Hazel Lenobel bought a white dress with black flowers a year ago with plans to wear it when her granddaughter, Jessica Lenobel, wed Ian Carrington. Her family isn’t certain where she bought the dress, but they assume it was probably Bealls.
Few believed she would get to wear the dress. In April 2010, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, a prognosis so grim that the average patient survives just five to eight months after diagnosis.
But Lenobel, wife of Commissioner Hal Lenobel, who cherished her family and spoke every day on the phone to her two grown children, was determined to see her granddaughter marry.
Lenobel, 82, died Dec. 29, 2011 — two-and-a-half months after she donned the white dress with black flowers and watched Jessica Lenobel become Mrs. Ian Carrington. For most of her life, Lenobel’s hair naturally formed a perfect Dorothy Hamill bob that was always the topic of conversation. She lost her hair during chemotherapy, but by the wedding, it was growing back.
“She looked absolutely beautiful,” said her daughter, Sandy Robinson.
Born June 16, 1929, in Brooklyn, N.Y., she graduated from New York University and attended graduate studies at Pennsylvania State University and Hofstra College. She was just 20 when she met her future husband, Hal, on a blind date.
“I think we went to the movies,” Commissioner Lenobel said. “That’s all I could afford then.”
“She was perfect,” he said.
Commissioner Lenobel recalled in a 2002 Longboat Observer article how he proposed on the third or fourth date on the front porch of Hazel’s home. She said yes, although he later learned that her mother was skeptical of him. The Lenobels married in 1949, and in 1951, their son, Jeffrey Lenobel, was born. They moved in 1953 from Brooklyn to the Long Island, N.Y., house that would become their home for the next 39 years. In 1955, their daughter, Sandy, was born.
Mrs. Lenobel was a stay-at-home wife and mother who volunteered as her children’s classroom mom and her daughter’s Brownie troop leader, while her husband practiced dentistry. She cooked fabulous pot roast and brown potatoes, kept the neatest closet anyone had ever seen and chauffeured her children and their friends around in the red Ford Galaxy convertible her husband bought her as a gift in the early 1960s.
“She was the hippest mom there was,” Robinson said.
“She was the rock of our family,” Jeffrey Lenobel said.
The Lenobels put a deposit down on a Longboat Harbour unit in 1969 and used it as their vacation home for 23 years, before moving in 1992 to the Key permanently. At Longboat Harbour, Lenobel regularly attended bridge and Mahjongg games.
“We saw each other every other Wednesday,” said Jayne Forstenzer, a friend and neighbor of Lenobel, who played bridge alongside her at Longboat Harbour. “She was so friendly and always just a pleasure.”
She was an avid reader and golfer, even scoring a hole-in-one at the Longboat Key Club and Resort.
She filled much of her time with volunteer work. In New York, she had been active with the National Council of Jewish Women and the Association for the Health of Retarded Children. Living on Longboat Key, she became a dedicated volunteer with the Safe Place and Rape Crisis Center (SPARCC).
“She was very pleasant company and well-versed in a number of subjects,” said David Young, a friend of the Lenobels for 20 years. “She was very interested in SPARCC and worked in their thrift store for a number of years.”
Friends and family say that the Lenobels did just about everything together, although when it came to Longboat Key politics, Mrs. Lenobel preferred to let her husband, currently serving his sixth term on the commission, go it alone.
“My mother was extremely supportive of all that he did,” Jeffrey Lenobel said. “But she wanted nothing to do with the limelight … She was like the perfect first lady.”
Still, there were some times that Mrs. Lenobel couldn’t avoid the spotlight — such as the festivities leading up to her granddaughter’s Oct. 15 wedding. The weeklong celebration kicked off with a welcome dinner. There, Jeffrey Lenobel introduced his mother and told the crowd of 200 that it was a miracle that she was there to celebrate.
The lady who avoided the limelight received a standing ovation.
Mrs. Lenobel is survived by her husband of 62 years, Commissioner Hal Lenobel; son, Jeffrey Lenobel; daughter, Sandy Robinson; and grandchildren Jessica Carrington, Alexandra Lenobel, Kyle Robinson and Nathaniel Robinson.
Mrs. Lenobel’s family received visitors Monday, Jan. 2. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to The Lustgarten Foundation, 1111 Stewart Ave., Bethpage, N.Y., 11714.