July 1, 1933 – August 25, 2018
Sandra Mae Berkman Fromm, a longtime resident of Washington, DC, passed away peacefully at home on August 25, 2018, surrounded by her family. For more than three years, she had battled cancer with courage and dignity.
The daughter of the late Isadore and Ruth Golub Berkman, Sandra was born July 1, 1933 in Norwich, Connecticut and was educated in Norwich public schools. After graduating as valedictorian of the Norwich Free Academy’s Class of 1950, she received her bachelor’s degree in literature from Cornell University in 1954, along with her friends and classmates, Ruth Bader and Martin Ginsburg. At Cornell Sandra served as senior class president and class speaker and was elected to Mortar Board, a national honor society whose members embodied “leadership, scholarship, and service that contributes to humanity.” Sandra’s life exemplified these attributes.
Sandra received her master’s degree in teaching and English from Radcliffe College and pursued additional graduate study at Harvard University. She then taught English, worked in the admissions office, and served as director of alumni affairs at Brandeis University. For her outstanding service to Brandeis, she was awarded honorary membership in its first graduating class. She was also recognized by Who’s Who of American Women.
After relocating in DC and having two children, Sandra became a dynamic advocate for her daughter and others with disabilities. On the HEW Input Team for Public Law 94-142 (1975), which guaranteed a free, appropriate public education to each child with a disability, she was actively involved in the early efforts to expand education and opportunities for all individuals with special needs. She was described as an “unrelenting advocate with deep commitment” as she chaired or served on countless local, regional, and national boards and commissions, including the Developmental Disabilities Council, ARC, the Epilepsy Foundation, and the White House Conference on Handicapped Individuals. Sandra was also a consultant to the DC Board of Education, the Commission on Public Health, and the Federal Department of Education. Testifying before Congress, Sandra campaigned to have public facilities meet code and was instrumental in obtaining access to public buildings for all. She also worked diligently to mandate metabolic screening for newborns.
When her daughters, Allison and Elizabeth Fromm, founded Joyful Noise, a chorus for singers with disabilities in 2000, Sandra became a tireless supporter of its singers and of their “Mission to Inspire” similar ensembles across the nation.
Aside from her community endeavors, she enjoyed discussing politics and “solving the world’s problems” with family and friends. Sandra traveled the world, absorbing cultures and searching for artifacts and gifts in Eastern Europe, South America, the Far East, Alaska, Morocco, Turkey, Australia, and New Zealand. She also relished her frequent trips to New Jersey, where she and Elizabeth would “live it up,” dining out every day. She loved antiquing and scouring Lord & Taylor sales to outfit her entire family, often in turquoise. “It’s my hobby, you know.”
Sandra was a beloved mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, and friend. She is survived by her cherished daughters, Allison and Elizabeth; the light of her life, her granddaughter, Katharine Isabelle Fromm; and her dear sister, Lois Ketover (Jerrold). She was predeceased by her brother, Leonard Berkman; sister-in-law, Suzanne Berkman; and sister, Judith Sikorski. Sandra was the adoring aunt and great aunt to her 12 nieces and nephews and 21 grandnieces and grandnephews, who reciprocated her love and devotion throughout her life. She is also survived by her brother-in-law, Stan Sikorski; her sister-in-law and traveling companion, Susan Fromm Shimelman; and a host of devoted friends.
Sandra leaves a legacy of a positive spirit, generosity, altruism, thoughtful intelligence, social consciousness, and a caring heart. She will be deeply missed.
A graveside service will be held at the Hebrew Benevolent Cemetery #4, 62 Middle Road, Preston, CT, on Thursday, August 30 at 12:30 PM. Donations in Sandra’s honor may be made to Joyful Noise, 17 Springbrook Lane, Morristown, NJ 07960, or to the charity of your choice.
Please visit www.churchandallen.com to leave an online tribute or condolence.
- Graveside Service Thursday, August 30, 2018
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September 2, 2018
Although few realized it Sandy was an inspiration to me personally and , though I tried to emulate her, I always seemed to fall a little short. That didn't stop me from trying. So thank you, Sandy.
She was an amazing woman and she will be very much missed.
August 29, 2018
I am so sorry to hear about Sandy. She was always so kind and thoughtful. I loved listening to her tell all the family stories. She never left out a detail. She will be missed.
My deepest sympathy to all.