Margie Rosenthal, WWII refugee, volunteer, 75

When Ernie Rosenthal saw the young woman in Golden Gate Park, he pulled his car over to the side of the road.

"You look so familiar," he told her.

"I've heard that one before," she said.

Despite this inauspicious beginning, Ernie and Margie Rosenthal were married within a year, and spent the last 50-plus years providing friends and strangers alike with love, support and, of course, armloads of Viennese pastries.

Margie Rosenthal died in a Pacifica nursing home on Jan. 29 from the aftereffects of a stroke suffered in September. The Daly City resident was 75.

"She had a way of caring for people. She definitely went out of her way to get involved with the underdog," said Philip Kutner, chairman of the Northern California branch of the Jewish Workman's Circle.

Both Rosenthals were active in the progressive Yiddish cultural organization, and Margie had recently been elected to the national executive board. She suffered her stroke in New York, where she attended her first board meeting.

In addition to her activities on behalf of Jewish Workman's Circle, Kutner said, Margie Rosenthal was an active volunteer and visitor at San Franciso's Jewish Home, where her mother-in-law died at 104.

Margie Rosenthal was also active in the German American Club and San Francisco's Congregation Beth Israel-Judea.

"She was a little ball of fire," said Ruth Amber, Beth Israel-Judea's administrative assistant. "Without regard of who they were or what they needed, she was always there for anybody. And she had one of the biggest smiles of anyone, even during her illness."

Margie Rosenthal was from Gleiwitz, in Germany's Upper Silesia region. Her family fled in 1938, ending up in the Philippines, where they lived under dire conditions.

In 1948, Margie Rosenthal came to the United States, where she met Ernie. Incidentally, he wasn't playing games when he told Margie she looked familiar at their first meeting. He had known her aunt in Gleiwitz when he was working in a Jewish bakery.

In addition to her husband, Margie Rosenthal is survived by son Rudy Rosenthal of South San Francisco and daughter Judy Phillips of Turlock.

Donations can be sent to Beth Israel-Judea, 625 Brotherhood Way, S.F., CA 94132, or the Kaiser Hospice Program, 4135 Geary Blvd., No. 327, S.F., CA 94118.

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi is the managing editor at Mission Local. He is a former editor-at-large at San Francisco magazine, former columnist at SF Weekly and a former J. staff writer.