Molly Blank, 99: Strong widow grew successful business, sons

Molly Blank constantly provided strength, wisdom and guidance to her sons and those who knew her.

“She exposed us to new experiences, challenged our perceptions of the world and ourselves,” said her grandson Kenny Blank. “She tested our character, taught us to pursue our passions, and rewarded honesty and candor.”

Family and friends say the daughter of Austrian immigrant parents had a curiosity to try new things and do them her way. For example, as the only Jewish girl in her Girl Scout troop at a time when Jews were not openly embraced, she became a troop leader and counselor.

“Mother’s goal in life was to make a difference — a lasting difference,” said her son Michael Blank.

She married Max Blank, eloping on her 18th birthday. They raised their two children in a one-bedroom apartment. She always told her sons that giving back to the community was essential.

“Everything we strive to do in life is a gift. It’s our responsibility to share it, to give back to the world,” she would often say.

During World War II, she raised money for the establishment of the state of Israel. In 1974 she was honored by Israel and presented with the Masada Award for her fundraising efforts.

“My mother gave me my first lesson in entrepreneurship: being driven and incredibly resilient under stressful circumstances,” said her son Arthur M. Blank, who often cites his mother as a primary influence on his entrepreneurial approach in building The Home Depot into the world’s largest home improvement company and, later, in acquiring the Atlanta Falcons.

She was an independent thinker and self-made businesswoman who, after being widowed at a young age, raised two sons and took control of the family’s mail-order pharmaceutical business, turning it into a thriving operation that was later sold to a large retail conglomerate.

“I’m convinced my father’s death was a huge turning point for my mother,” son Arthur said. “From that point forward, Mother seemed to turn her energy toward ensuring that no day would be wasted. She became even more focused on taking charge of her goals and seeing them through.”

Molly Blank of Atlanta died Wednesday of natural causes. She was 99. A private service was held Thursday.

She could be prickly and tough: “This was, after all, a woman who once lectured a burglar, even as he tied her up and robbed her apartment. ‘You should be ashamed of yourself’ she told the young man,” grandson Kenny said.

In later years, she volunteered for organizations and causes including teaching folk dancing to senior citizens in New York City, helping aspiring business people as a speaker and counselor for Service Corps of Retired Executives and teaching sculpting to elderly residents in a California retirement community.

In 1997, Blank wrote her autobiography, “You Pass Through Once: The Life of Molly Blank.”

“She was most proud of her philanthropy. Even when we didn’t have much in the way of financial resources, she found a way to give,” son Michael Blank said.

“Every time life knocked her down, she got up, dusted herself off and kept marching forward. By doing so – by being so strong for Michael and me – she was the glue that held our family together,” son Arthur added.

In addition to her two sons, she is survived by eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.