Happy Birthday to my beautiful, intelligent, talented, successful, young, loving and dearly missed Bubbie...

February 21 would have been your [redacted] birthday and, like always, I’d greet you by peppering you with many compliments the same way you greet everyone else on the phone.

I know you are celebrating in Heaven with your loving parents, Nana Ruth and Zeyde Charlie Grossberg, your deeply missed younger sister Aunty Sandy (Sondra Berlin), your beloved late husband Papa Bill (Dr. William Ross), your former husband Grandpa Irving Mark, as well as your life partner and best friend for the past 17 years, Donald Benyas, known affectionately as Papa Don by all the great-grandchildren. 

Also at your party are your friends Sue and Hank Marx, Toby and Larry Trager, David Page, Alan Schwartz, Richard and Lois Kozlow, Judge Avern Cohn and Barbara Lutz. As well as your mentors in Jewish communal leadership and philanthropy, Max Fisher, David Hermelin and Al Taubman. 

Perhaps you have invited Jean Nidetch to your party, the founder of Weight Watchers who helped you lose weight and transform into the successful businesswoman we all know and love.

My beloved Bubbie, your life was a triumph and you were the most awe inspiring person I knew, so you deserve only the best inaugural birthday party in Heaven. I still cannot believe that you are not here with us any longer to celebrate you. You were truly our family’s Eshet Chayil, a woman of valor, and the pillar of our family. Months after we lost you, it remains difficult to imagine life without our Bubbie, a matriarch like no other.

Today many friends and relatives would have called you and sang Happy Birthday just as you do on our birthdays. You would express deep gratitude for every call you received. Although we would never dare specify your age, your birthday was still a special time for our family to gather together, sometimes abroad on exotic vacations to places like Cuba, sometimes in your beloved snow bird home in Boca Raton, or in your Michigan home of 54 years on Franklin Fairway full of countless happy memories. 

Every birthday celebration gave your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren — including your step/bonus children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren — the opportunity to celebrate you, our beloved matriarch whose status as head of the family was enduring, and subsequently, whose loss has left a tremendous hole. Luckily we have a never-ending wellspring of memories of you.

You were such a strong force in our lives and the lives of many others. You loved your family deeply and we all knew it. You had an especially close relationship to your grandchildren whom you showered with presents, jewelry, birthday cards and framed and laminated photos of us you would find in the Detroit Jewish News.

Although your title may have been Bubbie, you did not conform to the stereotype of a “Bubbie,” a diminutive Yiddish-speaking Jewish grandmother with a babushka, thick Eastern-European accent, and culinary skills in traditional Ashkenazi cuisine. Nevertheless, you were still our Bubbie, albeit a modern one —entrepreneurial, worldly, classy, and fashionable preferring to wear Balenciaga over a babushka and Chanel over a sheitel.

Your own grandmother, though, fit the Bubbie mold precisely. My great-great grandmother, your Bubbie Rochel Grossberg, was a hard-working immigrant from Poland who spoke Yiddish as her mother-tongue with a thick accent, cooked Gefilte Fish, Matzoh Ball soup and other Ashkenazi delicacies (with a non-Weight-Watchers-approved quantity of schmalz). As an Orthodox Jew, she most certainly covered her hair. It was your Bubbie Rochel who instilled in you your enduring value of philanthropy when she would take you throughout Detroit’s Jewish neighborhood along Linwood Street to collect tzedekah for a variety of worthy causes. 

You were a big sister like no other — the way you cared for your younger siblings throughout your life, especially Aunty Sandy when she contracted polio. To your living sister Aunty Micki (Dr. Micki Berg), you were a best friend and lifelong confidante.

I know I can speak on behalf of all your grandchildren and say how fortunate we were to have an extraordinary, loving, remarkable, charitable and inspirational woman of valor in our lives as our dearest Bubbie. You encouraged us to pursue our dreams because you believed we could do anything and that you would support us in whatever we chose to devote our lives to. To quote my brother,

“Needless to say, you made a hell of a splash in this world,”

And you left an enormous legacy for all of us to carry on, each in our own unique way. You lived your life to the fullest until the very end, so much so that, at the end of your long life, it still felt as though you died young.

And since you were a public figure, we had the honor of sharing you with all those whose lives you touched. I did not have to tell people how extraordinary you were because it was public knowledge. You were a trailblazer and model for women and since your passing I have heard from many female friends and acquaintances that you were a major inspiration to them through your work in empowering women in business and leadership. 

Our family is joined by countless people throughout Michigan and beyond in mourning your loss and celebrating your life. I feel an immense sense of pride and gratitude that I had you as a Bubbie when strangers tell me how you touched their lives or inspired them. You always told me how proud I made you, but now I feel pride in you when I hear the many stories of how you helped others in myriad ways. Your loyalty to your friends, family and even your employees was unwavering. 

I now see you as a bright star whose light will continue to shine for many years to come. Your family and loved ones, friends, and all those whom you touched or helped during your tremendous life will carry this light to those in need, just like you did during your lifetime. You knew celebrities, and you even knew royalty, but to us you were our superstar and our Queen. According to a random friend of yours (Jane Fonda):

“Florine Mark was an unstoppable force for good, fun and generous and she made a fine and loyal friend.”

When I miss you, I have a treasure trove of your quintessential voice messages to hear your voice. The last one I received right before you passed away. You insisted that I take care of myself as a war was looming not so far away. I could hear the fear in your voice and it breaks my heart that I never spoke to you again after that to tell you,

“Bubbie, I love you, don’t worry, I am safe and okay.”

To my dearest Bubbie, I love and miss you and I wish I could feel your warm embrace and even your lipstick-stained kisses on my cheek. I want to wish you a very happy birthday and I will forever be grateful to have had the privilege to call you my Bubbie. I will miss you and I will always remember you.

Love, Love, Love,

Your handsome, smart, insightful and kind grandson Aviv