Bernice was born in 1930. She grew up and went to school in the Bronx, and lived there until 1950, when she moved with her parents to Queens. After finishing high school, Bernice spent a year in New York University. She then transferred to a business school and got a job at an accounting firm. Bernice never married so she could take care of her ailing parents. She moved to an apartment just so she could be near her parents. After her father passed away, Bernice tried to help her mother by giving her 25 dollars a week. It wasn’t until her mother was on her death bed that she told Bernice that she had never used the 25 dollars a week, and had been putting away for her. Bernice moved to Florida in 1989, to be closer to her relatives. I met Bernice when I started giving classes in the Meyerhoff Senior Center. Bernice was an avid participant of my class. I only learned of Bernice’s passing last Friday when I asked the front desk to tell her I was here to give a class, needless to say I was shocked.
I started teaching at the Meyerhoff Senior center three years ago; it was the TOP class. Bernice came to that class, and as far as I remember, never missed a class in three years. Meyerhoff closed down, but we continued our classes in the community room of Bernice’s building. Of course Bernice was there. She was very proud of her Judaism. She told me how she traveled to Israel, about how her parents and grandparents were observant, and that she tried to keep her home kosher. Bernice had always been independent and rarely asked anyone for help. Last year, Bernice told me that she paid to have a proper Jewish burial. Sadly, she neglected to arrange a proper funeral. With no family nearby, she was supposed to be buried by the staff at the cemetery with no one in attendance. A woman who gave her life for her parents did not deserve to be buried in such a way and forgotten. Boruch Hashem, I found out about the lack of a funeral and was able to give Bernice her final honor. People from the North Miami Beach community gathered at the cemetery where Tehilim was said, her life was spoken about, and she was buried, not by the cemetery staff, but by her own Jewish brothers and sisters. That evening at Mincha and Maariv, I realized there is no one to say Kaddish for this woman, so I said Kaddish and will continue to do so for the year. Some of the people in her building were upset that they were not able to make it to the funeral, so a memorial service will be given at the same building in the same room where she attended many of our classes. Bernice Baker, Briana Bas Shlomo, may have spent most of her time on this earth alone but our community saw to it that she didn’t leave this earth alone.