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Obituary: Local philanthropist and wife of TV pioneer Marjie Bennett greeted every sunrise

Longtime Newport Beach resident and philanthropist Marjie Bennett died June 6 in her home.
Longtime Newport Beach resident and philanthropist Marjie Bennett died June 6 in her home.
(Courtesy of Paul Rich)

Marjie Bennett — a philanthropist, longtime Newport Beach resident and wife of the late television pioneer Robert “Bob” Bennett for 72 years — died in her home June 6 following a brief illness. She was 99.

Born and raised in South Dakota, Marjie Albright came to Los Angeles in her early 20s seeking a job in the entertainment industry. She worked as a switchboard operator for CBS radio, where she would later meet Bob, an usher at the network’s Hollywood studio.

Charmed by her bubbly personality, producers of the TV and radio comedy “My Little Margie,” named the lead character after her.

Bob Bennett, from left, with Marjie Bennett, Dolly Rich and Paul Rich in 1989 on the Bennett's 112-foot cruiser, Celebration.
Bob Bennett, from left, with Marjie Bennett, Dolly Rich and Paul Rich in 1989 on the Bennett’s 112-foot cruiser, called “Celebration” after Marjie’s favorite song.
(Courtesy of Paul Rich)

She married Bob Bennett in 1950 and attended functions and traveled alongside him as he managed TV stations in Washington, New York and Boston and built his company, Metromedia Broadcasting, into one of the nation’s most prominent station groups.

An inseparable pair, the Bennetts went on two around-the-world trips together, making friends wherever they went. They had two children together, daughter Kelly and son Casey.

Paul Rich and his wife Dolly became fast friends with Bob and Marjie as the husbands partnered in business and real estate ventures together. From his home in Santa Clarita Friday, Rich recalled Marjie Bennett as “totally effervescent and positive about life.

“Every morning, she’d get up and thank God for the sun coming up, and every day at sunset, we’d have a margarita and she’d thank God for the sun going down,” he said.

Bob Bennett, from left, Dolly and Paul Rich and Marjie Bennett walk the Champs-Elysees in Paris in 1984.
(Courtesy of Paul Rich)

While still living in Sherman Oaks, the Bennetts frequented Balboa Island, where they’d point to the Newport Beach shoreline and promise, “This is where we’re going to live,” Rich recalled. In 1987, they purchased a Lido Isle property with a view of the island.

Donors to the Muscular Dystrophy Assn. and its annual MDA Telethon, the Bennetts also supported the American Film Institute and Hoag Hospital, where their contributions funded a then-revolutionary Siemens robotic heart surgery machine and helped establish the Robert M. & Marjie Bennett Advanced Cardiovascular Surgical Program.

Hoag Hospital Foundation President Flynn Andrizzi said the hybrid operating room the couple supported was the first of its kind in Orange County.

Robert “Bob” Bennett, a television industry pioneer and 31-year resident of Newport Beach, died Tuesday at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach after a long illness, according to longtime friend and business associate Paul Rich.

“Marjie’s generosity, along with her husband Bob’s, will live on through the patients that receive elevated care every day,” Andrizzi wrote in an email Friday. “Her legacy at Hoag is one of selflessness, and we are grateful for her.”

Marjie Bennett is preceded in death by her husband, who died in 2016 at age 89, and son Casey, who died in 2020. She is survived by daughter Kelly Bennett and grandson Brandon, of Santa Monica.

A memorial service will be announced at a later date. In lieu of flowers, gifts can be made to the Robert M. “Bob” and Marjie Bennett Foundation to aid scholarships, education and programs related to media careers (c/o Meloni Hribal Tratner, 21600 Oxnard St., Suite 500, Woodland Hills, CA 91367).

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