Meri Friedman Gergel
January 28, 1922 – October 12, 2019
COLUMBIA - Meri Friedman Gergel, 97, passed away on Saturday, October 12, 2019 after a brief illness.
She was born in Charleston, South Carolina on January 28, 1922 and was the eldest daughter of Sam and Rebecca Friedman, Polish-Jewish immigrants who came to America in pursuit of religious freedom. Mrs. Gergel was raised with her three sisters in Kingstree, South Carolina, where her father owned and operated a dry goods business. She excelled as a student and won a statewide contest as the fastest and most accurate high school typist in the state. After graduating from Winthrop College, Mrs. Gergel worked in Washington, D.C. in the Navy Department during World War II. With her excellent typing skills, Mrs. Gergel served as the personal secretary to one of the high ranking admirals during the war.
Mrs. Gergel returned to South Carolina following the war after her sister, Rose Friedman, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and her family moved from Kingstree to Columbia to obtain better medical care. While in Columbia, she met and later married Melvin Gergel, a World War II veteran. Together they open their first store, Mel’s Kiddie Land, in downtown Columbia in the late 1940’s and later opened additional stores in Five Points and Forest Lake Shopping Center. Mrs. Gergel managed the Forest Lake store and began stocking phonograph records in the 1950’s as the popular music industry grew. She was soon selling more records than toys and decided in 1961 to open Meri’s Record Shop, in Richland Mall. The business thrived and was for many years the premier record store in Columbia, during an era in which few women owned and managed businesses.
Mrs. Gergel was a devoted wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend. She was a longtime member of the Tree of Life Synagogue and the Tree of Life Sisterhood and, after moving to Charleston in recent years to be closer to family, was a member of Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim Synagogue. She is survived by her three children, Rhonda Gergel of Albuquerque, New Mexico (Joe Hlifka); Dr. Randy Gergel of Asheville, North Carolina (Linda Gergel); and Judge Richard Gergel of Charleston (Dr. Belinda Gergel), four grandchildren, Richie Gergel, Joseph Gergel, Diana Gergel, and Elizabeth Gergel, and her sister, Rae Friedman Berry.
A graveside service will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, October 15, 2019 in the chapel of Hebrew Benevolent Society Cemetery, 720 Blanding Street, with Rabbi Sanford Marcus officiating the service. Dunbar Funeral Home, Devine Street Chapel, is assisting the family.
Memories may be shared at www.dunbarfunerals.com.
- Funeral Service Tuesday, October 15, 2019