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Margie Petersen zooms into Saint John's with a classic 1952 Ferrari to celebrate the life of her late husband Bob. Photo by Lee Salem Photography

FOR THE LOVE OF BOB

Bob Petersen, the man behind the famed automotive museum that bears his name, was a legend in the world of publishing, collecting and philanthropy. On a breezy autumn evening his famous friends turned out in force to celebrate his life on what would have been his 82st birthday. Famous faces like Loni Anderson, Dick Van Patten, Gary Collins and Barbara Lazaroff joined locals Paula Kent Meehan and Robert Brunson at the Healing Garden of Saint John’s Hospital in Santa Monica for a touching tribute.

It may have been Bob’s birthday, but he was the one giving the gifts. Saint John’s first class health facility is about to get even better thanks to a generous $15 million donation by Bob and his wife Margie. Set to open next June, the new Petersen Foundation Clinics will be part of the facility’s John Wayne Cancer Center. The clinics will offer state-of- the-art care as well as research funds for its famed specialists like Dr. Armando Giuliano.

With a fleet of his beloved hot wheels at the entry, the party definitely had that Peterson touch. There was the 1927 Gatsby-worthy Rolls Royce complete with Louis Vuitton trunk strapped to the rear. Just across the way, you’d spy the snappy 1956 Jag that once belonged to Steve McQueen. There was a red hot Ferrari and a classic two toned Bel Air, not to mention the 1925 Phantom, one of the most stunning machines ever made.

Despite the fall chill, the evening had a summer feel. “It’s a big garden party,” declared actress Ruta Lee in her bright pink chiffon frock and Ascot-worthy chapeau. The tables dressed up in lilac and lime green and topped by wicker baskets filled with pink roses, purple hyacinth, cyclamen and ivy. Guests sipped chardonnay and snacked on English tea sandwiches. They also lined up at the belini caviar bar, the roast beef carving station and dessert table filled with petit fours and French pastry.

Margie, dressed in a sunny yellow ruffled suit, was introduced by Ruta who she affectionately called her “best buddy.” “This room is so full of great doctors,” she said surveying the scene. “Without this wonderful hospital and all their wonderful people, I wouldn’t be here.” Another important friend in attendance was Dr. Lawrence Piro who led the gathering in a toast. “Margie and Bob have been very generous when it comes to health care. They are committed to supporting facilities and research,” he said. “Today they give this gift on Bob’s birthday. Here’s to Bob who taught us about business, about publishing and about giving.”

The event is surely a rewarding highlight in Margie’s impressive life. Noting her rise from model and pageant contestant to businesswoman and philanthropist, Ruta said “Yes, Margie is a beauty queen, but she’s also the queen of our hearts.” As far as Margie was concerned, it was St. John’s that deserved the thanks. “I am very grateful to be here,” she said, “and hope I can always help.”

Got a hot happening or cool event? Send the 411 to kimdevore@malibutimes.com