Martyl Reinsdorf, the wife of Bulls and White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, died peacefully Monday afternoon after a long illness. Mrs. Reinsdorf, 85, was surrounded by family at her home in Paradise Valley, Arizona, the Sox said in announcing her passing.
An acclaimed fine arts creator of colorful Cloisonné jewelry, Reinsdorf designed five of the Bulls’ six NBA championship rings and the Sox’ 2005 World Series championship ring. She also loved to bake and loved dogs.
“My mother lived life to the fullest,” daughter Susan Reinsdorf said. “A devoted artist, a big heart, a big personality, a strong woman, she always fought for the underdog and was so compassionate and thoughtful of others. She was such an influence on me, and as I was growing up, was always accepting of me and my friends, as if everyone was always part of the family.”
Those who knew Mrs. Reinsdorf will remember her dynamic personality and creativity. “Grandma Martyl” semi-anonymously created and distributed more than 1 million care packages that included coloring books, crayons, markers and toys to hospitals, orphanages and shelters, including to survivors of Hurricane Katrina, residents of Ronald McDonald Houses, patients at Lurie Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago and Phoenix Children’s Hospital and young vision-impaired patients at The Spectrios Institute for Low Vision.
“The very first coloring book I did was when my granddaughter, Jenny, called and asked me to design a coloring book for her,” Martyl once said. “After a few weeks all her cousins and friends and my other grandchildren asked for more coloring books. They all loved the books so much I decided to find other children who also might enjoy the books. I decided if I could make a few sick children in the hospital happy, it would be a worthwhile way to share the books I was designing.”
Said son Michael Reinsforf, the president and chief operating officer of the Bulls: “My mother had such a heart for children. The joy she brought through her coloring books made me so proud to be her son. As a father, I loved seeing her being such an involved grandmother with my children. They had so many shared interests and spent time together developing computer programs, creating costumes and starting her coloring book program. These are memories we all treasure as a family.”
Mrs. Reinsdorf and her husband supported many charities in Chicago, Phoenix, Israel and across the world. She was a recipient of the 2004 Clarence Troyer Volunteer of the Year Award and was recognized in 2011 by American Friends of Hebrew University with the Torch of Learning Award.
“I’ve often said that everyone’s goal in this world should be to make this a better place to live,” said longtime friend and Major League Baseball Commissioner Emeritus, Allan H. “Bud” Selig. “More importantly, it is to help people who in a lot of cases, can’t help themselves. Martyl Reinsdorf did that brilliantly. She’s a person you could say unequivocally made the world a better place to live.”
Born on March 4, 1936, in Denver, Colorado, Reinsdorf was the daughter of Milton and Vivette (Ravel) Rifkin. The family moved to Chicago in 1944, and Reinsdorf attended Sutherland Elementary School and Morgan Park High School before majoring in Japanese and Chinese history at George Washington University. That’s where she met Jerry, and the couple were married in 1956. She worked for the Defense Department at the Pentagon and later for the Department of Agriculture when the couple moved to Chicago.
Reinsdorf had four children — daughter Susan and sons David (deceased), Michael (Nancy) and Jonathan (Holly) — and nine grandchildren.
Services are private. The family has requested that any donations be directed to The Spectrios Institute for Low Vision at spectrios.org.