Bernice Dourmashkin died on May 27 at the home of her daughter, Barbara Case, while holding her hand. She was beloved and admired by all who knew her for her love of life, her generosity, her independence and her creative spirit.
She was a gardener in every sense. She created new and more beautiful spaces wherever she lived; she provided fertile soil for all of her children to achieve meaningful lives, and for each to support strong families themselves.
She was a graduate of the Bellevue School of Nursing in New York city and while a nurse at that hospital during World War II, she met her husband, Dr. Leonard Dourmashkin. They fell deeply in love and were inseparable for the rest of their lives. When he became disabled at much too young an age, she provided continuous and loving care for him every moment thereafter.
Bernice filled her home with knowledge and music. Every morning she would rise long before her family to pursue additional education through the Sunrise Semester, where she completed many courses. She had a Steinway piano rebuilt and filled her house with music. All of her children tried their best to imitate her natural talents. She memorized many works of poetry by heart, as was the tradition during her schooling in the New York public secondary school. She remembered many of these well into her 90s.
Her home was everyone’s home. It was the gathering place for all the neighborhood children and on Sundays, her fabulous brunch drew all the extended family together for happy times we will never forget.
With her husband and children, she first came to Martha’s Vineyard in 1963 and immediately fell deeply in love with the Island, its beauty and its pace of life. In 1970 she found her magical spot in Aquinnah and built the home of her dreams and continued to come every summer until her health began to fail her. Perhaps nothing made her more happy than to tend to her gardens, sit in the summer sun and then take an unimaginably long swim far out in the ocean, very much to Leonard’s — and everyone else’s — anxiety. It was part of her independent free spirit. She was a sailor and we were landlubbers! The Vineyard has been a second home to many of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. During her 96 years she faced many challenges, as did all of those of her generation. Where many might have found the hurdles too high, she never once had a moment of doubt. She bestowed happiness and optimism in whomever she met. In her life and our loss, we will always remember her.
She was predeceased by her devoted and loving husband, Dr. Leonard Dourmashkin, and survived by her four children, Thomas, Barbara, Michael and Peter, ten grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.