Local Obituaries

Barbara Schlesinger, a constant on South Florida’s social scene, dies at 82

Barbara Schlesinger
Barbara Schlesinger

Barbara Schlesinger didn’t forget anyone.

She wrote handwritten notes to friends, and kept in touch the old-fashioned way. And for someone like her, this was no easy task.

“The circles of friends are wider than even I know,” said son Scott Schlesinger. “She would be with folks who she would know for years and years and years and she would follow along with them and stay in touch with them.”

Barbara Schlesinger, known as Bobbe to her friends, died Sunday at 82.

Schlesinger was involved in Hollywood, Miami and Fort Lauderdale’s arts, education and social scenes. She also hosted many Race for Life charity events to raise money for cancer research. In addition to her philanthropic work, she wrote a social column in local newspapers.

And when throwing parties, she never disappointed.

Every year, she planned a Halloween party, complete with a haunted house and costumes, her son said. And on Thanksgiving, she invited 100 people to her feast with more than a dozen turkeys, he said.

“There would be costumes and games and music and singing,” he said. “It wasn’t just an intimate family affair. It was enormous.”

Through her parties, she also met many celebrities, including actress Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Gleason, wife of TV comedian Jackie Gleason.

Scott Schlesinger said he couldn’t count the number of people that had come through the house growing up.

Larry Butler, her brother, said even in high school, she had the reputation of being the “most popular.” She was the head cheerleader at Chelsea High School, in Massachusetts, and her brother said he still remembers her leading the band in uniform.

“That image of her is really what friends characterize her whole life,” he said. “She has been the cheerleader. She has been out there in front bringing people together, giving them a good time, making them happy.”

Although she was originally from Massachusetts, she never left Miami after arriving for college. She met her husband, Sheldon Schlesinger, an attorney, at the University of Miami and the two were married for 60 years. They lived in Miami Beach, Hollywood before moving to Golden Beach.

Scott Schlesinger said his mother was devoted to her children and grandchildren, and taught them all the “old-fashioned values.”

“And she practiced what she preached,” he said. “She was a great mom, a great wife, a great mother. Just a great person.”

Gitte Gamble, who had been friends with Barbara Schlesinger for about 20 years, described her as generous and hospitable.

“She was fully of energy,” Gamble said. “When she spoke with you, it was like you were the only person there. She was a wonderful listener and paid attention. She was an amazing human being”

Services were Wednesday at Temple Beth El in Hollywood, where more than 500 people paid their respects.

Schlesinger is survived by her husband, Sheldon, sons Scott and Gregg, grandchildren Charlotte, Alexander, Molly, Theodora, Samuel, and Theodore and brother Larry Butler.