Samuel Berman

Samuel "Sam" Berman

1923 - 2021

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Obituary of Samuel Berman

Samuel (Sam) Berman, of Lexington and Gloucester, passed away peacefully at his home at Brookhaven in Lexington on Monday May 3, 2021 at the age of 98. His last days were spent the same way he spent his life: surrounded by family, friends, and song. He is survived by his children: David, Jonas, and Michael; and grandchildren: Noah, Lyn, Alexander, Zach, Nick, Sammy, Maddie, Emma, and Alana, as well as a close-knit extended family. Sam is preceded in death by his wife of 67 years, Vivian, and their beloved son Mark. Sam was born in 1923 in Marathon, New York, the second youngest of eight siblings from a large Jewish immigrant family. He joined the fight against Fascism in Europe in 1942 as a member of the United States Army Air Forces. Sam flew 70 bombing missions as a bombardier and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for navigating the B-29 he flew safely back to base after anti-aircraft flak blew out its windshield, injuring the pilot and copilot. As one of the last surviving World War II Veterans, he was often asked to speak publicly about it, and always commented that Memorial Day “should be a day to honor the warriors, but never the war itself.” Sam was a lifelong progressive political activist, which often resonated through his music. He wrote and sang songs, as well as playing guitar, banjo, and his harmonica that he kept on hand for any spontaneous musical occasion. He also ensured that his whole family knew union songs and folk tunes alike. He was a member of the Boston People’s Artists with his younger brother Arnold. Together with their friends Bess Hawes and Jackie Steiner, they wrote the song “Charlie on the M.T.A” for Walter A. O’Brien during his 1949 mayoral campaign. Sam’s guitar and voice are featured in the original recording of this song, which was later made famous by the Kingston Trio. Sam’s smile and pride in his family was most visible when his sons, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and all their friends gathered after dinner to sing and play music together throughout the years. Sam and Vivian decided to get married after a six-month courtship and were among the first to settle in Five Fields in Lexington, where they raised their four boys. Five Fields was one of several TAC designed neighborhoods, with a community built around a commonland, a space set aside for all neighbors to enjoy, relax, and gather. Sam and Vivian were both active in community plays and other neighborhood activities like potlucks, barbeques and outdoor square dancing. Sam was known for leading Hootenanny sing-a-longs on the commonland. He was also active in the Lexington community, serving as an elected Town Meeting member for 25 years, and volunteering with Lexington elders helping drive to appointments and with their finances, even when those he served were younger than he. Sam was the President of Berman’s Motor Express, a family business started by his father Isaac, which provided trucking throughout the Northeast, with terminals in Binghamton, Elmira, Medford, and Pittsburgh. Sam and Vivian were also residents of Lanesville in Gloucester. They created a hub on the rocky shore of New England for family and friends from around the world to gather. Sam and Viv led everyone in card games, collecting mussels, eating lobster, and swimming in the ocean. After Vivian’s passing, Sam often mentioned that Vivian awaited him in the waters of Ipswich Bay. He spent his final years at Brookhaven in Lexington, where he quickly became a resident celebrity. Sam was frequently seen in the halls of his residence entertaining a crowd with his quick humor, or playing tunes on his ever ready harmonica; and of course, always sporting his trademark cap. One of Sam’s greatest gifts, and Vivian’s too, was making everyone feel special. All who joined their extended circle felt privileged and loved to be a part of their tribe. Sam will be sorely missed; may his memory be a blessing to all who knew him. A celebration of his life will be planned as circumstances allow.