They came from Chicago and stayed


Howard and Iris Kaplan both had early ties to the Miami area, although they were both born and raised in Chicago.

Howard's parents brought him to South Beach in his teen years during the winter. His sister couldn't take the cold weather; she had a heart condition, and in the 1930s, there was no surgery to help her. Iris had an aunt, Aunt Mona, who lived in Miami Beach.

They met on a beach in Indiana. When she graduated from the University of Illinois, they decided to marry. Before their big wedding in Chicago, they took a lunch break and married in the tallest building in downtown Miami, the new courthouse.

He had started a business with his family, A&A Glass; he was the installer. She started having children, and they moved to West Miami, off Southwest Eighth Street and 62nd Avenue.

It was a quiet street in a tract house at a development called Best Homes. All the kids on the block went to Sylvania Heights Elementary. They are still friends with those neighbors some 60 years later: Ed and Barb Myers, Doris Leventhal, Norm Leventhal, Bea Taft and Essie and George Rosenfield.

They raised their kids, traveled and still play cards once a month, meet at the track and go out for a bite.

Iris was a Girl Scouts leader, a substitute teacher, and until very recently, a longtime volunteer at the Baptist Hospital Auxiliary. Howard worked at A&A Glass until he was 65, and now enjoys tennis (he sets up games in a senior league).

They both have been civic activists, helping with the recent charrette in East Kendall.

They once stood on 10th Terrace trying to plant trees in the median and protested their removal. (This is where I get my tree-hugger background.)

Howard runs the Crime Watch program on the street in East Kendall where they have lived for 47 years.

Iris can be seen around town shopping -- Dadeland Mall's director once said she thought the middle of the mall should have been named the Iris Kaplan Pavilion.

Both can be seen up at the horse track, whichever one is open, enjoying the races and eating the clam chowder.

They also love going to the movies, where the attendants know their names.

Half of their children are here: Son Steven Michael owns a beauty shop in Cutler Bay, and Howard and Iris love to go down for a trim; daughter Martha Backer lives in West Kendall; daughter Audrey Vance is the city attorney for Bonita Springs; daughter Joy Davies is a seventh-grade teacher in Flagler Beach.

We have given them 10 grandchildren, and now there are five great grandchildren.

Since they settled here, both their parents also moved to Miami. It makes for one big happy family.

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