Marvin M. Tamaroff
Marvin M. Tamaroff

Marvin Tamaroff will be remembered as many things: a dreamer, a soldier, a visionary, a lover of fine food and travel … the list goes on.

Marvin M. Tamaroff passed away on July 16, 2021, at age 95. He battled various medical conditions over the last couple years, but true to his tenacious nature, he fought valiantly until the end and left this world peacefully, in his bed, surrounded by his loving family.

In the hours following his passing, all the texts, emails and calls coming in to his family shared the same message: “He was an icon.” “A great man.” “A huge influence.” “They don’t make them like that anymore.”

“And all of those things are true,” said grandson Eric Frehsee.

Marvin was born to Anna and Louis Tamaroff in Detroit on Nov. 17, 1925. At 17 years old, he enlisted in the Army, where he endured harrowing experiences, including marching 300 miles without food and being taken as a Nazi prisoner of war.

Upon his return, Marvin graduated with a mechanical engineering degree from General Motors Institute; married his longtime sweetheart, Claire; had two children, Jeffrey and Karen; and began to pursue his dream: becoming a car dealer.

He started out as a used-car dealer in Detroit and, in 1967, secured a chunk of land on Telegraph Road. “He had no money at the time,” said son Jeffrey. “He convinced a banker to loan him the $25,000 he needed. His only collateral was his dream.” He eventually secured a Buick franchise, too, but only after all 26 existing Buick dealers turned down moving to that location. In 1969, he became the first dealer to open on Telegraph and 12 Mile Road.

Over the next decades, he became the largest Buick dealer in Michigan and one of the most successful in the country. His company, now called Tamaroff Motors (which includes Jeffrey Automotive Group in Roseville), is still going strong today in the hands of the third generation. “It made my dad so proud and happy to know that the dealership is still in the family, with his grandsons running it today,” said Jeffrey.

A Generous Heart

In addition to his career, Marvin was a dedicated philanthropist, generously supporting many charities and causes. A random glance into his mailbox once revealed letters from no fewer than 100 charities, thanking him for his support. He had a soft spot for just about every cause, especially those that supported Judaism and his longtime synagogue, Congregation Beth Ahm in West Bloomfield. 

Marvin’s generosity extended well beyond the financial realm. He loved to share advice, stories and his life experiences with anyone who would listen. He was also a mentor to many people, helping several, including his son, to open their own dealerships.

Always the Optimist

Marvin was an eternal optimist. His goal was to live to 100 — something he actually expected to do. In 2014, at 88 years old, he was diagnosed with kidney cancer. When he found out he’d need surgery to remove the affected kidney, he shrugged it off. “It’s not my time yet,” he said. “I still have 12 years left.”

He didn’t quite make it to 100, but he got pretty close. And he led a long, beautiful life filled with adventure, accomplishments and, above all, love. 

“Yes, he was a pillar of the community — but more importantly, he was the pillar of our family,” said daughter Karen Frehsee. 

“He was our patriarch, our leader, the one who always sat at the head of the table. He wasn’t a big talker, especially as he got older, but he was a strong, quiet presence — except when he let loose his deep, booming laugh, which he did often.”

It was always said that Marvin had nine lives because he survived so many near-misses, including beating COVID in 2020 and making it through countless hospitalizations in the last few years. In the end, it is unknown how many lives he was granted, but he lived them all well, and to the fullest.

Marvin will be remembered as many things: a dreamer, a soldier, a visionary, a collector of everything from vintage cars to watches to magazine subscriptions, a lover of fine food and travel … the list goes on. As a friend said, he was a true gentleman who always handled himself with integrity and kindness. 

“He was, simply, a legend,” said Karen.

Marvin Tamaroff is survived by his wife of 68 years, Claire Tamaroff; children, Jeffrey and Sandi Tamaroff, and Karen and Howard Frehsee; grandchildren, Nicole and Joel Mazur, Jason and Gillian Tamaroff, Eric and Elyse Frehsee, Ryan Tamaroff, and Ashley Tamaroff; great-grandchildren, Elan and Jacob Tamaroff, Maya and Sadie Mazur and Hanna Frehsee; sister, Shirley Katzman; many nieces and nephews; and devoted caregiver, Elizabeth.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Louis and Anna Tamaroff; sister and brother-in-law, Helene and Jack Shulman; sister, Betty Schwartz; and sister-in-law and-brother-in-law, Dorothy and Harold Reisner.

Interment was at Clover Hill Park Cemetery. Contributions may be made to Jewish Hospice & Chaplaincy, (248) 592-2687; Hospice of Michigan, (888) 247-5701; Tamaroff Family Fund at Congregation Beth Ahm, (248) 851-6880; or a charity of one’s choice. Arrangements by Ira Kaufman Chapel. 

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