3 MAY 1922 ~ 3 NOVEMBER 2001
(Eulogy for Fred Bernstein ~ Given by brother, Sonny Bernstein)
As brothers, Fred and I were born, raised and grew up at 33rd and 3rd Ave in New York City, otherwise called the Murray Hill district. We were two years and a few months apart, I being the older. From the beginning, a strong element of competition prevailed during our youthful years.
Our grade school, PS 116, was directly across the street from our apartment house. At the age of 6 years, I graduated from kindergarten and entered first grade. Of course, mother dragged Fred along each day as I went and came from school. And what do you think happened? The school teachers fell in love with Fred simply because of his beautiful face and overall "cherubic" composure. In a short time, the teachers, particularly the kindergarten teacher, pleaded with mother to allow Fred, at just 4 years of age, to attend kindergarten class. Well, the poor boy spent a year or a year and a half or three semesters in that class. Furthermore, in subsequent classes, whenever there was a shortage in one class and the principal requested a teacher to move or skip a student to fill the shortage, whom do you think she chose? None other than Fred, simply based on his cute and handsome features. This happened three times between the first and sixth grades.
Consequently, Fred had saved two years by the time he finished grade school and entered junior high school. And there he qualified for the rapid advance class and thus was about 15 years of age when he graduated from high school. And mind you, this was accomplished primarily on his good looks. Of course, his mental ability must have been strong enough to absorb this challenge.
When it came to sports, I had to help and instruct Fred in roller skating and bike riding. We had to rent two wheeled bicycles; we didn't own any. On weekends we pedaled down to the financial district (Wall Street) and rode around Wall and Broad Streets to our hearts content without any traffic restrictions. There Fred was able to practice his sharp turns and stops. Thereafter, we were able to ride to Central Park and maneuver most anywhere in the city.
Then came college. At age 15, Fred found it difficult to matriculate at City College. Nevertheless, Fred's perseverance prevailed whereby he enrolled in the College's night program. After two years of part time night classes, Fred was then able to matriculate as a full time day student and ultimately graduate with a Bachelor's degree.
During World War II, Fred was stationed in Colorado, at a POW camp where he served as the principal military police clerk. During the late summer of 1943, I was on temporary duty at Lowry Field, outside Denver. Well, Fred arranged for the two of us to spend a short weekend in Denver so as to introduce me to the quirks of an R & R (Rest and Recuperation) in Denver. Since then, I have periodically thanked Fred for that educational experience.
In 1951, I was called back into the military service and had to commute to Mitchell Field, Long Island from the Bronx. So, I purchased a 1949 Dodge Coupe. However, when my unit was transferred to the Far East, I decided to teach Fred how to drive the car in one day and have him use it in my absence. After my return, another occasion arose for me to be out of the country in Central America in 1953-1954. Upon my return in the early spring of 1954, I reclaimed my car. But lo and behold, Fred had a girlfriend on a regular dating basis. My first reaction was that this will fizzle because he was minus a car. To my further education I finally realized that it wasn't the car but rather his good looks and his overall personality that resulted in an early marriage on July 4th, 1954.
I can't speak of Fred and Marilyn's 'inside' marriage, because I was not privy to their actions when they retired at night. But I can comment on their overall life together. For a good part of their lives they raised three wonderful children, each a specialist in their respective fields. One a total legal scholar, the second a fine classic artist as well as a graphic artist, and the third a theoretical engineer as well as a business engineer. These are products to be proud of.
Because Fred developed a bad case of rheumatoid arthritis, he was exposed to a gradual debilitating experience of pain in certain joints. The major and particularly the only source of relief was provided by Marilyn. Fred's diet was prescribed and controlled by Marilyn. This served to alleviate the pain. Furthermore, Marilyn arranged to have Fred remain as active as possible to the extent of daily swimming or aquatic exercises, whether while at Bayside or at Hilton Head, South Carolina. And finally, Marilyn saw to it that Fred received the ultimate best medical care at several New York hospitals. It was Marilyn's sincere efforts and stamina that permitted Fred to enjoy the last 25 years of his life. For that aggressive perseverance, I fully thank you, Marilyn, for taking such excellent care of my brother.