Bobbie Polisano was a magnet for family, and particularly for kids.

She and her husband, Tony, had six children of their own, and two of their five girls ended up buying houses across the street from their parents. That family compound (of sorts) is just off the bay in Pleasantville, a block from the Northfield city line.

Tony and Bobbie — she was born Elizabeth Tweed 88 years ago, in Margate — had their dream house by the bay, with its sparkling view of Atlantic City’s skyline, for more than half a century. Tony still lives there, at 92, but Bobbie died last month, after four years of being in and out of hospitals and nursing homes with infections that kept coming back.

Until she was 84, though, she was still driving her purple Cadillac around, and still shopping for the latest fashions for gifts for every family birthday. And even after all the health problems started, this grandmother of 12 and great-grandmom of 16 had a way of drawing family to her.

One of her favorite ways was with a notoriously sticky substance — chewing gum.

After she started having grandchildren — when her youngest was just 18 months old — Bobbie created a character now famous in her family as “Gum Man.”

Gum Man was a scary, never-seen figure who lurked in a darkened bathroom upstairs and had just one redeeming feature: Gum Man gave out packs of Juicy Fruit and Double Mint — Bobbie bought in bulk for years — to kids brave enough to approach that eerie-looking, mostly closed door. She loved the role, and when she got too tired to play it properly, she passed it along to two well-trained, older granddaughters.

Plus Bobbie, a very religious, genteel, always-well-dressed and made-up woman, had one more thing she was famous for with the younger Polisano generations.

She loved playing cards with them. And she loved cheating at cards with them — and slyly denying she was cheating.

“She knew we knew,” says her youngest daughter, Lisanne, of Galloway Township. “And we knew that she knew that we knew. ... At the end, she’d say, ‘I won. As usual, I’m the winner.’”

Her kids swear that until just recently, Bobbie could pull off the trick of looking at least 20 years younger than her real age. Her sense of style helped the former debutante: Her oldest daughter — and neighbor — Sharon Masterson, says that when Bobbie and Tony got engaged before he went off to World War II, it made news in the local society columns.

To her, he was “Mr. T” — decades before that other Mr. T came along.

To Tony, Bobbie was a magnet, “always and all ways,” as he used to sign his love notes to her. But while he may have been the first family she drew to her, he sure wasn’t the last.

Contact Martin DeAngelis:

609-272-7237