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Former Playboy model was loving wife and mother

Phyllis Spivak, who died Monday of lung cancer, was Playboy's July 1963 centerfold.
Phyllis Spivak, who died Monday of lung cancer, was Playboy's July 1963 centerfold.

Merrill Spivak not only thought his girlfriend was beautiful, he wanted everyone to know.

So he persuaded a Playboy photographer shooting another model outside his Palm Island home in 1963 to snap pictures of 26-year-old Phyllis Sowicki.

Months later, the magazine invited Sowicki for a professional photo shoot and she became Playboy's July 1963 centerfold. The petite Sowicki, with her strawberry blond hair, posed on a life raft.

After surviving breast cancer six years ago, Phyllis Sowicki Spivak of Davie died Monday of lung cancer.

She was 69.

''I always joked I had my own centerfold,'' said Merrill Spivak. The couple married in 1972.

Posing in a bathing suit for Playboy was second nature for Phyllis since she was very comfortable in front of the camera, Merrill Spivak said.

''She didn't talk about it much,'' Spivak said. ``She was happy she did it and proud of the experience, but it was a different side of her.''

Spivak was born Sept. 30, 1937 in Niagara Falls, N.Y. She moved to Fort Lauderdale in 1959 and worked at Miami's Playboy Club for two years where she donned a bunny outfit.

She continued modeling, working with different photographers and traveling to cities as a Playboy bunny.

Spivak traded her peep-toe heels for diapers and a carpool in the late 1960s. Spivak became a housewife and raised her two sons and daughter.

Later, the family moved to Chicago, then moved back to South Florida in 1996 -- this time to Davie, where she was co-owner of her husband's condo management business.

She cared for horses, dogs and ducks at the family's three-acre home.

To her family, Spivak was just as beautiful on the inside.

''She was the kind of mother and friend that just gave unconditional love,'' said her son, Philip Spivak of Aventura. 'She would tell you, `I can tell you the right thing, but you have to make your own mistakes.' ''

Spivak often would forgo a doctor's appointment to help a friend, her son said.

''She took everyone else's problems and made them her own,'' he said. ``She gave a piece of her heart to all of those people until there wasn't any more of her to give.''

Spivak is also survived by another son, Jay Spivak of Davie; daughter Rhonda Spivak of Davie and mother Amy Allera of Lake Worth.

A service was held Thursday.

Instead of flowers, the family requests donations to Gilda's Club, one of Spivak's favorite charities that gives money to cancer research. For more information, call 888-GILDA-4-U or visit


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