We’re here today to mourn the passing and also to honor and cherish the life of Florence Berman, beloved mother and grandmother, sister and cherished friend.
Florence was born in New London, Sept. 16, 1924, the daughter of the late Morris and Esther Irwin, sister of Charles and Teddy. She was a wonderful daughter to her parents. We remember Charles with respect today and mourn with Teddy on this sad day. She was devoted to Teddy.
She went to Nursing school and practiced nursing at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and then at St Raphael’s here in New Haven. At one point she taught nurses’ aides. She worked with Bill at the store and she worked at Dramatic Ad Sales, a business that Chuck had started.
She was very close to Charlie’s wife Flo who she talked to every day for 70 years.
She was married to Bill for 64 years. They were married on Nov. 27, 1949. You can’t summarize 64 years in a few words. If you knew Florence and Bill, you know that they were very different people and this was the strength of their relationship, because they complemented and supplemented each other. They traveled to Europe, Alaska, the West coast and up and down the East coast.
The last part of Bill’s life was very hard. Bill was wonderful and cooperative at every step, and Florence handled everything with her usual grace and devotion, but it was very hard. This may not be a medically sound statement, but in my mind, Florence took care of Bill and then after he passed away. and she didn’t have to worry about him anymore, she let herself get sick.
I keep thinking about how nervous she was before she got her diagnosis, and how together she was once she knew the score. To be perfectly frank, those of us who cared about Florence took our cue from her; since she was okay about her diagnosis, as sad as we were, we tried to be okay, too.
Florence was the proud mother of Chuck and then of Melanie, and she was the loving grandmother of Brooke, Dan, & Ned. Chuck and Melanie and the kids have brought her great pride through all of their accomplishments. In Yiddish we have an expression that your kids should be nachos machines who bring you pride and joy, and this family is one nachos machine after another.
Chuck convinced and cajoled his parents to move to Whitney Center because he knew it was the best possible place for them. That certainly turned out to be true. Chuck enabled them to have a beautiful and wonderful home during these years. We will always be grateful Chuck for everything he did for his parents and everything he was for to his parents.
And we would like to thank Melanie, in particular, for everything she did in this last stage of Bill and Florence’s lives.
Bill and Florence were wonderful members of this synagogue for decades. This synagogue was very dear to her. And she did things that very few people knew about. For instance, in 1981, she typed the service for the residents of the Arden House. She was part of the regular crew that polished the silver that goes on our Torah scrolls before the holidays. This symbolizes her respect fir our traditions and her ability to do things that really helped.
Her neighbors remember how she always threw parties, her house was always open, she was a great entertainer. For some reason that I have not been able to figure out, some of her friends called her Fiona.
She was a loyal friend and a good friend.
She loved bridge; as a matter of fact, she played Bridge last Thursday. Chuck told me a great story about her bridge playing, She and her dear friend Betty Merriam played bridge online against another pair. They used their phones to confer, and thought that they had outwitted the system by calling in this clandestine way. As Chuck points out, however, the other team may have been talking on the phone, too.
I’m sure that everyone here is thinking of their memories of Florence, I am thinking about one time when I went to see Flo and Bill and we sat in her den and we talked about everything. And I sat there, engaged in the conversation with a woman who I found full of wisdom. She knew who she was and who she wasn’t. She knew her weaknesses but she knew her strengths. She knew her sadnesses but she stressed her joys. She was realistic but she was happy and full of life. That’s how I will remember her.
To Chuck and the whole family, we wish you G-d’s comfort at this difficult time. Florence was a righteous woman. May she rest in peace. Let us say Amen.