Margaret Jacobson

Longtime Paradise Valley, Ariz., resident Margaret "Maggie" Jacobson died Feb. 4, 2011, at age 93.


Born Margaret Christine Burke, in 1917, in St. Paul, Minn., Maggie started life as an orphan when her mother died in childbirth and her father abandoned the family. At age 8, Maggie visited Jamestown, N.D., where she met her sister, Kay, for the very first time.


The girls were raised by a maiden aunt, Dorothy Nelson, who was only 18 years old. Maggie moved to Phoenix in 1934. Her cousin Kathleen "Vonnie" Nash and her husband, Kenneth, ran the elegant Phoenix Country Club and thought that Maggie should "come West.”


Arriving in Phoenix, Maggie was the talk of the town. She was a great dancer, had a bubbling personality and a model-like figure, and was sharp as a tack. As queen of the first Fiesta Parade, in 1937, her popularity soared, and she became one of the more sought-after young ladies in town.


She loved the West and took up the cause personally, by becoming American Airlines official Calendar Girl to help bring Easterners to the Valley of the Sun.


In 1938, with Barry Goldwater as best man, Maggie married Harry Rosenzweig of the Rosenzweig Jewelers family. Together, they were the center of the Phoenix young social set, which included current and future political leaders like the Goldwaters, Mardians, Driggs and Rhodes. Also from the business arena were the Melczers, Diamonds, Korricks and Jack Durant, whose steakhouse is still a regular haunt of Phoenicians.


Shortly after marrying Harry, the wild and wooly days of pre-war Phoenix began. In fact, Maggie was playing ping-pong in Sally and Bob Goldwater's basement on Dec. 7, 1941, when FDR announced that America was at war with Japan. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Maggie often said, "The war years were different. We didn't know if we would be alive or dead in six months, so we lived for the moment."


The “moment” also included serving as a Red Cross nurse, taking care of wounded WWII veterans returning to Phoenix.


After 17 years of marriage, Maggie and Harry parted ways. She soon married the executive vice president of the Del E. Webb Construction Company, L.C. "Jake" Jacobson. Her life with Jacobson was a far cry from the life she had lived previously.


Prior to Jake, Maggie usually slept until 10 a.m. and partied until the wee hours. Jake was up at 5 a.m. and at his desk shortly after. Soon after they were married, Jake told Maggie, "I'll stay up with you as late as you want at night, so long as you get up with me in the morning."


It wasn't long until Maggie turned into an early-to-bed and early-to-rise person. Her life with Jacobson was fascinating. As a premier developer of the Southwest, Jacobson built many of the country's great edifices and institutions: Sun City, Mountain Shadows, Anaheim Stadium, the Sahara, the Mint and the Thunderbird hotels, the Beverly Hilton, and Air Force Bases including Luke and Williams Field. Maggie attended every opening with glamour and style.


When Del Webb bought the New York Yankees with Dan Topping in 1952, Maggie was at every major World Series where Yankee pinstripes were "King." She and Jake attended Don Larson's 1956 World Series "perfect game."  


The little orphan from St. Paul entertained the captains of industry (at one or more of her seven homes) and loved to plan and cook all the meals. Guests included Henry Crown, owner of the Empire State Building; Conrad Hilton, founder of Hilton Hotels; Clint Murchison, owner of the Dallas Cowboys; Lew Wasserman, chairman of MCA Universal Studios; and countless others. She and Jake also spent time with some of Jake's old roping buddies, including John Wayne, Roy Rogers and Jim Paul.


But Maggie never changed who she was. She said, "I'm homespun." She loved gin rummy, bridge and going to "cook out" with her friends. She was a good golfer and an excellent card player, and participated in the same poker game with other female card sharks (in the ladies’ room of Phoenix Country Club) for more than 40 years.


In later years, her joy was to spend time with her sons, daughters and grandchildren. She was proud of each and participated in many of their activities. Maggie believed in hard work and frugality. She started all of her grandchildren out on saving one quarter a day for their future. She wanted them to know the value of a dollar. When she was satisfied they had the right foundation, she was generous to a fault, wanting them to enjoy some of the things she never had as a youngster.


Maggie was a quiet philanthropist, endowing the Jacobson Blood Center at Scripps Clinic in La Jolla, Calif., and bequeathing their wine cellar to the University of California Davis. She also supported St. Vincent de Paul, the Salvation Army and Guide Dogs for the Blind.


"Maggie was the end of an era," says her son Harry Rosenzweig Jr. of Phoenix. "She was strong, the type of woman who could have come to the West in a covered wagon. She talked to everybody and anybody. We all loved her, and we will miss her."


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