2: This booklet is dedicated to Bernie and Gloria's children, Steven, Larry and Janet, who provided their loving comfort and care to Bernie in his final days.
3: This is the last photo of Bernie and me. It was taken last summer during a visit he and Steven made to our home at Valeria in Cortlandt Manor, New York.
4: This booklet of photos is dedicated to my dear friend, Bernie Debow, who over the course of forty plus years played many roles in my life: as employer, mentor, confidant, financial adviser and traveling companion. His passing leaves a void I doubt no one individual will or can replace. These photos were taken over the course of eighteen years, during my visits to Gloria and Bernie at their homes in Switzerland, first in Klosters and later in Pany where they built a beautiful home overlooking a magnificent alpine valley. My wife Elaine accompanied me on many of the later visits. The arc of Bernie's life story is a tribute to his character, vision, intelligence and determination. He, his brother and sister were raised in the Bronx by their mother, who toiled during the day as a ladies' garment worker. From what Bernie told me their father was mostly absent during their formative years. When I first met him he was in his early forties and had already become a successful entrepreneur. What is inspiring is the obstacles he overcame to reach that point in his life. Bernie had little formal higher education. What he did have was an impressive and eclectic circle of friends in many disciplines. Among them were an art restorer at the Guggenheim Museum, teachers, social workers, etc, who were the source of his intellectual curiosity. A couple, who I had the privilege of knowing, Sam and Mildred Offsay, instilled in him the importance of social justice, as well as training Bernie in the practical skills required to launch his career in the point of purchase display industry. The more I got to know him, the more impressed I became with with the range and depth of his knowledge and intellect. Whatever he undertook, from planting specimen trees at the family home in New Jersey to the intricacies of successful investing, Bernie made sure he was on top of things. His acumen in the market is legendary...and very profitable. Even his brokers wanted to know more about his investment strategies. A good hint of the extent of his portfolio was the fact he was always permitted to call the stateside brokers collect from Switzerland. Though Gloria and he lived a wonderful life when they decided to move permanently to Switzerland, it didn't last long. The curse of Alzheimer's began to afflict Gloria a few years after they moved to their new home in Pany. It was unrelenting and during my visits I witnessed how rapidly it began to take its toll. Bernie remained steadfast in his devotion to his beloved wife and only made the decision to move her to the nursing home, Talbach, when it became impossible to care for her at home, even with assistance. After Gloria was moved to Talbach, Bernie made the drive almost daily to be with her. He usually arrived around noon so that he could feed her lunch. When possible and weather permitted, he'd then take her in a wheelchair for a walk in clean mountain air. Whenever Elaine and I accompanied Bernie to Klosters, what we found so inspiring was not only the time he spent with Gloria, but the attention he paid to the other residents and staff. There was always an enthusiastic greeting to all, in German mind you, always a humorous comment or gesture to lighten the mood. For these rather stiff-necked formal Swiss, the entry of this "gentle jester" brought smiles to all he encountered. It never ceased to amaze us.
5: I must remind the reader Bernie had no formal training in German when Gloria and he decided to live in Switzerland. The only tie to German was that his mother spoke Yiddish. By dint of his intelligence and determination he taught himself to converse and read in it. During our excursions he was our ever present translator. Over the last couple of years we were finally able to convince him that it was OK to leave for a few days of rest and recreation. He needed to be coaxed, but we succeeded. Our routine was to come and spend three or four days with him at his home. During which time we would buy food and Elaine would prepare home cooked dinners. Her brisket sent him into culinary ecstasy and she made sure there was always enough to freeze for subsequent meals. After our stay in Pany we'd embark on a brief journey. Our first trip was to Munich by car. The second we flew to Berlin. This year we planned to meet in Oxford, England in early January. All reservations were made when Bernie called called with the devastating news of his diagnosis, just a mere month ago. Elaine and I decided we will carry on, knowing he would not want us to cancel. Rest assured we will be toasting him with martinis with a twist. Pany is a small hamlet of perhaps 700 residents, perched on a mountainside. During all our visits, whenever we took a leisurely walk, Bernie always stopped to greet his fellow townspeople. When we drove he would invariably stop to wave or lower the car window to say something amusing to his neighbors. I used to joke that when he became a citizen, he should consider running for "burgermeister." This brings me to the last of Bernie's accomplishments. He wanted to become a dual citizen of the States and Switzerland. This is no small feat. The Swiss are very particular about who becomes a citizen of their small country. The process is lengthy and aside from the vetting of an applicant's financial worthiness, one must also have the support of the local citizens. The Jewish American boy from the Bronx, who moved into the tiny hamlet of Pany, must now call upon his fellow townspeople to stand up for him during the application process. Needless to say the outcome was never in doubt. With overwhelming support, his citizenship was granted last spring. So there is the arc of a remarkable life, the triumph over odds most would never attempt. He accomplished so much, yet remained a modest, sometimes self-deprecating soul right to the end. Weekends will never be the same for me. For years, we e-mailed each other every Sunday, he on schedule like a Swiss train. The topic varied. It could be politics, the economy, a recommendation about a recently read book or column, a question about one's health or family. We covered it all. I half jokingly suggested we publish his incisive take on politicians, the financial meltdown or references to literature or music. Bernie was blessed to have Steve, Larry and Janet by his side during his final days. They provided their loving care, easing his final journey. He died at home, in his own bed, in his peaceful hamlet. The boy from the Bronx lived a full life, one that will always impress me to no end and I suspect many others as well. I will miss him terribly. Allen Abramson November 14, 2010
6: Whenever we visited, it was a given, weather permitting of course, that we'd go on a hike. These photos were taken when Bernie and Gloria were still living in Klosters. Without much effort on their part, even though we pleaded with them to take a "mild" route, invariably we would be winded and desperate for a shady spot where we could regain our breath. When Bernie was on his own or when one of the kids visited, more strenuous hikes were taken. No matter where one looked the scenery was breathtaking.
7: As we were walking along this path we came upon a pile of stacked logs. These were trees that were felled during an avalanche the previous winter. If you look closely on the log Bernie is resting against you will see it's marked "Bernhard." We all had a good laugh at the coincidence and I asked Bernie to stand next to his "personalized" toothpick.
8: When I worked for Bernie, there were some who thought he was one tough cookie. I never saw that side of him. I can assure anyone who thought of him in that light to look at these two photos. This was what occurred every time we took a walk. He greeted everyone, no matter the species.
9: These two photos were taken years apart. The one of me was in 1992. The one of Bernie was in 2000. How could one pass up an opportunity not to document these. I believe we flipped a coin as to who would stand in front of the one the left. As for the other, I kept wondering what the penalty would be for ignoring this reserved parking space. | Lost in Translation
10: These two photos span perhaps five or six years. The one above was taken in Bernie and Gloria's living room in Klosters. The other is at a restaurant in Kublis, the town situated in the valley below Pany. All these local eateries knew them by sight and always gave Bernie and Gloria a hearty welcome. Gloria relied on Bernie to translate for her. From what I could gather cooking at home had become an activity best not attempted.
11: We usually ate at home in the evening. Elaine is a great cook and Bernie rarely had a home cooked meal, especially after Gloria moved to Talbach. | By the way, Bernie wasn't idle during meal prep. He's in the process of mixing martinis for us and instructing me, a novice, in the fine art of making the perfect one. I think it's quite obvious we had tested a few already. | Time for dinner.
12: Bernie and Gloria's Home in Pany
13: Seasonal Views from the Living Room
14: I offered to clear the driveway in preparation for our drive to Munich in the morning, but Bernie was adamant he would handle it himself...as usual. | After we visited Gloria, we took a long walk to a lovely inn about a mile from the center of town. You'll notice Bernie had no earmuffs or gloves. I had both for our trek. Hot potato soup awaited.
15: On our way to Munich we stopped at Lake Constanz for a hearty lunch. Even Elaine joined us with a stein of local beer. | Steve, I think this was the first time your dad wore the hat you gave him. This was taken in the Imperial Palace in Munich. I told Bernie, he could have been mistaken for a Lubavicher.
16: This was our last trip, in January of 2010. Berlin is an exciting city, vibrant and full of life. It was a first visit for all three of us. The weather was quite cold and it appears clearing sidewalks is not a top priority. It didn't deter us one bit. One late afternoon we met Elaine's daughter-in-law's brother Seth Josel, an avant garde musician who lives in Berlin, at the cafe on top of the Reichstag. Afterwards, as the sun was settting, we walked the entire distance back to our hotel. We were so proud of ourselves.
17: These photos were taken at the Pergamon Museum, a short walk from our hotel located in former East Berlin . The photo above personifies Bernie's his intense inquisitiveness. He absorbed it all, not wanting to miss any detail.
19: Bernie's 80th Birthday Dinner August, 2009 in New York, hosted by Steve at a restaurant in Tribeca.
20: One other thing about Bernie, he had a terrific sense of humor and one hell of a sweet tooth. Here he is in the largest department store in Europe, Ka De We in Berlin. This immense chocolate bell kept him transfixed.
21: Bernie and Gloria Debow, Chur, Switzerland 2005