Bernie Abrams passed away peacefully at home with his family on November 29th. He was a devoted husband, father, grandfather, and uncle, a retailer and merchant par excellence, a philanthropist, and a proud veteran.
Bernie was born in New York City on Valentines Day in 1920. His parents, Bennie and Anna, had 3 daughters: Ruthie, Lil, and Dottie; Bernie was their youngest child. The siblings grew up in the Great Depression and learned never to take anything for granted. The family moved to Hartford, CT in the 1930's, where Bernie attended Weaver High School and his father opened a store called Economy Dry Goods on Park Street. The store sold "a little of everything" and the children helped out at the store after school.
In 1943, at age 22, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant and Navigator to fight in World War II. On a bombing run over the Romanian Ploesti oil fields, Bernie's plane was hit by enemy aircraft fire and he was wounded, returning to duty after his recovery. He participated in the D-Day invasion and received the Purple Heart for bravery and heroism during the war, the Distinguished Flying Cross for completing 33 missions over enemy territory, the European Air Service Medal and several Oak Leaf Clusters.
Before the war, Bernie met a girl named Jane Wiesen. He was smitten with her (though he recalled later that he thought his chances with her were slim, as he was not a very good dancer). Jane remembers him as a young man who was very sweet, smart, and earnest. They were married on January 7, 1945. Bernie had been promoted to First Lieutenant and he and Jane moved to Amarillo, Texas, where Bernie was a training instructor. It was the beginning of a long life of togetherness that lasted more than 65 years, during which they were inseparable and completely devoted to each other.
Together they raised a large family with five children: Don, Jodi, Betsy, Wendy, and Diane. The family relocated to the new suburb of West Hartford, Connecticut, and moved several times as the family's size and their relative prosperity grew. Bernie worked countless hours but came home for family dinners every night, would play with his children, and would sing a special lullaby to them (whose lyrics were never the same twice). The family shared a rich Jewish life at Temple Beth Israel, in the community, and in their home.
When the war ended, Bernie, a graduate of Bentley Accounting School, took a job as an accountant. He was quickly bored with accounting practice, and went to work in his father's store. He convinced his father to change their focus from general dry goods to home goods and changed the name of the business to Economy Fabrics. In his first independent venture, Bernie opened a beautiful specialty store in West Hartford called Bernards. It was very upscale and ahead of its time.
In the 1950's Bernie went into the leased departments business. Here, Bernie sold home products as a "store within a store" in large discount chains. He renamed his business Three D Departments, the D's standing for "drapery and domestic departments." It became a successful public company, with Bernie as its Chairman and CEO.
In 1980, Bernie again adjusted the focus of the business, returning to specialty stores. Four Three D Bed and Bath stores opened in the Hartford area in one day. This was a very exciting time and the new business expanded to over 50 stores nationwide with a strong presence in Connecticut, California, and Arizona. The stores were among the best merchandised and marketed specialty stores of their time.
Bernie was not all work. He participated actively in charitable causes close to his heart. He was an active member and Vice President of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and sat on its national Board of Governors. He and Jane traveled extensively, often with AJC, and Bernie had the privilege of leading a delegation to the Vatican to meet the Pope.
Those who knew Bernie will remember his curiosity and enthusiasm. He loved people, their stories, their histories, and their idiosyncrasies. You will remember conversations with him that began with "let me ask you something…" In his private life, Bernie's areas of interest were many, ranging from world affairs and history, to theater and dance, to the flora and fauna that surrounded the home he shared with Jane, and the local environs they explored on their many, many walks.
In 1998 Bernie retired from the company, but not from living a productive life. He worked every day on his investments and projects. Bernie was very worried about the loss of jobs in the United States and wrote to leaders of government and industry about his concerns and possible solutions.
Throughout, Bernie remained devoted to his entire extended family and always to Jane. Bernie will be greatly missed by Jane, his partner in life; son Don Abrams, daughters Jodi Seaver, Betsy Abrams, Wendy Bassell, and Diane Abrams; their significant others: Gwenn Abrams, Rob Seaver, Mary Miller, Larry Bassell, and Riz Huda; and grandchildren Sue, Sarah Jane, and Ben Abrams, Anna May and Lincoln Seaver, Josh Abrams, Jennifer and Alison Bassell, and Asmani Rose and Ali Huda; as well as their extended family and friends.
Memorial services will be held at Pacific View Park in Corona Del Mar, CA at 10am on Friday December 3. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in Bernie's honor to Helping Hands Foundation (helpinghandsgroup.org) or to a charitable cause of ones' choosing.
Arrangements under the direction of Pacific View Memorial Park and Mortuary FD1176, Corona Del Mar, CA.