By Donald Wittkowski
Chances are, if you were a regular customer at the Springfield Inn over the years, you probably got to know Mark Eidenberg, a larger-than-life figure with a big smile and even bigger heart.
He was the guy who would serve the drinks, help run the operations and socialize with the crowds at the iconic, no-frills Sea Isle City bar at 43rd Street and Pleasure Avenue.
Eidenberg, 46, of Clermont, died suddenly Jan. 4, prompting a flood of tributes on the Springfield’s Facebook page from friends and customers who called him a “terrific man” and an “amazing guy.”
“Heaven must have needed a good bartender,” Ele Feeney Paolino wrote in one Facebook post.
“The Springfield will not be the same without Mark,” Susan Whicker Lafferty wrote in another.
Eidenberg’s wife of 22 years, Terry, recalled how her husband would greet the customers and make their experience at the Springfield a memorable one.
“He was very welcoming. People liked seeing him a great deal,” she said.
Terry Eidenberg owns the Springfield with her sisters, Betsy Cooney and Joanne Bisciotti. They took over the bar from their parents, Joe and Liz Bisciotti, who opened the Springfield in 1972.
Mark Eidenberg served as the Springfield’s manager and bartender. Judging by the Facebook photos of him smiling and mingling with the customers, he was also the bar’s unofficial social director.
“People looked forward to seeing him whenever they were on vacation,” Terry Eidenberg noted.
Lori Larkin, a Sea Isle resident and close friend of the Eidenberg family, recalled how Mark would hand out quarters to the children of the Springfield’s customers so they could play arcade games.
“He was a fixture at that establishment and our community for at least 20 years – certainly as long as I can remember,” Larkin said.
Although he was closely associated with the Springfield, Eidenberg’s influence was felt throughout the community, in the schools and in local athletic programs.
“He was a great role model,” said Larkin, a retired teacher and athletic director at the Bishop McHugh Regional Catholic School in Cape May Court House. “He cared about the school and our kids.”
“Anything that he thought would be better for our school or our kids, he would just do it,” Larkin continued. “You didn’t even have to ask him.”
Larkin remembered arriving at Bishop McHugh one day and finding Eidenberg there, along with a carpenter he knew, fixing a broken backboard on the basketball court.
“He would just do it, anything we needed,” Larkin said.
Eidenberg coached basketball at Bishop McHugh for 10 years and was also a coach in the Dennis Township Football Association, Larkin said. Among his players over the years were his sons, Jack and Nick.
Eidenberg’s obituary from the Godfrey Funeral Home noted that “one of his greatest joys” was coaching and watching his sons as they played in different sports.
His family has requested that donations be made in his memory to the Dennis Township Football and Cheerleading Association, the Bishop McHugh Athletic Association or Middle Township High School Athletics.
A Mass of Christian Burial was held Wednesday at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Sea Isle. Burial was private.
Larkin said she received a lot of calls and emails from Bishop McHugh’s alumni expressing their sympathy over Eidenberg’s death.
“He was such a big part of Sea Isle. Everyone knew him,” Larkin said. “He was a gentle soul and had a peaceful heart.”
Reflecting their close ties to Bishop McHugh, Mark and Terry Eidenberg hosted a fundraiser two years ago for one of the school’s alumni families who had a devastating house fire. They raised more than $5,000 for the family, Larkin said.
Larkin said Mark Eidenberg simply wanted to give back to his community in any way he could, not expecting anything in return.
“He really was a shy, humble person who didn’t want individual acclaim,” she said.