August 8, 1932 – April 2, 2019
Phyllis Berk , my mother, passed away yesterday at the age of 86. Phyllis was born in the Bronx to Belarus immigrants, Dora and Max Kollner. She spent the early "Great Depression" years chasing after her brother, Sidney, 2 years her senior. In the mid-40's, Papa Max moved the butcher business to Lake Mohegan from Longfellow Avenue and Phyllis finished her primary education at Shrub Oak High School. After some adventure in California, she returned to NYC and began a sojourn into the entertainment business, singing folk songs in Greenwich Village. Her talent was recognized by David Berk, who developed an act for the two of them and they married in 1956, living in the East Village. She recorded a single ( Baby Sitter Rock/Little Daisy) for Archer Records, produced by Archie Levin. In 1958, Phyllis and David moved to the Amalgamated Housing Development in the Bronx, where I was born 2 years later. Her sister, Roslyn (Bresnick-Perry) and parents lived a few blocks away . The musical act and marriage did not last, but Phyllis stayed in her Bronx apartment over 50 years, until her passing.
After several years of being a ward clerk at Beth Abraham Nursing Home ( the actual location of Dr. Oliver Sacks "Awakenings") , club dates with a few different NJ wedding bands and performing at the occasional Yiddish festival, Phyllis returned to school and completed a Masters of Social Work at Fordham University. She would secure employment with the NYC Board of Education, working with grade school students and their families until her retirement. Phyllis spent several years as a "snowbird" in the Deerfield Beach , Florida community, Century Village, and continued to perform there at local synagogues and community centers until 2017.
Later in her varied musical career she became a member of the original cast of "The Golden Land", a Yiddish/English musical produced and directed by Moishe Rosenfeld and Zalmen Mlotek. Equally comfortable with jazz,pop standards, folk and ethnic music, Phyllis recorded her own CD featuring all of those genres as "The Beatnik Bubbie".
Phyllis is survived by her longtime domestic partner, John Alusick, son, Adam, daughter-in law, Molly and granddaughter, Katherine.
A memorial service will be held at Riverside Memorial Chapel in Mount Vernon on Sunday, 4/7 at 10:00 AM. www.riversidememorialmountvernon.com
Shiva will be observed for friends and family from 3-8 PM on Sunday only at Phyllis's home: 74 Van Cortlandt Park South apt BB31 Bronx ,NY 10463 Parking is on the street and somewhat limited, especially in the evening. Goulden Avenue about 4 blocks away usually has some spots late.
- Chapel Service Sunday, April 7, 2019
- Burial Sunday, April 7, 2019