Jan. 22, 1915 - Aug. 31, 2012
Morris Beerman's quick thinking helped save his World War II destroyer escort from sinking during fierce North Atlantic storms. And his alert mind and fit body kept him active and engaged until just two weeks before he died Friday in Greenfield Health and Rehabilitation Center, Lancaster, after a brief illness. He was 97.
Mr. Beerman was born in Atlanta, the son of Russian immigrant parents. He had just moved to Buffalo with a degree in chemistry from Georgia Tech to work at Allied Chemical when he entered World War II.
He became a naval officer and at 28, he became the captain of a destroyer escort, the USS John M. Bermingham.
In October 1944, the ship was one of five 300-foot destroyers escorting about 40 tugboats and barges across the Atlantic when it was hit by a series of dangerous storms.
What should have been a two-week trip took 31 days, as the ships were buffeted by 90 mph winds and waves up to 100 feet high. When the seas calmed, six tugboats had sunk. Twenty-three sailors in the convoy died. But all 220 men aboard the Bermingham survived. "We were scattered over half the ocean, it seemed to me," Beerman told The Buffalo News in 2002 at a reunion of shipmates at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park.
Mr. Beerman returned to Buffalo to live a long and full life. He lived in Kenmore and Tonawanda, and worked until 1975 at Allied Chemical as a technical supervisor.
He was married for 57 years to Zenda Cole, who died in 1998. He lived to be the grandfather of six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Always active in his community, he was a longtime member of Temple Beth Zion and the Jewish Community Center in Amherst where for over 35 years he worked out three to four times a week. He also attended weekly discussion groups at the JCC.
A lifelong learner, he read voraciously and attended night school classes in history, economics and politics at the University at Buffalo. He loved to share his vegetable garden's bounty with friends and neighbors, enjoyed bowling with colleagues from Allied and golfed as well.
Mr. Beerman also volunteered at the Weinberg Campus into his 90s. Mr. Beerman is survived by a son, Terry; and two daughters, Linda Iversen and Kathy Beerman.
A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Tuesday in Temple Beth Zion, 805 Delaware Ave.