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Sadie’s Dream

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Maybe the problem is that the people Sadie Margolin has approached for help in building a memorial for world peace don’t possess the same burning passion for the project, sparked by the happy and bitter memories of her own life.

Those memories shout from the letters, pictures and paintings that fill the 88-year-old woman’s small room at the Jewish Home for the Aging in Reseda.

It’s 1914, and the 5-year-old girl and her family, fearing death at the start of World War I, are fleeing their native Lithuania.

It’s 1931 in New York City and she meets a handsome jeweler named Joe, the man of her dreams.

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It’s 1954 and Joe, only 48, dies of a heart attack, leaving Sadie and their two children.

The day before Joe died, he gave her a gold locket he designed. It had six open hearts, five bearing important dates of her life. Joe left one circle open for her to fill in the date of his death. She couldn’t get herself to do it.

Instead, Sadie thought, what better way to honor her husband’s life--and make sense of hers--than to build a 12-foot-high, $500,000 replica of the locket as a memorial for world peace that all Americans could enjoy.

Over the decades she has approached everyone from politicians to museums and foundations with the proposal. All praised her efforts. They wished her good luck. Help? Sorry, no help.

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Among those who have heard her idea is First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. A letter from her dated Nov. 20, 1995, reads:

“Thank you for sharing with me your suggestion for a memorial for world peace. I appreciate having a chance to hear about your life and your project. Your work is a wonderful tribute to your husband, Joe. My thoughts and prayers are with you.”

Sadie Margolin shares her room at the Jewish Home with her sister Anna, 91. Their American journey began with another sister and their mother as the war came upon their homeland.

On the run, hiding in the darkness of stables, they slowly made their way to a ship, the Kroonland, that they hoped would take them to America. Once on board, people huddled in corners and cried for those they left behind--Sadie’s grandmother among them.

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In America, the girls’ mother died and they were put in orphanages. It was at the Hebrew Orphan Asylum that Sadie, interacting with children of all colors and languages, learned to appreciate all cultures.

In 1931, Joseph Margolin was a handy young jewelry expert who worked in a shop on New York’s 48th Street. Sadie, then 22, worked as a receptionist at a similar shop on 46th Street.

The two met when a mutual friend arranged an encounter after taking Joe a piece of jewelry from Sadie that needed to be repaired. “I’ve heard so many good things about you that last night I read the Book of Etiquette,” Joe told her.

He was too shy to kiss her, so six weeks after they met, she kissed him.

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“I said, ‘Only promise me that our children will never go hungry.’

“He promised.”

On Aug. 13, 1954, after engraving “My Life” on the locket, along with the date of his and Sadie’s wedding and the birth dates of their children in the hearts, he applied for a patent for the design.

He died the next day.

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Sadie finished the paperwork for the patent. She decided that instead of “My Life,” the locket should be called “Our Life” to symbolize her and her husband’s lives.

Then she decided on the final name “Our Life--the Wheel of Life” as a gesture of goodwill toward all nations.

She also decided to try to build the memorial and was open about its possible location. Through the years she has made her pitch to anyone who would listen--the White House, the Ford Foundation, Disneyland and Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, among others.

They all have been sympathetic but nothing more.

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“It hurts because nobody appreciates it,” she said.

In her mind, the six hearts would display the words “All Nations.” A motor would continually turn the open circle to each of the hearts.

It would honor those who have died in all wars, like the one that drove her from the Old World to the New.


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