Devoted couple celebrates 70th anniversary
By Deb Silverthorn
Opposites attract, as the saying goes, and Bobbie and Joel Leibow can attest to that, as they celebrated 70 years of marriage on Feb. 17. The groom, who will soon turn 95, and his bride, who is five years younger, credit laughter and caring — despite “bickering” (their word) and banter — for their successful union.
“We’re as opposite as they get — I’m a handsome guy, and she’s a beautiful woman,” said Joel, born and raised in the Bronx, New York, a graduate of Stuyvesant High School. “She’s always been a wonderful gal — she has to be to have put up with me.”
Bobbie was born in New York City, but after her parents separated while she was still an infant, she moved to her mother, Estelle Fleischer Beiben’s, native Dallas before her first birthday. Growing up with her extended family — including her Aunt Sadie, who played a large role in raising her — Bobbie graduated from Forest Avenue High School, then McBride’s Business School.
Joel served in the U.S. Navy, based in Hawaii. While he was preparing to go to Japan, his Amphibious Forces Invasion of Japan was canceled following the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as other actions. He returned stateside to be close to his parents, Celia and Charlie Leibow, who had moved to Rosenberg, Texas.
“I told my folks I would take some time off and then go back to college,” said Joel, who had started at Community College of New York before his service. “Mom said, ‘Pack your bags, you’re going to college,’ and I was off to UT,” he said. “After graduation I ended up in Fort Worth as a project manager for Consolidated Vultee Aircraft,” which has since become Convair.
The couple met on a blind date, introduced by mutual friends Jerry and Frieda Siegel. Jerry, more familiar with the Metroplex’s landscape, drove Joel’s car to pick Bobbie up. Arriving at Bobbie’s cousin’s home, Joel recalls the family “receiving line waiting to check me out.”
On that first date, Bobbie lit up a cigarette in the back seat. When the ashes fell, she ground them into the floor, telling Joel “they’ll never know.” He replied by fessing up that it was his car, setting the precedent for the next 70 years of conversation.
“We weren’t smitten right away,” laughs Bobbie. “It was not love at first sight, and my mother wasn’t sure about him. Still, we kept dating.”
“I learned as a kid to always listen to Mother,” said Joel. “She and Dad loved Bobbie and they were right.”
The two married a year after meeting and Rabbi David Lefkowitz officiated at Temple Emanu-El, where Bobbie was raised and confirmed. They honeymooned in Mexico City.
The couple’s first four children — Bruce (Lisa), Rick, Randy (Donna) and Lori (Doug Cohen) — were born in Dallas and the family lived in the Casa Linda in a two-bedroom home. Joel continued working in Fort Worth, and Bobbie participated in PTA activities and stayed busy with their young children. In 1964, the family moved to Detroit and the youngest Leibow, Rob (Mia), joined the fold. The family later moved to Chicago, where Joel worked for Warwick Electronics and the children all graduated high school.
“My parents love each other dearly and to meet them is to know them,” said Lori. “They’ve always lived for their children — never extravagantly, never meddling, but always — always — making every decision and choice, with us — and then the grandchildren — in mind.”
In 1982, Joel and Bobbie moved to Southern California, when Joel’s career took him to TRW — first in Marina Del Rey, then San Diego, where they enjoyed living near the water — before he retired in 1990. Shortly thereafter, their children convinced them to return to Dallas to be closer to them. The next generations include grandchildren Lauren (Garett) Marcum, Harrison (Jillian), Brittany, Jessica and Celia Leibow, Cooper, Remi and Dexter Leibow, Sydney Cohen, Michael and Sami Leibow, and great-grandchildren Ruby, Phoebe and Winona Marcum and Reggie and Leni Leibow.
“Papa and Grammy have always shown up, to games, recitals, celebrations — to everything, almost always providing occasions to laugh with or at them with love,” said grandson Dexter Leibow, who treasures weekly Sunday night dinners together.
He recalls a time when Grammy, who loves garage sales, wanted his dad (Randy) to help her pick up a chandelier she’d seen in an alley, and he declined.
Dexter got in the car with Bobbie and retrieved the “treasure,” only for it to live in the couple’s garage, along with other gems collected through the years.
“They’ve taught us so much about love and taking care of each other,” he said. “That all [parts] of life — things, people, relationships — are to be cherished and with value.”
“We’ve been so happy to be back in Dallas, where our love and life together began,” said Bobbie. “It’s been beautiful to be close to the family and involved as it grows.”
The blessed husband and wife laugh much when reflecting on their life. He loves action entertainment, she adores “fluff” and musicals, and they both prefer classics with actors from “back in the day.”
While they say their food choices differ, Denny’s is a unifying first choice for breakfast. They also enjoy Café Amore and a number of Chinese restaurants near their Richardson home. He loves sweets — his wife’s seven-layer cake top choice—while she chooses to eat less sugar. She stays busy and loves shopping — he calls her “the lady in aisle 15” — and he’s happy at home.
“People say if you don’t stay busy, you die. Not true! I love doing nothing,” said Joel, again with a smile in his voice. “You work many years and that was plenty busy. Now it’s time to take a heavy breath. Blessed with good genes and good love — it’s a good life.”