CHELSEA – Bernice Berman cannot believe she turned 100 on Nov. 7. The much beloved resident at Cohen Florence Levine Estates celebrated her milestone birthday with visits from her daughter Janice Cohen, son-in-law Larry Cohen, granddaughter Deborah and great granddaughter Breanna. It was a special day for an exceptional woman.
Growing up in Malden, Bernice and her sister Ida Zaltzberg were inseparable. Ida, who is four years younger than Bernice, was allowed to attend school with Bernice as a young child. She would sit in the back of the room while Bernice attended to her lessons. As they grew older, Bernice and Ida would clean the apartment together every Sunday morning, and then go to the movies together in the afternoon. To this day, Bernice and Ida are extremely close. In fact, Ida is also a resident at the assisted living.
Bernice met her husband Benjamin on a blind date. They married in 1943 and raised two daughters in a very loving, albeit busy, household. Even though Bernice moved out of the family home when she married, she and Ida remained very close, with Ida eating dinner at their home every Friday evening.
Her daughter Janice recalls there was no such thing as take-out food in their house. “My mom was a wonderful cook and cooked every single day. You always knew the day of the week by what she was cooking for dinner. Monday was dairy such as mac ‘n’ cheese; Tuesday was either steak or lamb chops; Wednesdays was hamburger day, such as American chop suey or spaghetti and meatballs,” said Janice. “We loved to tease her about keeping such a strict schedule, but secretly, we all looked forward to the meal schedule.”
In addition to working at General Electric, Ben sold memberships for ALA. Bernice helped him with member renewals, charming customers with her wit and persuasive manner. She also worked at a photography studio transferring black and white photos to color images. Over the years, Ben and Bernice enjoyed spending time with their two daughters and grandchildren. Once Ben retired, they went on many trips to Florida during the winter months. It was during those trips that they made many long lasting friends. The couple was married for 53 years. Sadly, Ben passed away in 2003.
Bernice remained in their Malden home until she was 93, keeping busy with family, friends, and a myriad of activities. Today, she treasures spending time with her 15-year-old great-granddaughter. Politics is also a passion. To this day, she retains an intense interest in politics. As Janice noted, “Her knowledge and perspective about the political climate, especially these days, is extremely perceptive.”
In 2013, Bernice moved into Cohen Florence Levine Estates and quickly became an integral party of the assisted living family. “Everyone just loves her,” said Kristen Donnelly, director of Admissions and Resident Relations. “Bernice is kind, funny and a very big part of the Cohen Florence Levine family.” An avid Bingo player, Bernice can often be found singing at the weekly concerts, reading the newspaper in the library, and holding court at mealtimes.
When asked about her greatest achievement, Bernice was quick to respond. “I am so proud that Ben and I were able to provide our daughters with opportunities that were not available to us,” said Bernice. “Their education was our top priority.”
One of Bernice’s greatest pleasures revolves around feeding people. Janice remembers when she and husband Larry were dating. “He couldn’t wait to come over and eat Bernice’s stuffed cabbage,” said Janice. “Larry proclaimed it the best he had ever had.” Others apparently agree. Bernice gave her coveted cabbage recipe to Michael Millard, the chef at the assisted living, soon after she moved in seven years ago. Not surprisingly, it remains one of the most popular items on the menu today.