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Deceased Name: Phil Myzel - Longtime shofar blower dies at 95
Phil Myzel was a people magnet, the inspiration for a book, ram's horn blower and a self-made man.
Myzel, who died Saturday at age 95, was remembered by friends as "always upbeat, always happy," as Casey Goldberg, choir director at Temple Israel in Duluth, described him. "He was the life of the party most of the time," she said.
He may be remembered as a businessman, the former owner of the Woodland Piggly Wiggly grocery store, but he also worked in advertising and for the Duluth News Tribune. He also was a Mason and a devoted member of Temple Israel, where he blew the ram's horn " or shofar " for the high holidays for more than 60 years.
Myzel began his life in extreme poverty in a tiny village in Lithuania that is now part of Poland. His name then was Fivel. A story he told to the youth of Temple Israel about his penniless family and the kindness of neighbors, including a village baker who gave the family food to keep them alive, inspired Duluth author Linda Glaser to write a fictional book called "Bridge to America."
The main character in the book was based on Myzel's early life, Glaser said. She also included the baker, whom she named Beryl.
In real life, "his mother used to tell him, 'You should grow up to be like Beryl, with a big heart,' " Glaser said. And he did. During book readings and signings he was always greeted by people he knew. "People would come up who he hadn't seen in many years and said, 'Thank you for giving my family food,' " she said.
"He had such a bright spirit and such a big heart," Glaser said. "He was one of those people who saw the humanity in others and greeted it."
He was also the inspiration for his grandson's restaurant in Seattle, Myzel's daughter, Linda Radin, said. Grandson Joel Radin named the eatery Zayda Buddy's Pizza. Zayda is Yiddish for "grandfather," and large photos of Myzel grace the walls, Linda Radin said.
Every morning for years Myzel would have breakfast at Perkins Family Restaurant on London Road. A group of friends would stop by "and we would have a bull session," said Seymour Chez, one of Myzel's many friends. "It was automatic. He would always be there." They would discuss just about anything.
He had a special table, and the servers all knew him, Chez said.
Myzel's generosity was legendary. "He would give you the shirt off his back," Radin said. Children were a special interest. He gave generously and was active in helping create the Scottish Rite's Speech, Language and Hearing Clinic at the University of Minnesota Duluth, Chez said.
But his chief love, his daughter said, was Temple Israel, where he sang in the choir and blew the shofar for 63 years. He took great pride in that duty and last September blew it for the last time during services for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, passing the horn to another generation.
Myzel was in a car accident recently and was badly injured, Radin said. His heart gave out early Saturday morning.
Myzel's wife, Pearl, died in 2002. He is survived by his daughters, Linda Radin and Leslie Gardner, as well as three grandchildren.
Services are scheduled at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Dougherty Funeral Home in Duluth.
Duluth News Tribune (MN)
Date: April 7, 2008