Nancy Gross Berkowitz
search

Nancy Gross Berkowitz

BERKOWITZ: Nancy Gross Berkowitz. Born on Oct. 24, 1933, beloved wife, mother, grandmother, friend and fighter, died on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020, just a week before her 87th birthday. Beloved wife of Lester, loving mother of Ellen (Philadelphia) and David (Washington, D.C.), loving grandmother of Abigail. She was the younger daughter of Edward B. Gross and Elizabeth Minnette Levey, z”l, sister of Lee Gross Anthone, z”l (Sidney), and the beloved niece of Augusta Levey (z”l). She grew up in Buffalo, New York, where she attended the Buffalo Seminary. After graduating from Smith College, where she majored in American Studies, she worked for Doubleday and other publishers, eventually working on Alfred A. Knopf ’s memoirs. In 1958, she met her husband, Les, on a blind date in Manhattan that was so successful that two separate people claimed credit for it. After telling Les off for innocently offering the name of the composer of an opera they were discussing — we now call this mansplaining — she decided that she was going to marry him, which she did in February 1959, but only after he agreed to read Moby Dick. He was the love of her life, but she would not want us to write that because it is a cliché, and she would have cut it out, even though it was true. Nancy and Les spent seven months living in Italy shortly after they married. In 1966, they moved from New York to Pittsburgh, with a two-year stint in London, and traveled all over the world. She made friends everywhere she went and kept them her entire life. When she took her children to Italy, she took them to ruins and cathedrals but more importantly to the green grocer, the butcher, their favorite neighborhood haunts and restaurants, and to meet her dear friends. She had multiple nieces, nephews and grandnieces and nephews, whom she adored. She loved her own family and often said how lucky she was to have such wonderful in-laws. She also loved her friends’ children and had an affinity for kids who weren’t naturally compliant, which was a good thing for her daughter and grand- daughter. She worked as an editor her entire life and would have taken a green pen to this obituary. After moving to Pittsburgh, she edited for the Western Psychiatric Institute, the University of Pittsburgh, Westinghouse Research and Development, Rodef Shalom and Rabbi Walter Jacob. She loved words and read incessantly and widely — Melville, Eliot, Shakespeare, Thomas Mann, Thomas Hardy and various writers in French. Like her mother, sister and aunt, she was an accomplished cook and baker. She loved feeding people and making them feel welcome. We never had a store-bought cake. She gardened and was a docent at the Biblical Garden at Rodef Shalom. Around 1990, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She immediately began taking exercise classes, making her body as strong as possible and learning everything she could about the disease. When she had a short hospitalization a while later, she realized the importance of people having advocates with them, and after she retired from her job as a writer and editor, became a volunteer ombudsman for patients through the Allegheny County Area Agency on Aging. She also read to twin girls through Beginning with Books, a program established by friends, from the time they were little until well past when the program usually ended. She had an innate sense of justice. She stuck up for kids who were mistreated, storming into the principal’s office with a handful of change when a teacher refused to provide a Weekly Reader to a child who hadn’t paid the 35 cents. She welcomed our friends, especially quirky ones who didn’t quite fit in their own families. Although she was critical about hair and clothing, she was never critical about us, who we were as people. She was a devoted and loving grandmother and such a good friend. Her commitment to justice was political. She was on the board of the United Nations Association of Pittsburgh and was active in the ACLU. She was overjoyed and amazed and full of hope at the election of Barack Obama. She mourned John Lewis. She believed passionately in our democracy. She made us read Civil Disobedience in middle school. She told us Lincoln was complicated in his views of slavery. She made us watch the Watergate hearings and told us the Constitution was magnificent and that the system worked. She was compassionate and kind, and the meanness and hatred of the past four years wore on her. She believed we were better than this. But she didn’t demonize people she loved who felt differently and asked us not to. She did not get to vote. In her memory, please appreciate the gift of democracy. In the last years of her life, she struggled with her illness. She never complained. She persisted. She continued to be the same loving wife, mother, grandmother, aunt and friend she had always been. Graveside services and interment were held at West View Cemetery of Rodef Shalom Congregation. Donations to National MS Society, Rodef Shalom Congregation and the American Civil Liberties Union, Pittsburgh Chapter. Arrangements entrusted to Ralph Schugar Chapel, Inc., family-owned and -operated. schugar.com

read more:
comments