After Bernice Evenson died, just 8 days short of her 99th birthday, her son Michael found this note, handwritten by Bernice, in a box filled with photos. He was excited to share it with his family and I. Michael is my beloved friend Debra’s brother (Debra also died, in 2011, but she lives in my heart). Today I want to share Bernice’s Ten Maxims for Aging with you because I think that they are so wise.
I met Bernice only once, but she left such a strong impression in me. Bernice was a very unique soul. So full of love for everyone and genuine happiness. Back then when we met at her apartment in Florida, I didn’t speak much English, but that didn’t matter. She knew how to make me feel at home. After all these years I still remember her with love and appreciation. And when I think about aging, I always remember Bernice as a role model. She is the perfect example of someone who knew how to age gracefully. To learn more about Bernice, you can read the words below, written by her son Michael:
BERNICE LILLIAN EVENSON, 1911-2010
Bernice Lillian Evenson, died peacefully on September 9, 2010 at the home of her son Rolfe in Tampa, FL. Born September 18, 1911 in New York City, she was just 8 days short of her 99th birthday. She met Fred Evenson in 1931, and they were married in Verona, NJ where Fred and his mother had established Evenson’s, a small retail, family clothing store at 555 Bloomfield Avenue. It was depression time, things were hard, and the couple lived behind a curtain in that store. The business had filed for bankruptcy, reorganized, and within a few years began to grow along with Verona. In time, all creditors were repaid in full and their reputation and character became legend.
Bernice with her husband Fred and their first baby ↑
In 1946, Evenson’s expanded into a larger space at 569 Bloomfield Avenue and became an important part of the Verona community. Bernice and Fred were known, also, for their generosity to community charities and civic work. After her husband Fred died in 1964, Bernice remained as head of Evenson’s until she retired in 1979. She lived at the Veranda Club, an Independent Living facility in Boca Raton, before moving to Tampa this past July.
A Charter member of the Jewish Community Center of Verona (renamed Beth Ahm of West Essex) she served as President of the Women’s League, and was very active along with Fred, especially during the building of the new Synagogue.
Bernice and her four children ↑ (Michael and my friend Debra are together on the right)
Having grown up in “Roaring Twenties”, Bernice loved to dance, and dance she did, even after being confined to a wheel chair in the last six months, her feet and hands kept moving to the rhythm; Jazz and Swing were constantly heard in the house.
Bernice and her signature smile ↑
To know Bernice was to love her, her kindness and cheerful optimism radiated to everyone she met. Her ever present warmth and smile along with her care and concern for others never changed; A role model to her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, she left a magnificent legacy.