When longtime environmental activist Irving Like was crafting strategies to block construction of a highway on Fire Island and later the Shoreham nuclear plant, he turned to his wife, Margalit, for advice on how to connect with residents whose support he would need.
Margalit Like, who grew up in the Bronx, taught public school children in Harlem and later served as a school librarian in the Babylon district, drew on her background to help her husband translate legal strategy and environmental esoterica into ideas that average Long Islanders might embrace.
The decades-long Bay Shore resident, who summered on Fire Island, died May 24 at Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip after a long illness. She was 92.
“She would talk to me like the man in the street, and give insights as to what questions they would ask,” said her husband, 93. “She had an uncanny ability to size up people, and a common-sense point of view. I couldn’t have done a lot of the things I did if she were not an enthusiastic part of it.”
Born to immigrant parents — her father was from pre-partition Palestine, and her mother from Russia — she met Irving Like in the Bronx apartment building where they both grew up. Irving Like said his mother told him of a dark-haired woman she had spotted in the elevator.
“It was Margalit,” Irving Like said. “After that, we would take walks together in the neighborhood.”
They married in 1949, settled in Bay Shore six years later and eventually bought a home in Dunewood, a Fire Island settlement built by environmentalist developer Maurice Barbash.
It was there in 1962 that the couple first prominently took up the environmental cause.
That year, infrastructure czar Robert Moses proposed a five-mile highway along Fire Island’s sandy spine. The Likes joined Barbash in organizing a committee to spearhead opposition to Moses, already a legendary public works visionary whose multitude of past proposals — including the Southern State Parkway and the neighborhood-splitting Cross Bronx Expressway — almost always got built.
Community pressure eventually persuaded Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, Moses’ boss, to repudiate the highway and create the Fire Island National Seashore instead.
A decade later, the Likes helped organize opposition to the Shoreham nuclear plant, which was eventually built at a cost of $6 billion but mothballed in the late 1980s without ever going into commercial operation.
Described as a witty storyteller, Margalit Like enjoyed hosting dinner parties and informal chamber music gatherings at her home. Her frequent travel took her to Europe and the Caribbean.
She is survived by her husband; three children, Robert Like of Highland Park, New Jersey, Sharon Like of Arlington, Virginia, and Steven Like of Bay Shore; and two grandchildren.
Burial was after a private ceremony at Beth Moses Cemetery in Pinelawn on May 25.