Memories from Murial

Shared by Laura Medin on 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

Shared by Laura Medin on 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

Shared by Laura Medin on 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.  




Memories from Linda Berkson

Shared by Laura Medin on June 2, 2011
Stuart went to law school at Harvard and he spent a great deal of time with Aunt JoAnn and Uncle Jay over those 3 years.  They took such good care of him!  They took him out to dinner atleast once a week and Aunt JoAnn would meet Stuart for lunch all the time too.   I first met Aunt JoAnn and Uncle Jay when I was dating Stuart.  It wouldn't have been proper in those days for me to stay with Stuart so I always stayed with Aunt JoAnn and Uncle Jay.  They were so sweet to me!  They welcomed me with open arms and always had the most beautiful guest room in the whole world ready for me with fresh flowers on the night stand.  They were both always so happy and cheerful and they made all of my stays with them so much fun! They would take us out to dinner, to great restaurants like Jimmy's Harborside where everyone always knew them, and  they would make brunch at their house so we could be with Terry, Jodi and Todd!  I would usually bring them a chocolate chip coffee cake from Country Maid Bakery because I knew they loved it, but I don't remember how we discovered that.   Anyway, Uncle Jay taught me a very valuable trick--if you dont want someone to take the piece of coffee cake that you want--or one of Ma Berkson's cinnamon rolls for that matter--spit on it--and no one else will want it!  After Stuart's graduation, we would see Aunt JoAnn and Uncle Jay whenever we went to Boston-- a friend's wedding, law school reuinions, etc. and we would of course see them when they would come to Chicago.  One of our most favorite memories ever was when we first took our kids to Boston in 1992!  By that time Terry and  Hugh were married and had Brynne, Walker, Owen and Ezra  and Jodi was married too and had  Robbie and Adam.  Anyway, Aunt JoAnn and Uncle Jay had the whole family over and Rachel and Allie loved being with them so much and they also adored meeting their Boston cousins!   It was like they had known them their whole life!  They just had the best time playing together all day long and we will never forget it!  We went again with the kids in 1999 and had another wonderful time!  We loved that Aunt JoAnn and Uncle Jay were able to come in for Allie's Bat Mitzvah among other family events that they came in for.  When traveling got more difficult for Uncle Jay we went to visit them.  We went to their house and out for dinner with them in 2008 and our last visit with them was when we took Mom and Dad there just 4 weeks before Uncle Jay passed away.  Although Uncle Jay was very thin and weak, and it was hard for him to talk, he still welcomed us with open arms.  There is a picture of him at the dining room table with his arms outstretched just as I remember him doing when I first met him.  He still had a great sense of humor and was busy telling and laughing at jokes!  I will miss having more wonderful moments with Uncle Jay but will always cherish the memories I have. He will always be in my heart.   I was very lucky to have known him and am very blessed to be part of his wonderful family. 

Memories from Jay's Brother, Orville

Shared by Laura Medin on June 2, 2011

I was five years old when Jay entered my life.  Little did I realize what the next 84 years would bring.

The first six years of our lives together were uneventful.  My fault—I was engrossed in reading history books and following the fortunes of the Chicago White Sox and the Chicago Cardinals.

When I was eleven years of age and Jay was six, our parents went for a walk.  I was anointed to be head of the household.  Jay wanted to play a game with me.  I preferred to bring my stamp book up to date.  Jay resolved the impasse by snatching three or four pages of stamps and started to rip them.  Our folks returned when I was chasing Jay.  I was chastised by our mother because Jay was still young.

Time passed and Myron was born eight years after Jay and thirteen years after my birth.  We were a family of five with one bathroom and one bedroom.  Eventually we were joined by an uncle and a cousin.

One night we were having dinner, but we did not have bread.  Jay was given money to purchase a loaf of bread at the grocery store in front of our building.  After a half hour elapsed we became worried.  Two of us were sent out to search for Jay—and the bread.  We discovered Jay shooting dice.  I voted to finish the meal and permit Jay to spend the night with his friends.  I was outvoted—another crisis resolved.

December 7, 1941 changed our relationship.  I enlisted in the Marine Corps approximately five months later.  Contact with the family was every Sunday morning via telephone at 6am California time.  Jay shocked me with his statement that he was going to enlist in the Marine Corps.  I asked him how he convinced our parents to sign for him.  He said he threatened to run away from home. Oddly, our parents signed our enlistment papers about three years apart.  Dad convinced Mom that I would never pass the physical, and Jay threatened to leave home.

Little did I realize that a future event would result in our bonding for the rest of our lives.  Jay asked me the branch of the service he should select.  I told him that if he wanted a clean bed and good food he should join the navy, otherwise I would be proud for him to join me as a Marine.

November, 1945—organized resistance on Okinawa has ceased.  I return to our tent to find Jay! His ship had pulled into the harbor for the day!! All ships left the harbor to escape a typhoon.  Jay had to stay with us.  The winds hit at night and destroyed most of the tents.  Our tent was nestled in the trees.  Jay and I volunteered to nail the tent to a wooden frame.  Two hours later we hugged each other—we had survived!!

The next day I drove Jay to his ship.  Jay talked to his Captain and I returned to camp with a Jeep loaded with cartons of food.

I was discharged Sunday, December 1, 1945.  Jay followed shortly thereafter.  He told me that he was afraid to sleep in the same bedroom with me.  The first night he entered the bedroom I jumped out of bed and threatened him with death.  I was surprised that becoming a civilian again was not so easy.

About three weeks before Jay’s demise we, Stuart, Linda, Murial and myself visited with Jay and his family.  I gave him some current postal stamps to let him know that I never cared for the stamps he destroyed more than eighty years ago.

So much left unsaid but the circle of life has closed.



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