Remembering Sylvia Goldsmith Marks

Yesterday (Sunday, April 8th) in an uplifting memorial service, the life of one of the Memphis Botanic Garden’s most diminutive patrons, but biggest supporters was celebrated. Through readings, Psalms, humorous remembrances and just a touch of bitter-sweet the story of Syl Marks life was told. It was clear that hers was a life well lived!

Truthfully, I never met Syl. When I arrived here she was already in her 99th year and had largely retreated from the public eye. I only knew of her from her civic good works and her lasting legacy (with her father, brothers and now – next generations of family members) here at the Memphis Botanic Garden. At yesterday’s memorial, Rabbi Micah Greenstein of Temple Israel shared a reading called What Will Matter by Michael Josephson. Two passages, both about halfway through the reading, resonated with me:

What will matter is not what you bought but what you built, not what you got but what you gave.


What will matter is not your success but your significance.

It was Syl Marks, with her father and brothers who first built the Goldsmith Civic Garden Center - now better known as the Memphis Botanic Garden. In the years since that first gift in 1964, we’ve grown beyond all expectations. Our growth is attributable to many, but always among the first to say ‘yes’ when asked for help was Syl and her family.  

Syl’s stamp of approval can be seen throughout our 96 acres. From the Goldsmith Room which has hosted countless weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, receptions, meetings, flower shows and more to our Children’s Garden, where Syl cut the ribbon opening it to the families of Memphis… to countless smaller, quieter efforts that have helped make us what we are.

Let there be no doubt, Syl Marks was significant.

Michael D. Allen
Executive DIrector
April 9, 2018



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