This site was set up to share our memories and feelings about a truly remarkable person – Jay Q. Berkson.  I loved talking with my Uncle Jay about his life, not only because he always made me laugh, but because I was so often amazed about the twists and turns his life took.  As I listened to him tell stories about the adventures he had in different periods of his life, the word that came to mind to describe his life was “colorful.”  Uncle Jay was one of the most interesting, thoughtful, sharp, and playful people I knew.  He partook fully of the joys of life.  He also faced serious challenges in his life, and he had his share of pain, physical and otherwise.  But it seems to me that Uncle Jay had two secret weapons against the vicissitudes of life.  First, through it all, he always remembered to savor the good things, the things that make us blessed.  The joy of a good meal and a fine glass of wine.  The happiness he felt being with his family, his children and grandchildren, his brothers and their families.  The joy of sharing laughter.  Even as he neared the end of his life, he kept his sense of humor (As Jay and JoAnn were preparing to go to the hospice, JoAnn asked Jay how he felt about the experience.  Jay replied, “I don’t know, I’ve never died before.”).  And above all, there was his most powerful weapon against sorrow and pain, his wife JoAnn.  The term that comes to mind when thinking of Jay and JoAnn is “soul mates” in its truest sense.  I have a feeling that Uncle Jay might have had fun with my choice of that term (he sometimes teased me when I used overly romantic language).  But it is rare to find a marriage so perfect in this world.  Theirs is truly a Great Love Story.  They faced obstacles from the start, and their ability to overcome them all through the decades is an inspiration (as they told Laura and me – “They said the Jew and the Goy wouldn’t make it!  And look at us now.”).  Jay and JoAnn showed us marriage is at its best -  two people who are unconditionally there for each other and with each other, with grace, love and good humor, through the ups, downs, and unexpected turns of their lives.   The love Jay received throughout his life made him a very lucky man.


About The Site

  Please visit the photo gallery and feel free to add a picture of Jay, and go to the stories section to read and share your memories of him.  An array of photos can never come close to fully expressing a person's life.  But they give glimpses of what brought meaning and joy to someone.  Through these pictures, we see all of the things that Jay was – son, brother, soldier, husband, father, uncle, grandfather, great grandfather (!).  Some of the reflections posted on the site will show who he was as a friend and in his professional life.   These contributions to the site will allow us to spend time with Uncle Jay, thinking about these moments in his rich, full life, and getting a deeper appreciation for what a remarkable - and just flat out lovable - person he was.  

With love,

Mark Berkson


April 28, 2014
April 28, 2014
We are thinking of Uncle Jay today with so many fond memories of times spent together! He was such a wonderful person and added so much to our lives! He is greatly missed today and always! Thinking of all the family today too. We will call later but hope everyone is doing well.
All our love, Linda and Stuart

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Recent Tributes
April 28, 2014
April 28, 2014
We are thinking of Uncle Jay today with so many fond memories of times spent together! He was such a wonderful person and added so much to our lives! He is greatly missed today and always! Thinking of all the family today too. We will call later but hope everyone is doing well.
All our love, Linda and Stuart
Recent stories

Memories from Murial

June 7, 2011

 Of the three sons of Ann and Ben Berkson, Orville, Jay and Myron, it appears that Jay was the most adventurous--the one who took the most chances. Although his formal education was limited, he enjoyed reading and read exceeding amounts of newspapers, books, etc.

Jay was definitely a super salesman--working, selling--he had a golden touch. Starting from the bottom it did not take long for him to reach the top.
I remember when he moved to California and was working at a prestigious jewelry store. A woman customer was so taken by him that she told him her daughter, Piper Loring, was an actress and that she wanted him to meet her daughter. Instead he quit his job and got on a plane and returned to 4641 1/2 Lake Park in Chicago.
Lucky he did!!!
All my love,

Memories from Mike and Eileen Berkson

June 6, 2011

Our fondest memories of being with Jay are when we would go to visit Jay and JoAnn for about five days and just sit around and talk, go out to eat, and watch a good movie on T.V.  We loved to hear Jay tell stories about the early years with JoAnn, and how difficult it was sometimes due to finances.  However, it never seemed to get them down and they always found a way to have fun.  I remember one story when Jay said that friends had asked them to go out to dinner or a movie.  Since money was tight, Jay told them that they had a previous commitment, but could meet them later for coffee.  Then, around 10:00 p.m., they would get dressed up and meet their friends for coffee, and no one ever knew that they could not afford a complete evening of fun.

When we were first married we would go to visit Jay and Jo when they moved to a new city.  They were always on the go and we tried to visit them at each new home.  We also went on two cruises with Jay and JoAnn.  One was to the Caribbean, and the other to the French and Italian Riviera.  We had such a great time.  We ate a lot, laughed a lot, and just enjoyed being together.

Every Saturday we would call Jay from the car when we were out doing our errands.  Jay would always answer the phone and say, "Miney" (his nickname for Mike) and Mike would reply, "Jay".  This would go on for several seconds before the actual conversation would begin.  We would ask, "So how are you, Jay?", and he would reply, "Well, I'm still alive."  I sure will miss those Saturday conversations.

We saw Jay twice in 2010, once in September, and again in December.  We were not able to go out for a meal, but we did eat at home and enjoyed being together with both of them.  We talked a lot, and had a chance to see the children, grandchildren, and little Iris.  I loved to hear Jay call JoAnn "Whatsername", but when he spoke about JoAnn to us when we were alone, he said that she was his lifeline, the love of his life, and he didn't know what his life would have been like without her by his side.  They had a lifelong love affair, a wonderful legacy to leave to their family.

Jay will be missed, but not forgotten.  We talk about him daily, and he will always be in our hearts and minds.

Love you forever,

Eileen and Mike

Memories from Mark Berkson

June 2, 2011

When I sit to think about Uncle Jay, one memory jumps to the forefront quickly.  I was visiting Uncle Jay and Aunt JoAnn during the time I was in college.  We sat and had conversations in which they would reminisce about the different periods in their lives, telling me stories about the difficulties they faced and the fun they managed to have even in the midst of them.  As we talked and laughed, the conversation turned to the subject of wine.  I had taken a course on wine recently, and I appreciated being with one of the only members of my family with whom I could have a really good conversation about the topic. 

As we talked, he said, “As we’re talking about wine, I just remembered that we might have some old bottles downstairs.  Do you want to take a look?”  He brought up a couple of bottles of red wine.  He showed me the label.  It was a Chateau Lafite Rothschild.  It was a Very Serious Bottle of Wine.   And pretty old.  It had been down there a long time.  I had heard and read about this kind of wine, but I’d never actually been in the presence of it.  Uncle Jay smiled and said, “We should drink it.”  I said, “Wait!  You don’t know how much this wine is worth.  We should check to see if it’s from a good year, and then check the value.”  He asked, “Why would I do that?  I’m not going to sell it.  I bought it to drink it.”  “All right,” I said, but you should save it for a special occasion.”  I was thinking of a big anniversary, birthday or wedding.  He said, “You’re here.  That’s a special occasion.”  And then Jay went into action.  He said, “A bottle of wine like this deserves to be drunk with great food.  I’ll make a reservation at a perfect restaurant for the occasion” (and, of course, it turned out to be just that). 

I remember wrapping the bottle of wine like it was a baby and cradling it the entire way in the car.  Then we walked into the restaurant.  Just walking into one of Uncle Jay’s favorite restaurants was a fun experience in itself.  Everyone on staff (and more than few diners) knew him and was genuinely happy to see him.  People would want to come by the table and talk.  And any table with Jay was going to be a table with laughter.  The wine sommelier admired the bottle with us and then opened it up to breathe.  We talked about what food might best accompany this kind of wine.  And then came the time to taste it.  What strikes me about that moment was the number of people at the table.  Uncle Jay wanted many people to share the experience.  He invited the restaurant owner, the sommelier, and our server (probably others as well) to join us in a toast. 

It was (as best as my rookie palate could tell) a wonderful wine.  But, of course, the taste of the wine quickly faded.  What remains, and what still remains, is the sense of delight, the deep appreciation for the world of sense pleasures, and the joys of good company and good conversation.  What still echoes from that night is his big embrace of life.  Even when he became more sedentary many years later, he would talk about the pleasures and wonders of bird watching.  I’m glad that Jay had a long life.  But I’m even happier that he had a rich life, a life surrounded by people he loved, filled with the enjoyment of good times together with them (and with their support through the difficult times), and, through it all,  a life sustained and made complete by a truly beautiful marriage.  




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