Mark Soifer, 89, Ocean City’s longtime and much-loved public relations director whose fanciful campaigns helped define the popular Shore town for generations of beachgoers, died Sunday, June 6, at his Vineland home from complications of Alzheimer’s.
“It’s hard to imagine Ocean City without Mark,” Mayor Jay A. Gillian said. “From the Doo Dah Parade to Martin Z. Mollusk Day and all the way to First Night, so much of what we celebrate came from Mark’s imagination.”
Mr. Soifer was named Ocean City Citizen of the Decade in 2013. In 2016, the year he retired after 45 years, Mark Soifer Park was dedicated in his honor.
“He was before his time,” said Michele Gillian, executive director for the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce and the mayor’s wife.. “His signature events make Ocean City what it is, and they have been recognized throughout the nation and the world. I always said we have the beach, the boardwalk, the bay — and Mark Soifer.”
Mr. Soifer came to Ocean City and the rest of the world by way of Chester, Pa., the offspring of Abram Louis and Irene Soifer. He and his identical twin, Jesse, were known as “Nip & Tuck,” and both were gifted in sports and the arts. Mr. Soifer was very proud of his twin, who was an artist and a professor at what was then Cumberland County College in Vineland. He died in 2017.
Mr. Soifer earned his bachelor’s degree from Temple University’s School of Journalism while on a baseball scholarship. He was an outfielder on Temple’s team and continued playing into adulthood on Vineland’s Over the Hill League. Also a fan of the sport, one of his proudest possessions was a baseball signed by the great Joe DiMaggio.
Before leaving Temple, Mr. Soifer, then 21, won perhaps his greatest prize. While at a Halloween party, he met Toby Barenfus, a 17-year-old Philly girl. They both came with other dates. But then they got to talking.
“We never saw the other ones again,” said Toby Soifer. “We were engaged a year later.”
Mr. Soifer served in the Army from 1954 to 1956. He was stationed in Texas and then Germany. He worked as a medic and later as a writer and editor of publications.
After he left the service, the couple got married and lived in Philadelphia. He taught English at South Philadelphia High School and then went into advertising and public relations, eventually owning the Mark Forrest Agency. In 1971, he went to work for Ocean City and, as the saying goes, the rest is history.
Despite his whimsical sense of humor, Mr. Soifer had a serious side. He served as president of the New Jersey Travel & Resort Association, helping to promote the entire Shore area. And even when he dressed up as Trash Buster, his anti-litter superhero character, he sometimes used his creation to speak to schoolchildren about taking care of the environment.
Mr. Soifer was a man of many talents. And, yes, he was very funny, his wife said.
“We amused each other,” she said. “We were both nuts.”
He did cartoons, which she helped with. They collected them in a book called Surf & Turf they published in 2009.
Mr. Soifer also wrote poetry throughout his life as well as short stories, some of which were published.
He was a lover of animals, and he genuinely cared about other people, said his family.
“He was a mensch — kind, good, decent, generous, all those things,” said his wife. “He was just a wonderful man besides all those other achievements. He was a very, very good man, and he’s going to be missed by everybody.”
The couple had been married 64 years.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Soifer is survived by a son, David; daughters Rebecca Agronsky, Jessica Albertson, and Rachel Soifer; nine grandchildren; six great-grandchildren; and other relatives.
A private service will be held at a future date.
Donations in Mr. Soifer’s memory may be made to the charity of one’s choice or Health Redeemer Hospice, 160 E. Ninth Ave., Suite B.P.O., Box 250, Runnemede, N.J. 08078.