Sally Levin, a woman whose generosity imparted comfort much like the furniture she sold, lost her battle with colon cancer on Saturday, March 7. She was 88.
For years, Levin worked alongside her husband, Leonard, in their family business, Levin Furniture. While she is credited with “buying, merchandising, advertising and adding the service of decorator and design consultant” on the company’s website, Levin also handled less glamorous tasks including window washing and vacuuming.
“We loved Sally,” said Dee Henry, who knew Levin for more than four decades. “[She was] very classy but down to earth. She was always attainable, reachable.”
For the past 46 years, Henry has handled sales and design work for the Levin Furniture store in Mt. Pleasant. During her tenure, Henry observed Levin’s concern for customers.
“Customers were always first in her eyes,” she said. “If a representative entered the store and wanted to sell something and then a customer came in after, she took care of the customer first.”
In addition to customer care, Levin’s eye for detail greatly benefited the business.
“Even now, when customers come in, they still tell beautiful stories that they have about the room that Sally decorated, and they bought the sofa that Sally loved,” said Henry. “Anything that she would suggest was perfect.”
Following her husband’s passing in 1989, Levin retired from the business. Howard Levin, Sally and Leonard’s son, succeeded as president of the corporation. He died of a heart attack in 1992.
“After Sally’s son died, she spent some time thinking about what she could do that would be a fitting tribute to Howard,” said Deborah Friedman, executive director of Jewish Residential Services. “Sally learned about the agency and the people that we served, learned about the psychiatric rehabilitation model, and I think she felt very positive about it, and she decided that the clubhouse would be a fitting tribute and memorial to her son, Howard.
“It was really great for us because it really enabled us to get that program off the ground and to develop the space in a way that has helped it thrive,” added Friedman.
While Levin provided support to the clubhouse, her relationship with the program extended beyond fiscal assistance.
“Her generosity was not just financial, but personal,” said Friedman. “She didn’t give money and go away. She was really a part of the life of the program. She was not shy or hesitant about developing real relationships with real warmth with the people who were using the services of the clubhouse.”
It was through the clubhouse kitchen that Levin met many of the members.
“From time to time, there’s a guest chef who works with the membership,” said Friedman. “She was part of the regular rotation of guest chefs.”
With assistance from the clubhouse members, Levin cooked brisket, chicken dishes and kugel.
Through cooking, Levin learned both the members’ names and stories. She was affected by the members’ troubles and offered assistance in multiple fashions. After discovering that many of the members developed weight problems and health issues from medications, Levin paid for a yoga instructor to regularly visit the clubhouse.
Her aim was that “people could relax and develop the mindfulness that yoga provided” and that “people could stay in shape,” said Friedman. “She was not an arm’s-length person. She put her heart and soul into it.”
“She was a wonderful woman,” said Bill Ceroni, Levin’s hairdresser for almost four decades, “very generous.”
After JRS breaks ground at the former Poli’s restaurant site at 2607 Murray Ave., the new facility will be renamed the Sally and Howard Levin Clubhouse, said Friedman.
Sally Levin is survived by her brother, Jack Marchel (Lois), children Janet Levin (Frank Gruber), Ann Levin (Stan Honda), Robert Levin (Kerry Bron) and Rachel Levin and grandson Henry Leonard Levin Gruber. She is predeceased by her husband, Leonard Levin, and son, Howard Levin.
Adam Reinherz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.