Date: Sunday, January 31, 2021
Cemetery: New Montefiore Cemetery
Notes: Bernice Heyman passed away on January 28 at the age 89 in Mohegan Lake, New York, and was laid to rest at New Montefiore Cemetery in West Babylon, Long Island, on January 31. She was the beloved mom of three children, a grandmother of nine and a treasured sister to her seven siblings. Born in Boston in 1931 to Benjamin and Esther Willens, she went on to earn a Bachelor’s degree from MassArt in Boston and later her Master of Arts from Lehman College in New York City. After moving to New York, she worked for the renowned fashion designer “Vera” and then an ad agency where she helped design the Wonder Bread wrapper. She later moved to Ossining, New York, and became a longtime art teacher in the nearby Hendrick Hudson School District. She was also one of the best artists you could ever meet and had several showings of her paintings. Art was her passion besides her family. She had an independent streak, and she was warm and loving despite having to persevere through much adversity in her life. She is survived by her sons, Brian (Karen) and Joel (Delilah) Heyman, her daughter, Roberta (Scott) Steppa, her grandchildren, Aaron (Becky), Leizer and Helyn Steppa, and Arielle, Miranda, Lilah, Jolie, Casey and Elise Heyman, her brothers, Dickie (Carol) and Kenny (Ann) Willens, and her sisters, Anita Rizzo, Joanne Willens and Nan (James) Noble. Her husband, Dr. Arnold Heyman, passed away in 1991. She will be tremendously missed by her family.
Nan Jim wedding
Bernice Arnold Wedding
Heyman Family 84
Here is Brian and Bernice when he was a baby.
Bernice was a wonderful human being, a great mother, and friend. Also an extremely talented artist. There are a lot of punchlines to jokes about “mothers-in-law”, but I can truly say, I never had that experience. She was like a girlfriend to me. We had some great times together going to museums and out to lunch in the City.
This is a picture of Bernice, Brian and me on one of our many trips to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She especially liked going to brunch there!
Bernice & Joanne
Bernice, Nan and Anita
Bernice & Richard
Art by Bernice
Bernice Heyman was an artist, loving mother and Bubbe, and independent spirit. Born in Boston in 1931, to Esther z”l and Benjamin Willens z”l. The second oldest of eight children, she suffered from rheumatic fever as a child. Her health problems greatly limited her ability to participate in most activities and she turned to art as a way to cope and express herself. At some point while still in her teens, Bernice met a woman (whose name is unfortunately forgotten) who took a liking to her work. It was through the support of this benefactor that Bernice was able to attend the Massachusetts College of Art and become the first member of her family to graduate college. After graduation, she moved to New York City and worked in various facets of commercial art, including designing greeting cards, fabric, newspaper ads and even painting faces on dolls.
It was while living in New York that she met Arnold Heyman z”l. They had both come to a party with different dates but ended up connecting during a chance meeting in the coat room. By 1957 they were married and in 1959, after Arnold finished chiropractic college, they moved to Ossining, New York and bought a house where Bernice stayed until 2005. In 1960 they welcomed their oldest child, Brian, followed by Roberta in 1962, and Joel in 1965.
Around 1970, Bernice decided to pursue a master’s degree in Art Education at Lehman College. Bernice worked as an art teacher for more than twenty-five years, first with elementary age children and then with high schoolers. Throughout this period, she continued to do her own artwork, as well, capturing landscapes of local parks or composing still lifes from leaves or flowers found in the backyard. This was in addition to her ongoing care for Arnold, whose condition was steadily declining due to Multiple Sclerosis.
In 1986 Arnold moved into a nursing home to accommodate for his increasing support needs. Unfortunately, Arnold would pass away in January 1991. Throughout the years of her retirement, Bernice continued to create in a variety of media have her work shown in galleries. Joel would marry Delilah Keon in 1987, Roberta would marry Scott Steppa in 1990, and Brian would marry Karen Hofstein in 2005, shortly after Bernice relocated to Mohegan Lake. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Bernice would welcome nine grandchildren: Aaron (Becky Santora), Leizer, and Helyn from Roberta and Scott, and Arielle, Miranda, Lilah, Jolie, Casey, and Elise from Joel and Delilah. Bernice took great joy in spending time with her grandchildren and maintained close contact with her siblings including Anita (Michael z”l) Rizzo, Melvin (Pauline z”l) Willens z”l, Joanne Willens, Kenneth (Ann) Willens, Charles Willens z”l, Richard (Carol) Willens and Nanette (James) Noble and many beloved nieces and nephews. She continued her art for as long as she was capable. She passed away peacefully at home, January 28, 2021. She will be greatly missed.
Though I only briefly met Bernice while attending her son Brian and Karen’s lovely wedding, Karen always spoke with love and admiration of her wonderful and gifted mother-in-law. My condolences to Brian and Karen for this tremendous loss, and all whose life she made better wirh her art and her presence.
I enjoyed traveling with Bernice, she loved Rockport and other places like Portland Maine, we would go every summer for 2week at a time. She loved to paint while I went swimming or taking long walk, then we would have li ouch and go to stores.
Our condolences to Brian and the entire family. Although I never met Bernice I am gratified to learn a bit about her in these photos and your words.
I met Bernice when she came to teach at Hendrick Hudson High School, Montrose, NY. We remained friends after retirement and neighbors in Mohegan Lake. I’ll miss our face-to-face and phone visits. She was such a talent and helped me in many ways with my hobby of photography. I’ve attached two of her watercolors that hang on my walls
I met Bernice through a mutual friend and started out just helping with house cleaning but because of how well we got along from the start, this turned into trips to doctor visits, errands and occasional lunch dates. She was very funny and witty and we would have alot of laughs together. I really enjoyed our conversations, her love of painting, and those amazing homemade cards. I loved to bring her food because she always appreciated it and made me feel like I was some 5 star chef. She also really enjoyed when I would bring her homemade desserts or “goodies” as she called them, so much so that 9 times out of 10 the dessert would come before the food lol . She loved to frequently talk about her siblings and grandchildren, but what will always stand out and what I really admired was the beautiful relationship she had with her son, Brian. He was an amazingly attentive and loving son to her and she truly adored him. My thoughts and prayers are with her family. I will miss her very much.
Eulogy by Leizer Steppa
My Bubbe was a kind, sweet and caring person. We had a lot of fun together. Since I went to undergrad in Boston at Brandeis, I would stop at Bubbe’s on my way to and from Baltimore. Although the visits were only supposed to last 45 minutes since I had a long 7 hour drive home, it was usually an hour, hour and a half, and often more than 2 hours. I found myself talking about all her different doctors and she always had a story about how her most recent doctor was a quack. She would always tell me that I would be the exception and could fix all the quack doctors of New York. She truly believed in me and was always so confident I would get into medical school. We would sit and talk about things that were stressing her out and I would try my best to make her laugh and make light of things. We would draw or paint together and even though it was clear she was way better than me, she would always assure me that I was just as good if not better. She would always have a lot of chocolate even though she was not supposed to have any. Before I would leave her house, she would make sure I had at least a package of 10 special dark chocolate bars. I loved spending time with her and I truly will miss her voice and warm hugs.
For every birthday and special occasion she would send us her handmade cards which were always so cool. I will truly miss getting them. In particular, I will miss our calls. We would laugh and catch up on everything that was going on in our lives. Memories include her special handwriting, the ever present pile of various things on her table, stamps that I used to make pictures with, a Polaroid camera, and a cuckoo clock with a mechanical bird. She also gave me my baby bear who lost an eye in the battle of our 3 year old class. To this day I still have him near my bed. I used to call her Bubbuh and liked to jump into her when she would read me a story. I remember my dad when he told me that I was getting too big to be jumping on her but I wanted to ignore that advice because it was just too comfy to not jump into her lap and cuddle up with her. I would do anything to spend another day sitting in her kitchen and talking about life with her. Her love was unconditional. I am so thankful to be her grandson and I know she will be with me always.
I only met Bernice once to my memory. I was attending a family Bat Mitzvah at a synagogue walking distance from her home. She generously opened her home to me so I could attend the service (and be able to walk there on Shabbat). I remember feeling very warmly welcomed and was very appreciative of Bernice and of Roberta (we were at Brandeis together). May her memory be a blessing and may her life continue to inspire.
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