Funeral services were held at Paperman and Sons on July 31 for Merle Margles, a resident of Côte Saint-Luc’s District 2. Sidney Margles, Merle’s husband, is well known in the community dating back to his days as a high profile reporter for CJAD and Standard Broadcasting.
Merle and Sidney had a rock solid marriage for 53 years. They raised three daughters, who gave them six grandchildren.
Two years ago I called Sidney on behalf of my mother, Elaine, who writes for The Canadian Jewish News. Regularly, she profiles couples who have been married for 50 plus years. Would they agree to a profile? “Absolutely,” said Sid.
As my mom wrote, former Quebec Liberal MNA Paul Gérin-Lajoie may be recognized for his accomplishments as Minister of Youth as well as Minister of Education in the 1960s, he also played a role in Merle and Sidney walking down the aisle.
When Sidney first met Merle (née Elkin) in 1958, he was at McGill University and she was at Sir George Williams (precursor to Concordia University). They dated for a while but later went separate ways to focus on other interests.
Sidney spent time in Boston studying public relations. As far back as his teens, Sidney remembers “hanging out” at CJAD radio station. Addicted to the broadcast media, Sidney put aside his third year studies at McGill and accepted a full-time job opportunity in 1959 at CJAD. Sidney was a pioneer at CJAD in broadcasting live from the scene of air crashes, bombings, riots, fires and other events. He won numerous awards, the most notable being for the TCA air crash in Ste. Thérèse in 1963.
By the time he reconnected with Merle at the Gérin-Lajoie meeting, she was working full-time during the day and immersed in evening courses at Sir George Williams. Sidney was a seasoned news broadcaster. Merle told my mom that the timing was also right for her. A romance blossomed and by the fall of 1962, the couple were engaged. Merle, at 21½, and Sidney, 24, wed on June 16, 1963, at Congregation Beth Ora. Their eldest daughter, Susan, was born in 1966, followed by Elizabeth in 1968, and Melissa in 1971.
In 1974, Standard Broadcast News, formerly parent owner of CJAD, asked Sidney to head up the company’s news operation, based in Ottawa. Standard Broadcast News serviced more than 100 Canadian radio stations. In 1981, with Sidney being the point man, Standard Broadcasting received CRTC approval for a radio station in Ottawa and he assumed the helm as vice president and general manager.
While in Ottawa, Merle, along with other parents, lobbied for an all-day kindergarten at Hillel Academy. Their plea was answered in time for their youngest child. Merle re-entered the workforce. In the interim, she had completed a university degree and been involved in the community.
In 1984, the family headed back to Montreal, where Sidney presided over Standard Sound Systems and ran Muzak until 1997. They re-settled in the Town of Mount Royal and Sidney’s interest in the community led him to seek municipal office. Subsequently, he was elected and served on the council for three consecutive terms. In addition, from 1985-99, he presided over the Liberal Mount Royal Riding.
Soon after their return, Sheila Finestone, then newly elected Liberal MP for Mount Royal, offered Merle an administrative position. “We knew each other from projects at Federation CJA,” Merle pointed out, adding initially she was reticent but credited her daughter Susan for persuading her to go for it. Merle ran Finestone’s office for 15 years. Finestone served as Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and the Status of Women in 1993 and was named a Senator in 1999, whereupon Merle retired.
Despite heavy schedules, Merle and Sidney always considered quality time with family a priority. “We made every effort to sit down to dinner as a family,” Merle told my mom. Skiing was another cherished family activity. Merle described herself as more “reflective” than Sidney. “He’s more analytical,” she remarked.
In 2005, the empty nesters moved to Côte Saint-Luc. Sidney immediately became integrally involved in our community. He presided over the Senior Men’s Club for two terms. As a constituent, he has always provided me with solid advice. When Anthony Housefather decided he wanted to become the successor to Irwin Cotler as the Liberal Member of Parliament for Mount Royal, Sidney and Merle stepped forward to first run his campaign to get the nomination and then to win the election. I spent a lot of time with Merle at Anthony’s Côte des Neiges campaign office. This was less than a year ago. She ran the office, much in the same way she steered the ship for Finestone during all of those years.
Merle fell ill a few years ago, but you would never have known it. She and Sidney missed some time at their beloved condo at Century Village in Deerfield, but everyone hoped and prayed that her treatment had been working. When she had to come home early last spring, we knew it was not a good sign. It was clear from the funeral that even just a month ago she spent a great deal of time with her kids and grandchildren. She went to Ottawa to see one granddaughter off to camp and to New York to visit with another.
“My mom was always our teacher,” said daughter Elizabeth. “She taught us how to stand up for ourselves, be independent, loyal, resiliant and how to love.”
I always admired what a great team Merle and Sidney were. She was clearly a very supportive wife. At the funeral we were told how she had her three kids before the age of 30 and with Sidney’s unpredictable hours as a reporter had a lot on her plate. She always made sure a home cooked meal was waiting when he came home.
Merle always used Sundays to plan the family meals for the week. She had inherited many recipes from her mom and grandmother and created many of her own. “Merle set the bar high, but obtainable,” said Rabbi Lionel Moses from Shaare Zion Congregation. “Like their mother, all three girls are committed to the community.”
We extend our deepest sympathies to the family.
-With files from Elaine Cohen