Another of the greatest generation is gone. Long-time Brownwood resident Bernice Orloff passed away quietly March 7, 2013, with her husband, Bernard, holding her hand and in the presence of family members. She was 94.
In a real sense, she chose Brownwood. Born in Des Moines, Iowa on July 22, 1918, she and Bernard met during the war in Hollywood where she worked in the movie studios, and after the birth of their son, they bought a car (when cars were still scarce) and drove through Texas and the southwest looking for a warm, dry climate and a business to buy and run together. They found both in Brownwood, where together they ran a retail jewelry store for almost 40 years. Older Brownwood couples will remember buying wedding rings there, and many brides-to-be had their selections at Orloff Jewelers. Bernice was a consummate businesswoman. Stanley Marcus was so impressed, he tried to hire her to help him run the new Neiman Marcus store in Dallas. It would have meant much more money, but it also would have meant leaving Brownwood and the store they ran together — and she said no. Her business acumen extended to social organizations, including being President of the Brownwood Country Club Women’s Organization.
For 70 years, she and Bernard were rarely separated. They worked together and played tennis and golf together. When those endeavors became too difficult, they could be seen walking together in Coggin Park. The one exception to their combined activities was her bridge playing with so many friends over the years. She loved the twice weekly matches (that eventually became bi-weekly) and the partners with whom she played. But all those she played with will confirm her playful beautiful blue eyes took on a new look at the bridge table — she was competitive. She eventually became a Silver Life Master at duplicate bridge.
She delighted in her grandchildren. When Denise and Julie were young, Gary and Marsha brought them to Brownwood for extended summer visits, and Grandma took each girl separately to a “special” park where just the two of them played together. There also were the mandatory family trips to DisneyWorld and Hawaii. The “kids” lived in Houston, and she and Grandpa traveled there for holidays and family events, and when they no longer could manage the trip, all family members traveled to Brownwood from Washington, D.C. and Atlanta, Ga. for Thanksgiving.
Bernice was an educated woman, having attended Iowa State majoring in chemical engineering in an era when women trying to enter that profession were discriminated against. She was an avid reader, from the classics to modern mysteries. In Brownwood, she organized a group that read great books weekly and had thoughtful discussions on the meaning, symbolism and lessons the books offered. She also organized a Sunday school class when her son was young for the children of the small Jewish community in Brownwood.
She was preceded in death by her parents, Isabella and Samuel Silverman of Des Moines, Iowa. She is survived by her husband Bernard, her son, Gary and his wife, Marsha of Houston, two daughters, Denise and husband Josh Starr of Washington D.C. and Julie Orloff of Atlanta, Ga. The family extends gratitude to the caregivers, including Mary Beth, Christy, Dee, Linda, Linda, Beth, Mandi, Lisa, Teresa, Charlene and Nancy, each of whom provided much-needed support over the last years.
A memorial service will be announced at a later date. Arrangements under the direction of Davis-Morris Funeral Home.