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Olive Matilda (Shagrin) Levy died on Wednesday, August 16, 2023, in Portland, Maine after a remarkably long and expressive life. Olly or Ama, as she was referred to by our family later in her life, was born in New Rochelle, NY to Benjamin and Anna Shagrin, on May 1, 1929, and was raised there, along with her older sister, Phyllis.
Olly's childhood was dramatically bookended by the great depression and the 5+ years of World War II. A year after the war ended, in 1946, 17 yr. old Olive met the love of her life, Marvin Levy, at a party hosted by Anna and Ben in New Rochelle. They dated on and off for many years, as Olive finished High School (1947) and Marvin returned to civilian life. A year later, Olly, a young 19 yr. old, traveled by train to Santa Monica, California, much to her dad's displeasure. She rolled her way across the country for 3 days and nights in a sleeper car, for an extended visit with family before returning home to New Rochelle.
In 1949, she began working as a cartoon illustrator in Greenwich Village, along with her sister Phyllis. Meanwhile, the ups and downs and out on the town years of dating Marvin continued. Olive attended College in Buffalo, NY, completing her first year in 1951. She and "Miv" were married one year later, in 1952.
Olive and Marvin had three sons, David, Michael, and Steven, and as a young mom, Olly devoted herself to raising and entertaining us. Our growing family first shared an apartment on Broadway in Tarrytown NY, Marvin's hometown, near the brand-new Tappan Zee Bridge, before moving up to Benedict Avenue in the spring of 1963.
As our childhood unfolded, Olly was an energetic, supportive, and engaging mom. Whether as a regular chaperone on our school field trips, organizing and managing the snack table at the YMCA, running the school book fair, watching our Dad's Club baseball games, helping out at swim meets, (helping with school art projects, making school lunches for us from kindergarten through high school), or simply sharing her love of cooking and baking with her family, Olly was a busy bee and a force to be reckoned with. She was a dedicated mom and a devoted daughter and sister, keeping close ties with her nuclear family and extended family of cousins, aunts, and uncles.
Olive loved hosting parties, whether it was bridge night with the "girls", a backyard cookout with the extended family, dinner with friends or on holidays, or birthdays. If there was something to celebrate, she was all in.
Being a truly creative and artistic soul, Olly was always looking for another way to share her enthusiasm and talent. Be it through her drawing and painting, her cooking and baking, her time as a women's sportswear designer, or her constant sewing, knitting, and crocheting, Olly needed to express herself. She loved to garden in the summer and care for her plants and african violets all winter.
Olly also liked to keep physically busy, whether it was bowling and playing tennis in midlife, or, later on, walking the trails at Rocky's with Marvin.
Olly always had a wide circle of friends. She loved to cook and bake for them, travel with them, or simply stay connected by phone. Together, they shared many of her most adventurous life experiences.
Ama did love to talk! She was interested in just about every subject imaginable, especially one that those dearest to her were interested in. Politics, history, culture, spirituality, consciousness, life's complicated choices, everything interested Ama. She was personable, a bit spunky, fun to speak with, and she always had something to share.
She loved the theater, art, movies, and books and appreciated good food. Ama loved dessert! She loved comedy, Allen Sherman, Mel Brooks, and most of all, Ama loved Seinfeld. She was proudly multi-generational in her love of music. She saw Sinatra at The Paramount in 1944, when she was 15 yrs. old. Later on, through us, she discovered the music of the '60s and 70's, learning to know and love many of the boomer generation's songs, artists, and genres. She bought us our first few Beatle Albums.
Our mom, at her most genuine self, was a sweet, affectionate, and energetic soul. Somehow, this child of the depression was exuberant and engaging. She was a free spirit. She was curious, interested, open to almost any idea, and full of opinions. She was friendly, bubbly, and above all, fun-loving. She managed to mostly see the good in things and possessed an unbounded sense of humor. Olly loved to be silly. She was almost always good for a laugh ...usually with us, but mostly with Marvin and his constant flow of comedic brilliance. Even in restaurants and movie theaters, or during somber and formal occasions, few laughed as loud or as often as Ama.
She was a sweet and complicated person, which makes it pretty difficult to summarize her life and describe who she was, with just these few short lines. She was full of life and full of many contradictions.
We cherished these last years with Olly, and although her vitality declined as she slowly disappeared, she was still here with us, in her body, in her wheelchair, in her bed. Dear old Ama, smiling, whispering, giggling, looking old and frail, but still very cute, in her various hats.
In the end, she saw it all play out almost exactly as planned … At times, she seemed determined to live forever … but even Ama began to slowly slip away, drifting in and out of her life, before finally disappearing back into the great consciousness of the universe.
Olive was the thread that bound us all together. The great loves of her life were unquestionably her children and grandchildren, her family and friends, and of course, her Marvin. She's been here with us for all of our lives. We are of her and she lives on within us. And now, here we all remain, and Olly is gone. Her passing leaves another irreplaceable empty space within our family.
We are all deeply saddened by her loss, but forever grateful for the 94 yrs. she shared with us.
A graveside prayer service will be held at Sharon Gardens, Valhalla, NY on Sunday, August 20, 2023, at 10:00 am. Please arrive at 9:45 outside the office.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Tikkun Olam fund at Temple Beth Abraham in Tarrytown, NY at