There's no easy way to tell y'all this. At about 11:30 p.m. I got a phone call from St. Patrick's Hospital and they advised me that Valerie's condition had changed and she was critical. I drove to the hospital and they informed me that she had died about 11:15 p.m. They did not want to give the news over the phone.
She had been improving, and we felt that we were on the road to recovery. The nurse said that about an hour earlier she had gone in and checked on Val and she was reviewing the menu for tomorrow and was in good spirits. They had talked about the Mr. Lincoln roses and the redbirds in her garden. When she went back in, Valerie had stopped breathing. Since we had a DNR order in place, they immediately called me.
I have, of course, contacted the Gunny, her brother, Bernie and her cousin Shirley (who was like a sister) in Mass. I also called the Hankins, who insisted that I come to their house as soon as I left the hospital which I did. In the meantime, they had called Mike and Brenda Goldman and they were also there.
We are not sure what the arrangements will be or when. I will find out more tomorrow when I can contact the funeral home and the Rabbi, who happens to be in town. Valerie had asked for no “funeral”, she said she would rather have a service like we had for my brother Jack, his wife Chris and her mother, a celebration of life. Accordingly, I plan to set up a very simple private interment for the family and to have a service, probably at Temple Sinaii. Mike and everyone there will help me work it out. In keeping with Jewish tradition we will ask that no flowers be sent ... a donation can be made to the Temple Sinaii Sisterhood or the Carlyss Lions Club in her remembrance. I will publish the address later.
I am o.k., it's just hard to realize that a 46 year loving relationship has been brought to an end. We were both very blessed over the years to have had each other. I am so glad that that the very last words we said to each other were, “I love you.”
Thank you for all your prayers and good wishes ... btw, she really enjoyed talking with MizWiley and BillF tonight. It was a very special thing y'all did for her. Thank you.
Valerie Whiting, 67, died Wednesday, April 14, 2004, in a local hospital.
She was a native of New York City, and was raised in San Diego. She had been a resident of Carlyss for 25 years. She was a very active member of Temple Sinai, where she was president of the Temple Sinai Sisterhood. She was also president of District 15 National Federation of Sisterhoods (Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee and Alabama). She was a member of the Carlyss Lions Club and had served as president of the Carlyss Lioness Club.
Survivors include her husband of 46 years, Gene Whiting of Carlyss; one son, Stephen Earl Whiting of Desert Hot Springs, Calif.; one brother, Bernard Berwin of Gibsonton, Fla.; cousin, Shirley Sterling of Nadick, Mass.; and two grandchildren, Rachel and Jacob Whiting.
Her funeral will be at 10:30 a.m. Monday, April 19, in Temple Sinai. Rabbi Leo R. Wolkow will officiate. A memorial service will be at 7 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, April 20, in the family home. Private burial will be in Graceland Cemetery under the direction of Hixson Funeral Home.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Temple Sinai Sisterhood or the Carlyss Lions Club.
Words of comfort may be shared with the family at www.mem.com.
C.J.V. kindly sent me this copy of a PDF File he created from Valerie's Memorial Service. You'll need to download Adobe Acrobat Reader to see this file. Thank you C.J.V.!! (The PDF File will open in a New Window, so you can just Close it to come back here.)
This is the Colonel speaking. I have been busy taking care of arrangements and doing all the necessary things. I have taken time to read all of your wonderful messages of love and encouragement and want y'all to know that I and the family do appreciate it greatly.
There will be a Celebration Of Life for MawMaw at 10:30 am on Monday morning in Lake Charles at Temple Sinai (a 100+ year old Jewish Synagogue). It is not a large building and I am sure it will be overflowing with her dear friends. According to her wishes there will be no visitation, she will wait at the funeral home until after the services and the immediate family and a few very close friends will join her for a private interment at Graceland (the local Jewish cemetery).
As I said before according to Jewish tradition of flowers being for the living, if anyone wishes to make a contribution you may send it to either of the following:
Temple Sinai Sisterhood
713 Hodges Street
Lake Charles, LA 70501
Carlyss Lions Club
P.O. Box 594
Sulphur, LA 70663
Donations to the Temple will benefit, among other worthy causes, the local Women's Shelter which Valerie worked tirelessly to start and make an ongoing enterprise.
Donations to the Lions Club, as you probably know, will buy glasses for needy children, combat vision problems all over the world and also help crippled children attend summer camp in Central Louisiana.
Either one would be very appropriate as Valerie was deeply involved with both causes.
I am doing well, taking care of what needs to be done and getting on with getting on. Of course, I miss her, but can only think back on our 46 years together and of the wonderful and not so wonderful times we had together. When we did have bad times, we met them as a team with a firm resolve that we would solve that problem and go on, With her help and guidance we never did fail. She had fought the diabetes for almost thirty years and I think that perhaps when the bell rang for one more round she just felt that it would be easier to stay in her corner and not come out for the next round. She was tired, very tired and now she is resting peacefully. No more fights for a while.
Thank you BillF for all of the wonderful things you have posted, ChezJohn for the great words. I will add a few words (not my own) that express how I feel, and probably will feel for many years to come.
AND NOW THE PURPLE DUSK OF TWILIGHT TIME
STEALS ACROSS THE MEADOWS OF MY HEART,
HIGH UP IN THE SKY THE LITTLE STARS CLIMB
ALWAYS REMINDING ME THAT WE'RE APART.
YOU WANDERED DOWN THE LANE AND FAR AWAY,
LEAVING ME A SONG THAT WILL NOT DIE
LOVE IS NOW THE STARDUST OF YESTERDAY
THE MUSIC OF THE YEARS GONE BY.
SOMETIMES I WONDER WHY I SPEND THE LONELY NIGHTS
DREAMING OF A SONG
THE MELODY HAUNTS MY REVERIE
AND I AM ONCE AGAIN WITH YOU
WHEN OUR LOVE WAS NEW
AND EACH KISS AN INSPIRATION
BUT THAT WAS LONG AGO,
NOW MY CONSOLATION IS IN THE STARDUST OF A SONG
BESIDE A GARDEN WALL,
WHEN STARS ARE BRIGHT,
YOU ARE IN MY ARMS
THE NIGHTINGALE TELLS HIS FAIRY TALE
OF PARADISE WHERE ROSES GREW
THOUGH I DREAM IN VAIN,
IN MY HEART IT WILL REMAIN
MY STARDUST MELODY
THE MEMORY OF LOVE'S REFRAIN.
Lyrics by: Mitchell Parish
Music by: Hoagy Carmichael
Like I said, "as soon as I get copies and get them transcribed into Noopie I will post MawMaw's eulogies". There two given, the first by a long time Sisterhood Past President and personal friend for twenty-five years, Faye Barnhardt. The second was by a Past President of Temple Sinai and very close personal friend (both he his wife and their two children, who are like granchildren to us) and local businessman, Mike Goldman. Here they are:
When Val and Gene moved to Lake Charles from the West Coast they immediately became involved in the Temple and the Sisterhood. As Val had previously been involved in Sisterhood for many years, she naturally gravitated to be a part of our Sisterhood. It wasn't long before she was on the Board and eventually was our President. In 1987 she was chosen Woman Of The Year for her many services --- one being overseeing the Passover Seders. She and Gene helped prepare food for over 90 people at many of our Seders.
She was elected to the Board of District 15 Southern Federation Sisterhoods and in 1992 was elected president. One of her duties was to visit all the Sisterhoods in the district which was made up of Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee and Alabama and also she represented the District on the National Board which meant trips to New York.
Through her services on these Boards, she put Lake Charles and Temple Sinai on the map both in the District and Nationally. Val and I often traveled together and were roommates when Gene wasn't there. She taught me much about Sisterhood and Judaism and parliamentary procedure and we became good friends and shared much in our lifetime together.
She and Gene moved to Florida for a few years and during that time she kept in touch. When they moved back to Carlyss she again took up her place in our sisterhood. During this past year, even tho her health was deteriorating she continued being our corresponding and recording secretary.
She was a tireless worker whose life revolved around her family, Judaism and Sisterhood. She will be missed.
The phrase “a woman of valor” has come to mean, women who have made a difference. A difference that is made in changing or touching the life of even one person or one community for the better. “A woman of valor, who can find? Her price is far above rubies.” A quote from Proverbs 31. Well, today we celebrate the life of such a person. A person who made a difference, that person was Valerie Berwin Whiting.
As we go through life we meet people, we get to know them in ways that relate to our lives, but rarely do we have the insight to someone's life, to really know what they have done, what they have accomplished, and what passions led them to embark on their chosen journey. Valerie always believed in following her passion.
She was born Valerie Berwin in New York on September 4, 1936. Her Dad went to California to find work and the rest of the family, Valerie, her brother Bernie, her grandfather and Mom traveled to meet him by Greyhound bus. Valerie spent her younger years in a small community in California where she was the only Jewish child in school. She was brought up Orthodox and went to Temple with her family every week and learned how to keep a Jewish home from her mother. She met Gene in November of 1957 while she was visiting her brother Bernie. Bernie and Valerie were extremely close. She came to visit him or help him quite frequently. Bernie was doing a magic show and Gene was doing a fire eating act for a lodge benefit and children's party and after they met they started dating. You can imagine the distress of the families about the difference in their religion, as well as their backgrounds. Despite the reservations of their parents Val and Gene fell deeply in love and they wed almost 46 years ago. When their son Steven came along all of the objections seemed to melt away. Val's Dad was so proud he ran all over the hospital grabbing people and saying, “Come look at my new grandson. He is something special.” From that moment on, Steven and his grandfather were inseparable. Valerie was committed to raising Steven in the faith of her people and Gene could not have been more supportive. Gene through the years learned more about Judaism and the Jewish way of life from both Val and his own study.
As their life went on, Gene was working at a concrete plant, hard economic times hit, and he was laid off. Val sat down with him one evening and said, “Gene, if you could do anything that you wanted to, what would that be?” Gene said, “I would like to become an engineer.” And with that Val said, “Then that is what you will be.” They moved to Indiana to be near the college that Gene would be attending. At 32 years old he started college full time and Val held down two and sometimes three jobs. She worked all night and Gene studied and cared for Steven. She waitressed, took jobs cleaning, and accepted any odd jobs that she could find. She did this at night so that she could still be a full time Mom during the day. In just twenty-seven months Gene and Val, as a team, accomplished what normally takes most of us four years. Gene graduated with a BSME in Mechanical Engineering and Val graduated with PhT, Pushing Hubby Through. Later, also with Valerie's help Gene attended UCLA and acquired the Master of Science degree in Engineering.
Gene was so much in love with Val. Many years ago he wrote a poem to her that I would like to share with you now.
How many times have I tried to say?
How I love you but yet somehow,
The words elude my grasp and leap away
And I can only say I Love You, as I do now.
If the muse would grant me the phrase
So I could begin to tell you in ten thousand ways
How I love you now, and will always
But I can only show in small ways.
Tho' the muse has passed me
And my love I cannot tell,
There is one thing left to me,
And this I can do well.
How much I love I cannot say
My lips are dumb --- my head is bowed;
But I can tell in another way---
My actions can speak loud!
After Gene graduated the family moved back to California and life went on. Val started catering and making food presentations. She and Gene both made their home the center of attractions for young people. Their house became the gathering place for teenagers. They also had exchange students living with them. Life around the Whiting home was never dull. She fed all the kids in the neighborhood, and food was so good it kept them coming back. She had definitely become a typical Jewish mother. When Steve was about 14 years old, Valerie went to him and said, “Son, I thought I heard your window opening and closing during the night.” And Steve said, “Not my window, Mom.” ----- Well, a few nights later Steve slipped out of the window once again. He was going in and out, having late night visits with friends. On the way back in he crawled directly into his Mom and Val with all the demeanor she could muster said, “Now do you believe I heard your window opening and closing?” Steve did not try to pull anything over on Val after that. Val and Gene took Steven camping on many vacations and I mean tent camping. This was definitely an act of love for Val because her idea of a vacation was to stay at a nice hotel with mints on her pillow. Steven throughout his childhood and into his adult life maintained a wonderful and loving relationship with his Mom.
Val was very active in the local Temple that the family belonged to in California. Judaism was a very important part of the families life and culture and Val and Gene made every attempt to maintain their relationship with their faith.
Val became the Sisterhood President in 1968 of Temple Ramat Zion in Northridge, California. She showed her leadership abilities even back then as she increased participation in the Sisterhood and helped to make it an important arm of Temple Ramat Zion. She did become a little frustrated with the loosely knit type of meetings that were consistent with a large group of women getting together. In order to maintain a degree of decorum Val became an expert or you can even say she adopted a standard operating procedure called ROBERTS RULES OF ORDER. She could quote the rules both in chapter and verse. She carried that book with her through the rest of her life and she quoted from it often. Once asked, why she carried the book around since she knew it by heart, she answered, “In case someone questions what I say, it is all here in black and white.”
In 1979, Gene was transferred to a small town in Louisiana as Chief Engineer for W.R. Grace Company. When they got here, Val cried for three months. As Val would say, as she sat on the couch fanning herself, because of the difference in humidity, “You can imagine the shock. I moved from L period A period to LA period.”
We met Val after the crying stopped, they came over and introduced themselves and the friendship was instantaneous. Val and Gene joined the Mardi Gras Krewe of Cosmos and got Brenda and I to join as well. Of course the first organization that she and Gene joined was Temple Sinai in Lake Charles. Gene and Val became very active in the Carlyss Lions Club. Val also became active in the Sisterhood of the Temple. She later became Sisterhood President of Temple Sinai and served on the Board of Trustees for the Temple for many years. She also served as President of the Regional Sisterhood District 15. Of course, attached to her right hand the whole time was the book, Roberts Rules of Order. Val also became the President of the Lioness Club where she helped in doing many mitzvot or good deeds for the less fortunate. Actually that was a way of life for both Val and Gene. If they could do good somewhere, for someone, they were the first in line.
Val always had good advice in a crisis, I remember when our oldest daughter was a baby she used to get up at dawn. We would get very little sleep. When Brenda told Val about it she said the solution is easy, do what I did with Steven. Get up and throw a bunch of raisins or Cheerios in the crib and by the time they chase them all down and eat them you will have had an extra hour sleep. Well, it worked. Val did it again.
Around this time, Steven was serving in the Marine Corps and met his wife to be “Eddie”. He fell in love and brought her home and we met her as well. She spoke very little English but immediately bonded with, as she calls them, Mom and Dad. The relationship that she developed with Valerie was unique and special. This was Eddies second Mom, as she likes to say. Val visited them, when Steve was stationed in Okinawa, seven times. I would like to tell you about one of those times. Eddie was confined during her second pregnancy and Val went over to help take care of their grandchild Rachel and help out. Well, as usual, the airlines lost all of her luggage. She had no clothes! Well, leave it to Val, she took some old drapes that Eddie took off the windows and wrapped around herself. She now had a self made toga which she wore and washed for a solid week. She was the hippest Grandma in Okinawa.
She adored her grandchildren Rachel 13 and Jacob 12. They were just here last week to visit their Grandma. Rachel got to play the piano for her. Val made sure to have it tuned for her.
Besides all of the things going on in their lives, they always made time for friends and good deeds. I had a tractor in those days to take care of the land I lived on. Actually I used it as an excuse to play in the dirt. Well, I got it stuck in the same spot at least once a week and I would call Val and Gene for help. Well, after about the fourth or fifth time I got stuck, Val called back and said, “Michael, I love you but I have to tell you that getting stuck in the same hole once a week is not extremely bright …. Maybe you can stay away from that hole if you really try.” Valerie always had a way of getting to heart of a problem and coming up with a solution.
Around this time Val's Mom got sick and without question or thought for themselves they picked up and moved to Florida, to be with her during her time of need. They did not really like Florida that much and I would like to think that it was because they missed all of us in LA period. After Val's Mom died they came back here to live. What a blessing for all of us.
When my Dad came here to live we had no way to bring his car here. Val and Gene met us in Florida and while I drove Dad, they drove his car all the way back to Louisiana. When Dad died five years later Val volunteered Gene to help close up his house, and Gene flew down with me, helped to pack it up and then drove the belongings back here. How lucky we all have been to have friends like Val and Gene.
A little known fact by the way, is that Val was a crossword puzzle expert. She did not do the easy ones or the hard ones, only the most difficult and the most advanced. She used to give the easy ones to Steven to do.
Val had so many friends, Gene has received many emails from the food club, the Sisterhood and the Lions Club. Their good wishes and condolences are not only touching but absolutely inspiring.
As we say good bye to a dear friend, a loving wife and mother, and cherished grandmother and special second mom to her daughter in law, I would like to quote from Gene and Val's favorite song:
And now the purple dusk of twilight time
Steals across the meadows of my heart,
High up in the sky the little stars climb
Always reminding me that we're apart.
You wandered down the lane and far way,
Leaving me a song that will not die
Love is now the stardust of yesterday
The music of years gone by.
with questions or comments about this web site.
Copyright © 2002 - 2017 William A. Ford, All Rights Reserved.