Born on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Mrs. Berman grew up in Brooklyn. Her mother died when she was 18 and she left school to take care of her brother while working for a hat manufacturer in Manhattan. In 1950, she met Martin Berman. Married on July 1, 1951, they spent their honeymoon driving to Tucson, where, with her brother-in-law Sidney, they bought Benjamin Supply Company, a plumbing supply store, from Benjamin Anton. After Sidney retired, she and her husband ran the business until Martin’s death from early onset Alzheimer’s in 1986. Mrs. Berman and her son, Mark, grew the business, buying the historic Tucson Warehouse and Transfer Building. Mrs. Berman continued working fulltime into her late 80s, even after moving into Villa Hermosa, a senior living community, said her daughter, Joan.
Mrs. Berman’s first job in Tucson was bookkeeping at Congregation Anshei Israel.
“I always saw Ruth as a ‘Brooklyn Girl’… tough on the outside in order to survive, but caring and committed to making each of us the best we could be,” said CAI’s Rabbi Robert Eisen.
Her son also described her as “a very tough, very bighearted woman, always there when people needed help,” and her daughter called her “a force of nature.”
“She was a survivor of three cancers, multiple hospitalizations, and lost her husband, my dad Marty, at too early an age. I learned a lot from her strength and ability to live her life independently, and how to be a part of a large community,” Joan, a physician in Manhattan, said in her eulogy.
Mrs. Berman was involved in politics and, as a woman in a male-dominated field, always fought for equal rights, Mark said.
“She cared deeply about social justice and spoke up whenever someone said anything prejudicial in her presence,” said Joan, who remembers her mother “dressed in a suit, going door to door in our neighborhood, campaigning for John Kennedy.” Joan also recalled that when her elementary school planned a holiday concert of Christmas carols, Mrs. Berman went to the principal to insist that Hanukkah songs be included.
Along with her devotion to CAI, Mrs. Berman was a longtime member and supporter of Hadassah and BBYO, and a supporter of the many local arts organizations, Mark said. Other charities she gave to include Habitat for Humanity, the Community Food Bank, the Gregory School and the Alzheimer’s Association.
Mrs. Berman was preceded in death by her sister, Thelma, and husband, Marty. Survivors include her brother, Marty (Eileen Mislove) Greenbaum of Brooklyn; children, Joan Berman of Manhattan and Mark (Judith Riley) Berman of Tucson; and three grandchildren.
Services were held at Evergreen Mortuary with Rabbi Robert Eisen officiating. Memorial contributions may be made to the Community Food Bank.