If there is such a thing as the ultimate West Ender, it must be Bill Margolin.
With the exception of the years he served in the military, Margolin has been at the West End House Camp in East Parsonsfield, Maine, every summer since 1958, first as a camper and counselor, and then becoming executive director — a position he still holds — in 1973. He also served as executive director of West End House Club in Allston from 1974 through 1995.
Margolin will be honored today by the West End Museum at the museum’s commemoration of Jewish Heritage Month. Jack Burnes and Frank Lavine will be honored posthumously.
Ironically, Margolin, who grew up in West Roxbury and now lives in Randolph, began his association with the West End House as a reluctant camper, persuaded by his mother, a former West Ender, to attend the camp.
“I came as a scared, unwilling 13-year-old, and here I am now as a 70-year-old who is very happy to have been here all those years and to have made a difference in so many lives at the West End House camp and club,” he said.
Margolin was attending Bowdoin College and majoring in Russian when he decided to enlist in the army. He served as a Russian interpreter in Germany, and returned to camp in 1970 after his four years of service. At the same time as he was moving up the ranks to become the camp’s executive director, he was offered the executive director position at the West End House Boys Club, where he served for 21 years. He is proud that under his leadership the club became co-ed in 1978 and that a camping program for girls was later established.
Margolin’s long years of association with the West End House club and camp have made him a kind of WEH institution and a font of knowledge. He was instrumental in helping the West End Museum organize its current exhibit on the West End House, providing artifacts and historical content.
Margolin describes his greatest accomplishment in personal terms, in “overseeing hundreds, if not thousands, of children through the ranks, and feeling that each one is an important person in his or her own right. To see that they come back years later and say thank you is all the reward I was ever looking for,” he said. “It is great source of pride to have made a positive difference in so many peoples’ lives.” ”
“Bill Margolin embodies all of the virtues of the West End House Boys and Girls Club and the West End House Camp,” said Henry Barr of Framingham, who is currently serving as president of both organizations and who has known Margolin for 50 years. “He is selfless in his determination to promote the interests of others. He personifies the ‘spirit of the West End House’.”