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Brill, Marian Melcher

Marian Brill, 86, of Fox Point, Wisconsin, formerly of Kansas City, Missouri, passed away surrounded by her loving family on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017. Funeral services were held Monday, Sept. 18, at Congregation Sinai, Fox Point, Wisconsin, followed by burial at Spring Hill Cemetery, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Marian was born on Oct. 18, 1930, in Kansas City, Missouri, to Reuben and Carrie Lebrecht Melcher. Her mother Carrie died when Marian was 10 years old, and her father remarried Anna Melcher. She was a member of the Congregation B’nai Jehudah confirmation class of 1944 and the Southwest High School Class of 1946. Marian’s freshman year of college was spent at the University of Missouri and her sophomore year at UCLA, but her academic career was cut short when she was swept off her feet by Robert “Bob” Brill, while visiting relatives in Milwaukee. Marian and Bob were married in 1949 in Kansas City by candlelight at the Muehlebach Hotel and then moved to Milwaukee where she and Bob lived for their entire lives.

Marian was an extraordinary woman of great character and strong values. She managed to raise three daughters while working with her husband Bob at Brills men’s clothing stores, the family business. As vice-president, she was instrumental in building Brill’s into the largest independent menswear retailer in the state of Wisconsin. Many former employees remember the Brills fondly, as they were a leader in equal opportunity employment, providing health insurance and pension benefits to all employees — unheard of at that time in the retail industry.

Marian became the first woman to be named to the board of directors of the National Menswear Association. Husband Bob was very proud of her and took great pleasure in joking about attending the spouses’ programs at national meetings. 

Marian and Bob were founding members of Congregation Sinai, and she was active in many civic organizations. She was a founding board member of Camp Interlaken JCC, served on the board of directors of the American Jewish Committee, and devoted 24 years on the board of the Milwaukee Public Museum. Marian’s grandchildren grew up thinking that the museum’s name was “The Nana Museum,” and she would always encourage them to combine a visit to her with a visit to the museum.

Marian played the great game of bridge several times a week right up to the very end, attaining the status of Silver Life Master, and was closing in on Ruby Life Master. Other interests included memberships in an investment club and a book club. She was a diehard Green Bay Packer and Wisconsin Badger football fan.  

Marian loved to travel throughout her life, showing her grit by traveling solo to Israel this past summer to marry off her last daughter Peggy to Joel Migdal. This was followed by a trip to Seattle at Labor Day to attend Peggy and Joel’s U.S. wedding, where she was honored with a crown of flowers as her family and wedding guests showered her with kisses and mazel tovs in the tradition of the Mezinke.

Marian was predeceased by her parents Reuben, Carrie and Anna Melcher, brother Robert Melcher, and husband Robert Brill. She is survived by her daughters Barbara Brill Gustin (Frederick) of Leawood, Kansas; Peggy Brill (Joel Migdal) of Jerusalem/Seattle; and Ruth Brill (Michael Polisky) of Deerfield, Illinois; eight grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. She is also survived by her brother Harold (Marilyn) Melcher of Mission Hills, Kansas; and sister-in-law Lucille Melcher of Los Angeles, California. And she leaves many, many friends in Milwaukee, Kansas City and elsewhere.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to the Jewish Museum Milwaukee, 1360 North Prospect Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53202, or Congregation Beth Torah, 6100 W. 127th St., Overland Park, KS 66209.

A memorial service for friends and family will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017, at Congregation Beth Torah.