Margaret Patel, loved garden and tango, dies at 57

Margaret Patel, known as Ruby, a volunteer at the Jefferson Market Garden and an enthusiast of tango dance and music, died Fri. Sept. 8 at Calvary Hospice in the Bronx at the age of 57.

A resident of Perry St. for more than 30 years, she was diagnosed with cancer in July, according to her brother, Michael Boyd.

“She was smart, kind and generous,” said Jeanine Flaherty, a leader in the Jefferson Market Garden Committee. “She gardened with us, served at the gate reception desk and helped at our annual children’s festival — she was absolutely charming and playful with the kids. She loved the Village, her cat, Duffy, and dancing tango,” Flaherty said.

Patel, who over the years had made travel arrangements for a Wall St. firm and more recently began working for Pfizer on the company’s computer system, was a member of an informal tango group that met at Dance Manhattan, a studio on W.19th St. in Chelsea.

“She had a passion for tango, the dance, the music — the whole culture,” said Ellen Sowchek, a fellow member of the group. “She was a great cook too, and catered our events. You could talk to her about any topic. She knew opera, theater, and she was a pretty darned good tango dancer,” Sowchek said.

Born in Detroit to William and Marie Ferguson Boyd, she attended public schools and went to Michigan State University in Lansing, Mich.

“But she left because she found it too boring,” said her brother, Michael Boyd. Patel moved in 1969 to Berkeley, Calif., where she joined a guerilla theater troop that staged happenings.

In 1972 she was in a troop that drove from Berkeley to New York, performing at various stops along the way, her brother said. In the Village, she worked at Trudi Heller’s club on Sixth Ave. and later served as a travel agent. Her brief marriage to Vithal Patel ended in divorce in 1974.

“She was a wonderfully free spirit,” said Bud Westman, a Village friend and neighbor. “But she had no money whatsoever and no medical insurance. Dr. Robert Cohen at St. Vincent’s Hospital was able to see that she got care at the end and her friends at the tango group raised money for her,” said Westman.

In addition to Michael, of California, another brother, Dennis, of Charleston, S.C., and a sister, Katherine Boychuk, of Novi, Mich., also survive. A memorial service will be held later.