“How’s my sweet boy?”
That was always her greeting, to her sons, to her grandsons, to her great-grandsons. Of course, if the person happened to be female, the greeting was, appropriately, “How’s my sweet girl?” But always at the end of a call, or a visit, it was, “God bless you.”
The singular life force that was Miriam Epstein, a one-time pillar of the Five Towns community, died in Florida on Jan. 24. She was 98 … and a half. During the final weeks of her life, with family members gathered around her bed, she looked up and exclaimed, “What a life!
What a life, indeed.
Miriam Horowitz was born in Brooklyn, on July 30, 1914. As the oldest of four children, she was often called upon to help supplement the family income, and by the time she was 11 she was selling bathroom disinfectants door-to-door. She became a model in her late teens, for Vogue, and then for the well-known furrier, B. Geller & Sons.
In 1936, she married Lawrence J. Finkelstein, a fabrics salesman. Eight years later, they moved to the Five Towns with an infant son and dreams of a much better life in the suburbs.
Miriam walked away from a very promising career, gave birth to two other children, and stood staunchly behind her husband as he formed and ran his own textile company, Lawrence J. Fink, Inc.
In 1962, she became owner and proprietor of the Five Towns School of Dance, in Cedarhurst. The studio, which catered mostly to young children learning ballet, tap, acrobatics, and jazz, soon became a meeting place for all the young mothers who only wanted to sit with Miriam and discuss current events, or their problems at home, while their kids learned to dance in the next room.
Her business proved to be a God-send two years later when her husband died of a heart attack in 1964. He was just 50-years-old.
In 1970, she married Al “Doc” Alpert, a dentist with a practice in Franklin Square. When he died in 1975, and Miriam found herself seated in the same Riverside chapel in Far Rockaway where she sat after the death of her first husband, she vowed never to get married again.
However, within two years she married Harold Epstein, a prominent New York attorney. After living together for a short time in Roslyn, they moved back to Lawrence so she could be closer to her business, and most importantly her family.
The Epsteins later became “snow birds,” first traveling back and forth from Lawrence to South Florida, and later moving full-time to the Woodlands, in Tamarac.
When Harold died in 2004, Miriam once again insisted there would be no more marriages. And while she continued to have her share of suitors, even in her 90s, she managed to stick to her guns and successfully resist yet another walk down the aisle.
Instead, she filled her final years with mah jong, lunches, dinners, schmoozing on the phone with friends, and most of all, with family.
Miriam Epstein leaves behind a legacy that includes her children, Mitchell and Lois Fink, Richard and Kiki Fink, and Joan and Dale Mallie, seven grandchildren, Larry and Monica, Jonathan and Carrie, Aaron and Laurie, Amanda, Jesse, Brian, and Bennett, six great-grandchildren, Sophia, Jacob, Ethan, Alexandra, Noah, and Jordyn, the entire Epstein family, her two brothers, Manny and Alfred Howard, and a million friends along the way.
Miriam Epstein had a long and wonderful life. We should all do so well.