argument for gay marriage in Connecticut," Gates said.
"Manny Margolis was a wonderful human being," said Don Bergmann of Westport.
On the way from the bridge to a memorial service at the Westport Public Library's McManus Room to honor Margolis, Bergmann said he will remember Margolis' intelligence, commitment to the underprivileged and down-trodden, and his love for life. "He was a happy, beautiful person."
Jack Zeldes of Fairfield said Margolis was one of few people admitted to Yale University's School of Law without first taking the standard LSAT. "He came with a Purple Heart from World War II and a PhD (in international relations) from Harvard," Zeldes said.
During the memorial service, several of Margolis' colleagues, relatives and friends recounted the highlights of his professional life as well as his simpler side. He enjoyed gardening, particularly with his grandson Cody Margolis Marsh, 6.
Most people cite his impact in politics and his law career, but he spent countless hours in his garden working to make it beautiful, said Cody's mother Sarah Margolis Marsh, one of Manny and Estelle Margolis' five children.
The memorial service included a brief slide show of Manny Margolis and Cody working together in his garden, a Fathers' Day gift created by his son-in-law Tomas Marsh.
"It's a treasure to have this beautiful, very poignant memory in the form of a film," Estelle Margolis said.
Granddaughter Matilda Good Margolis, 8, of Brooklyn, N.Y., said she misses his grandfather and told the crowd, "Mostly, I made him laugh."
Joseph M. Pankowski Jr., a lawyer with Wofsey, Rosen, Kweskin & Kuriansky, the same Stamford law firm where Margolis worked for decades, told about 70 people at the memorial service that his family traveled to Europe last summer, visiting several World War II sites where he shared the story of Margolis' military service. When they returned his two young sons wrote a letter to Margolis thanking him for his service. Shortly thereafter, they were honored to spend some time with Margolis, even as his health was failing.
"We are all better individuals for having known and worked with Manny, and we have diminished by his passing. Yet, Manny's legacy lives on in those of us who live peacefully and work hard to achieve justice for all," Pankowski said.
Sonny Fox of California, former host of the children's television program, "Wonderama," said he and Margolis had a connection long before they met and became friends. Fox was a prisoner of war waiting to be liberated not far from the Remagen Bridge. Fox said Margolis will be "vibrantly remembered."
"Manny left huge footprints for us to follow in," said Estelle Margolis, who remarked that the memorial service was being held on Yom Kippur and Manny Margolis "was our rabbi."