Noted philanthropist Marilyn Belz, 91, who, along with her husband of 72 years, Jack Belz, created an indelible legacy of giving in the arts, education, civic endeavors, and their Jewish faith, died Tuesday from complications of COVID-19.
Marilyn and Jack Belz
A life-long Memphian, Mrs. Belz (nee
Hanover) attended Idlewild Elementary, Fairview Junior High, and Central High School, as well as Ward-Belmont College and Memphis State. She and Jack Belz were married in 1948 at the Peabody Hotel, long before the Belzes bought and reinvented the legendary hotel in the 1970s, in what was arguably the single most important factor in the revitalization of Downtown Memphis.
There are few cultural institutions in Memphis that have not received generous gifts from the Belz family through the years. The couple founded the Belz Museum of Asian and Judaic Art in Downtown Memphis, which features a remarkable collection of jade and stone sculpture and other artworks, as well an exhibit on the Holocaust. The Belzes also gave generously to many Jewish institutions in the United States and in Israel, including the Memphis Jewish Home & Rehab Center and Yeshiva University in New York City, now home to the Belz School of Jewish Music.
In a statement released by the Belz family Wednesday, Marilyn Belz was cited for her “beauty, kindness, and graciousness. She sparkled at every event or occasion she and her husband Jack attended. … She was a joy to meet and an instantaneous maker of life-long friends. Everyone adored her.”
Congressman Steve Cohen said, “She did so much for Memphis in the arts and for charities, but she'll be remembered best as a great mother, a great wife, and a sweet person. They were a great team. She and Jack had a wonderful marriage."
Marilyn Belz is survived by her husband, Jack Belz; children Marty (Julie) Belz, Gary (Shelly) Belz, Ron (Anise) Belz, and Jan (Andy) Groveman; 13 grandchildren and their spouses; and 12 great-grandchildren. She was predeceased by a daughter, Lynn Belz.
Jack Belz is a long-standing board member of Contemporary-Media Inc., the parent company of the Memphis Flyer.