We’re here today to mourn the passing of Florence Biller, beloved mother, cherished grandmother and dear friend. Florence has not been Florence for many years now, and in a sense, we’ve been mourning for her a long time ago. This family has been loyal and caring and has done everything for her that could be done and there are no second thoughts or regrets. Still, we are very saddened because death has its own dimensions. What we find sometimes when someone passes away after a long illness is that now that we are not taking care of a person who is not herself. Instead, we are now liberated to remember the person as she used to be. Florence was quite a person: a good person, an active person, a positive person. And now that she has passed away, we can, in a new way, enjoy and treasure that person who meant so much to us.
She was born in the Bronx on Aug. 20, 1923, the daughter of Samuel & Frieda and the dear sister of Willie, Sol, Dottie & Sylvia. She would always be very close to everyone in her family. She graduated high school and worked at an artist’s store in Manhattan called Arthur Brown. It turns out that she was a model for Salvador Dali and that, because there are no coincidences, her grandson Daniel, many, many years later, had an amazing experience of seeing the painting and hearing about how a person who happened to be his grandmother wound up in the painting of that famous artist.
She had a candy store and candy would become a kind of theme in her life. That she would dispense real candy and snacks for the rest of her life illustrated who she was; a kind, giving person who wanted others to be happy and thoughtfully found ways to make sure they were happy.
Her home on Allene Dr. in Hamden was like a little community center, and it was the home of munchies. Her home was filled with her beloved children, Sandra, Patti, Larry, Scott and Jon. It was a center for basketball and football and swimming and she’d bring out the refreshments. She had kids over and raised money for the Fresh Air Fund.
She was proud of her family, Sandra and Pasko, Patti and Richard, Scott and Pennybeth, Jon and Jackie, Larry and Karen. Family dinners were an essential part of everyone’s life and Florence was the center of all that. She was famous for her brownies, chocolate cream pies and spaghetti and meatballs.
And she was the adoring Grandmother of Damian, Daniel, Benjamin, Elizabeth, Anna, James, Lauren, Bethany, Kate, Alyssa, Jacob, Samuel, & Kristyn. As just one example out of one hundred, she taught Alyssa how to swim even though we can’t figure out how that happened.
She lived for her family 150%; her parents, her siblings, her children and her grandchildren.
With her friends, she played Mah Jongg and AScrabble and these friends were a big part of her life. I want to mention Lois and the late Teddy Buslovitz who were very special to her.
What kind of person was Florence Biller?
She never had a bad word to say about anyone, She said: If you don’t have a good thing to say don’t say anything. She had no vices, no lies. In Yiddish we have a phrase: “She had no chachmes” which means no angles, no games, no deceptions. She was the real thing. She didn’t have a “To do list” but she was always working on what’s next. She had incredible energy and hustle. She was always getting it done, proving for the needs of her family and for those in need in the community. She volunteered at Yale and for the elderly.
She was a Pioneer in the Temple Beth Sholon Sisterhood and she loved our shul. She was liked and loved in return.
She went through so many terrible things in her life. We always think a lot about Larry, but we’re especially thinking a lot about Larry today, here near his grave, a couple of days away from his yahrzeit. Florence loved and adored him, and nothing could have been worse for her, and yet, and yet, she kept going and kept doing with a strength that was beyond belief. She was always teaching us how to live. At Gaylord they said they never saw anyone work so hard to get better and stronger.
She was the center, the matriarch, and here’s the incredible thing: Her spirit is so strong that even though she hasn’t been herself for all these years, and even though she has now passed away, that spirit is as strong as ever. When I saw the pictures of her grandchildren in tee shirts at Cuzcations with MVP’s, playing the family’s traditional games in the same basement, I said to myself: This is the great news, that Florence Biller will never die because she created a family that is so together and so loving and so connected that nothing can break it. This world has thrown the worst possible stuff at this family, the worst things, and you’re here and you’re together and that’s the whole story. That’s the story of Florence Biller.
We wish the family G-d’s comfort at this sad time. You loved her and she loved each of you. She was a righteous woman. May she rest in peace. Let is say Amen.