William Berman, 79

Fri, 08/28/2015 - 6:15am
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William Howard Berman of Boston and formerly of Waban, Mass., died on Monday, Aug. 10, 2015 of Parkinson’s Disease. Beloved husband of Deborah (Black) Davis Berman and the late Judith (Robbins) Berman. Devoted father of James Berman and his wife Carolyn, of New York City and Santa Monica, Calif.; and Benton Berman and his wife Melisa of Boston.

Loving grandfather of Shayna and Michael. Dear brother of David Berman and his wife Deborah of Stamford, Conn., Nancy (Berman) Greene of Silver Spring, Maryland, and the late Kenneth Berman and his surviving wife Allene, of Rye Brook, New York. He is also survived by three step-children and three step-grandchildren.

William was born in 1936 to Adele (Pickerstein) and August Berman and grew up in Stamford, Conn. He attended the University of Pennsylvania School of Architecture, graduating in 1959 with a degree in Fine Arts. He served in the United States Air Force Police Reserve. Bill had a distinguished professional career in publishing, retiring from Houghton Mifflin in 1993 as Executive Vice President. His positions included Director of College Textbooks, Foreign Language, International Sales, Technology, and Testing.

Bill contributed to the Boston community as a volunteer leader in education and literacy. Bill served as director and president of the board of Boston Partners in Education, director and vice president of the board of First Literacy, advisory board member of Plowshares Literary journal, an Overseer at Emerson College and trustee and president of the board of The All Newton Music School. Bill was a modern Renaissance man with a great love for literature, especially poetry and travel journals, and classical music, especially opera. He served as president of the St. Botolph Club, which fosters the arts and literature. He had an extensive library and knew every book in it and where it was. Often he would excuse himself during a discussion to retrieve a book or to read a poem that was pertinent to the conversation.

He was a restless and curious traveler. Early in his career, he would sell books to colleges for nine months, and for three months in the summer he would roam through Europe, Eastern Europe, northern Africa and the Middle East. He continued to travel throughout his life, with Paris always his ultimate destination. Aware of his Jewishness, but ecumenical in his embrace of others, he was active at Brandeis University with interfaith programs. A longtime resident of Waban, Bill served as the first Jewish president of the Waban neighborhood club. In all of the civic organizations and clubs where Bill served as a board member and leader, he brought together people of disparate religious, cultural and ethnic roots. He was a kind and gentle listener and persuader not only in the public arena, but for his beloved family and friends.

Private funeral services were held in Brookline. Burial followed on Block Island, Rhode Island. A gathering for family and friends to celebrate his life will take place this fall in Boston. Bill may be remembered by gifts in his name to the Island Free Library, PO Box 1830, Block Island, R.I. 02807 or Block Island Medical Center, PO Box 919, Rhode Island, R.I. 02807.