Cover photo for Harold Berman's Obituary
Harold Berman Profile Photo
1923 Harold 2017

Harold Berman

January 30, 1923 — January 12, 2017

Harold Berman, formerly of Norwich, NY, died peacefully on Thursday, January 12, 2017, with family members at his side. He was 93.

Harold is survived by his two daughters, Lucy Berman-Edelman, of Milwaukee, WI, and Dr. Mary Jane Berman, of Oxford, OH; his two sons-in-law, Dr. Eric Edelman, also of Milwaukee, and Dr. Perry Gnivecki, also of Oxford; and his three grandchildren, Adam Edelman, of Queens, NY, Emma Edelman Levine, of Chicago, IL, and Alana Berman Gnivecki, of Boston, MA.

In death, he joins his late wife Ethel Berman, who passed away in August 2015.

Harold, who died of natural causes following a brief struggle with heart and kidney failure, moved with Ethel to Milwaukee in 2011 to be closer to their family.

His 55 years in Norwich, as well as his childhood and years as a young adult in New York City, however, reveal a life full of happiness, wonder, success, and adventure.

Harold Berman was born January 30, 1923, in Manhattan, NY, to parents Max and Sarah. He grew up in a modest apartment in the South Bronx neighborhood, not far from Yankee Stadium, and excelled in his studies, particularly in the areas of math and science, graduating from Stuyvesant High School and enrolling in the City College of New York. His education was interrupted by World War II, which prompted him to enlist in the United States Army Air Corps in 1943.

Harold spent two years in the Corps, undergoing extensive training to be a military meteorologist at bases in Arizona and Florida. The war ended before he completed the training and Harold received an honorable discharge in 1945. He quickly returned to New York to resume his studies at CCNY and, fatefully, meet his beloved. Harold met Ethel at the school’s Harlem campus after he returned and the pair fell into a whirlwind romance. In short order, Harold graduated from CCNY cum laude in spring 1947, became engaged to Ethel shortly thereafter, and wedded her in December of that year.

And in the midst of it all, Harold, ever on a mission, enrolled, in autumn of the same year, in a graduate program in chemistry at the University of Illinois Urbana–Champaign, building on his already encyclopedic knowledge base. Harold moved to the Midwest on his own, after proposing to Ethel but before his marriage to her, as his wife-to-be completed her own college education at CCNY. But the newlyweds soon reunited in the Land of Lincoln, living together as Harold completed his Master of Science degree in Chemistry.

Their return to New York City was followed by a flurry of good events: The birth of their two daughters and a lucrative job offer from the Norwich Pharmacal Company, the creator of Pepto-Bismol. The offer propelled the young family to move into, what was for them, uncharted territory: Upstate New York. Taking off for Norwich -- then, as now, a town of fewer than 10,000 residents -- was a gamble for a young Jewish family of Eastern-European descent. But Harold, always fearless, and in search of an opportunity that would give his young family the space and means to thrive unencumbered by the chaos of New York City, embraced the challenge. Indeed, Harold, as well as Ethel, flourished in their new environment, taking up horticulture as a serious pursuit and becoming valuable members of the community via his workplace and the Norwich Jewish Center.

His decades at Norwich Pharmacal also brought him great professional successes as a chemist: He was an integral part of teams that patented multiple ground-breaking drugs and drug elements. In 1988, Harold retired from the company, opening up his time and life for a breadth of new experiences and adventures he would dedicate himself to until the end.

Foremost among those passions were his three grandchildren: Adam, born in 1984; Emma, born in 1987; and Alana, born in 1989. Summers in Norwich would see the close cousins visit Harold and Ethel for weeks-long visits at their Sunset Drive house, which the gleeful couple would rename “Camp Berman.” Harold, meanwhile continued his pursuit of gardening, mining his enormous backyard plot with the love and devotion he also provided his family. And the results were similarly fruitful. Throughout those decades in Norwich, Harold grew corn, cabbage, carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, zucchinis and other squashes, spinach and cucumbers. Even years later, after his relocation to a Milwaukee apartment, he would continue harvesting tomatoes in potted plants on his balcony.

Harold and Ethel also made travel a priority, using their means to see the world. The couple’s appetite for adventure was fierce. They rented a recreational vehicle on several occasions for cross-country road trips to a bevy of U.S. National Parks, and set off on more than a dozen trips across the globe, including treks to Australia, Kenya, China, Brazil, and Israel. In all, the dedicated duo set foot in every continent except Antarctica. They also made it a goal to bequeath their passion for globetrotting to their grandchildren, taking Adam on a weeks-long trip to Alaska in 1994 and Emma and Alana to Texas years later.

But Harold made good use of activities available to him right at home in central New York, too, seeing operas and shows in Binghamton and New York City, and even participating in a local theatre troupe.

And, contrary to most people’s experiences, age only brought Harold more sharpness. He routinely made use of his wide-ranging knowledge, bringing smarts, wit, and random factoids to conversations with friends and family with good cheer.

But by 2011, Ethel had grown frail, and the couple moved to Wisconsin to be closer to their daughters. Doing so, however, allowed them to joyfully partake in the Milwaukee wedding of Emma to Ethan Levine in 2012. And despite physical obstacles, the devoted duo made the most of their adventure in the Midwest, attending lectures and classes and taking up a rooting interest in the Green Bay Packers professional football team.

As Ethel descended into poor health, Harold cared for her tenderly until she passed away in 2015 after a lengthy battle with heart disease. Devastated, but still committed to his loving family, Harold nonetheless was able to participate in the New York wedding of his grandson Adam to Jessica Lanoil in December 2015.

Despite his own failing health, Harold remained invested and informed in the lives of his three grandchildren and their partners, peppering them with questions and advice and availing himself as a source of wisdom until his last breath.

A funeral service for Harold will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, January 17, 2017, at the Norwich Jewish Center, 72 South Broad Street, Norwich, NY. Burial will immediately follow at Mt. Hope Cemetery, in Norwich.

Contributions in Harold’s memory made be made to the Jewish Home & Care Center, 1414 N. Prospect Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53202, the Anti-Defamation League, 605 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10158, or the American Chemical Society Scholars Program, 1155 16th St., N.W., Washington, DC 20036.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Harold Berman, please visit our flower store.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

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