Marion Helzberg Bloch Leaves Legacy and Memories for Kansas City
Marion Helzberg Bloch, wife of Bloch School benefactor Henry W. Bloch, passed away peacefully in her Mission Hills home on September 24, 2013 at the age of 83.
The youngest of three children of Hortence and H. Morton Helzberg, Marion was born on July 27, 1930, in Kansas City, Missouri. She graduated from Southwest High School in Kansas City and the University of Missouri. During her junior year of college, Marion’s older brother Jim fixed her up on a date with his close friend, a budding entrepreneur named Henry Bloch.
Henry was immediately struck by Marion’s stunning red hair, her gentle and kind eyes, and her warm smile. During their five-month courtship in 1951, Henry wrote Marion: “My dearest love, I do believe that no man has ever felt such love and honor towards his fiancée. May our next hundred years together help me to prove it. You are beautiful, intelligent, sweet, and with a wonderful personality. And much, much more than I could ever deserve.” That summer, one month after Marion’s college graduation, the couple was married.
Out of necessity, the young Bloch family was thrifty. When Henry finally splurged on a second car, he bought Marion a used Studebaker for $50. And when Marion’s brother Howard got married in Birmingham, Henry could afford only one round-trip plane ticket. Marion attended the wedding while Henry stayed home and worked.
While Henry ran H&R Block, which he founded with his brother Richard in 1955, Marion ran her household. “The business didn’t mean a thing to her,” Henry says. But Marion made sure that both of their personal lives revolved around the family. Whether it was spring breaks at their winter home in Phoenix or summer holidays in Martha’s Vineyard, Southampton, Aspen, or Europe, Marion made sure that their family vacations were extraordinary.
Marion and Henry’s friends say that their marriage was made in heaven. “Nothing was missing,” one close friend remarked. Henry was enthralled by Marion’s warmth, beauty, and kindness. “You are perfect,” he often told her.
Committed to her four children’s (Bob, Tom, Mary Jo, and Liz) education in the 1950s and 60s, Marion was president of the PTA at their elementary school. Later, she became actively involved in the larger Kansas City community. She served on numerous boards, including the New Reform Temple and the State Ballet of Missouri.
With Henry, Marion was at the forefront of countless civic and philanthropic initiatives in Greater Kansas City. Their personal philanthropic legacy includes generous support of arts institutions, and particularly The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Future generations in Kansas City will enjoy Marion and Henry’s collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings, one of the finest private collections of its type in the world. In 2007, the Museum’s new Bloch Building was ranked #1 by Time magazine on its list of the ten best architectural marvels in the world.
The couple established the Marion Bloch Missouri Chair in Leadership at UMKC’s Henry W. Bloch School of Management. Adjacent to the School is the Marion H. Bloch Terrace and Park, a gift to UMKC from Marion’s children to honor their loving mother.
Marion and Henry also established the Marion H. Bloch Chair in Gastroenterology and Medicine at Saint Luke’s Hospital. Her nephew, Dr. John Helzberg, became the first occupant of the Chair.
In 2011, the couple formed the Marion and Henry Bloch Family Foundation, which is now one of the largest family foundations in the region.
This August, the Bloch School proudly unveiled a life-and-a-half- sized statue of Marion and Henry Bloch on the UMKC campus, connecting the two Bloch School buildings. The statue, created by sculptor Eugene Daub, will serve as a reminder to UMKC students for years to come of Marion and Henry’s generosity and the love Kansas City holds for them.
“We have lost a dear friend in Marion Helzberg Bloch,” Bloch School Acting Dean David Donnelly said. “The generosity and friendship Marion, Henry and the Bloch family have shown to UMKC and the Bloch School has been an integral part of our success. On behalf of our Bloch School family, I send our heartfelt sympathy, thoughts and prayers to the Bloch family during this time.”
More on Marion Helzberg Bloch can be found on the Bloch Family Foundation web site.