Albert Berkowitz, 97, passed away on Wednesday, March 5, 2008, at his home, in the village of Granville. He was born on June 25, 1910, in Glens Falls. Both of his parents, Hyman Berkowitz and Anna Berkowitz, immigrated to the United States from Russia in their early teens.
Senator Berkowitz, known to everyone who knows him as Berky, moved with his parents to Granville in 1913, where he has resided for 95 years. Berky graduated from Granville High School in June 1927. He received a football scholarship to Alfred University and because of his football ability he transferred to the University of Michigan where he was a member of the Wolverine football team, which was undefeated for two years. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Michigan with scholastic honors in 1931. He received a Doctor of Laws Degree from the Albany Law School in 1933, where he was second in his class – all before his 23rd birthday. Upon graduation he was selected to be a member of the Justinian Honorary Scholastic Society and received scholastic awards, including the Trustees Award for the highest marks in his senior year. He passed the bar examination that year and opened his law practice in the village of Granville that same year, where he practiced law for more then 70 years. His son, Phil, joined him in his law practice until he was elected Washington County Judge. His loyal and devoted secretary, Dorothy McCullen, began work for him when she was a senior in high school and continued to work for 60 years right up to the present time and she still continues to go to his law office.
Berky married the former Rena Solomon of Elmira in November of 1934, and recently celebrated their 73rd wedding anniversary. He in addition to being survived by Rena is survived by his five children: Philip A. Berke and his wife, Deborah, of Granville, Joan W. Rhodes and her husband, Alan, of Glens Falls, Richard K. Berke and his wife, Elizabeth, of Glens Falls, Nancy L. Ostrov of Clifton Park and Susan K. Bierman and her husband, Joseph, of Delmar. He is also survived by his grandchildren: Deborah Williams, Amy Brady and her husband, Douglas, and their sons, Nicholas and Kyle, Michelle Moshier and her husband, Mark and their children: Abbey, Paige and Daniel, Michael Rhodes and his wife, Erica, and their sons, Ian and Nolan, Jason Berke and his wife, Kelley, and their son, Tyler, Jennifer Virtanen and her husband, Ari, and their daughter, Alana, Jamie Ostrov and his wife, Robin, Douglas Ostrov, Nikole Gilete and her husband, Anthony, Stephanie Ostrov, Brad Bierman and Jed Bierman.
Berky was police justice and justice of the peace in Granville, an attorney for the Granville schools for more than 50 years, attorney for the New York State Tax Commission, Washington County District Attorney, New York State Senator for Rensselaer and Washington counties for eight years, and was named Senator of the Year by the New York State Conservation Council, member and acting chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission, chairman of the New York State Correction Commission and chairman of the New York State Medical Review Board.
Berky is past president of the Granville Rotary Club and was very proud that he has had a perfect attendance record since he joined the Club in 1933. He has been chairman of the local chapter of the Salvation Army for over 50 years, and chairman of the Granville Youth Commission (the first youth commission in New York state) for more than 50 years, which among other things provided each year a program of swimming lessons to the youth of Granville. He was a member of the Mohican Council of the Boy Scouts of America. He was president of the Washington County Bar Association, president of the Granville Chamber of Commerce, member of the Granville Hook and Ladder Fire Company, president of the East Poultney Cemetery Association, a 50-year member and past Patron of the Eastern Star and the Granville Masonic Lodge No. 55 Free & Accepted Masons, past director of the local chapter of the American Red Cross and past director of the Granville Hospital. He was selected and named to the Glens Falls Area Tennis Hall of Fame. He was local chairman of numerous financial appeals including March of Dimes, Muscular Dystrophy, the Granville Hospital and Boy Scouts. He was chairman for many years of the Scholarship Committee of the Granville Rotary Club, which provides annual $1000 awards to Granville High School graduates. He was made an honorary member of the Italian American Society of Granville and he often produced his membership card. He has been a member of Temple Beth El of Glens Falls.
The Granville Community, on Sept. 16, 1990, organized an "Albert Berkowitz Recognition Day" that was held at the Knights of Columbus "thanking him for eight decades of hard work and dedication in helping shape Granville to what it is today." The committee indicated at that time that "Today, a representative body from the community – friends, neighbors and business associates – has gathered to express a sincere gratitude and appreciation for the many years of faithful service to our youth, ourselves and our home. Thank you, Albert Berkowitz, for making Granville a better place." At that time the community "As a manifestation of our appreciation of the extraordinary service which Albert Berkowitz has rendered to the community of Granville, a scholarship in his name will be given annually to a graduating student of Granville Central School continuing his or her education." This has provided at this time an annual $1000 scholarship award to a student continuing his or her education. Berky and his sister, Ada Lurie, donated $125,000 to establish in honor of their parents the Hyman and Anna Berkowitz Memorial Scholarship Award, which provides seven or eight $1000 awards to local Granville high school graduates to further their education. Berky has always stressed to his family and others the importance of education and he saw to it that all of his children not only obtained a college education but went on to graduate school as well. He has helped many others to further their education after graduating from high school. The Village Board also recognized and honored Berky for all of his service and contributions to the community by naming his street, Berkowitz Drive, after him.
The Granville Sentinel, in an editorial on May 17, 2006, stated "Albert Berkowitz – ‘Berky’ to his friends — is a truly remarkable man who has had a long and distinguished career in law and politics." The Sentinel further goes on to state "The public picture of Berky doesn’t begin to tell the whole story. He has been a devoted husband to Rena and father to five children, and a stalwart member of the Granville community for many decades, volunteering his time – and money – to make his hometown a better place. We salute you, Senator, and wish you well."
In 2006, Washington County District Attorney Kevin Kortwright, on behalf of the Washington County Bar Association at the annual Law Day Ceremonies, presented Berky a certificate stating "In recognition of your outstanding devotion and service to the cause of justice and your years of service and commitment to the people of Washington County and the State of New York."
Berky, because of his parents being able to come to America, always felt that he should give back to his community and continuously stressed to his children over the years the importance of serving your community, which they have all done. We are very proud of our father for all the achievements that he has accomplished over his long life and how much and often that he has served his community. As The Sentinel has stated, "His list of accomplishments speaks for itself." He would be very reluctant to set forth his many achievements and long community service being a modest man. I am very pleased that I had the opportunity to do so.
Our father was a fighter all of his life in everything he did. No one on this earth wa
s motivated to succeed and serve his community more than he was. His final fight lasted for some time. It was a gallant fight with many ups and downs, but after almost 98 years, he died of old age, with his heart finally giving out. He was a remarkable man. He will be greatly missed by his family and everyone who knew him.
A private funeral service for the family was held on Monday, March 10, at the Regan & Denny Funeral Home, at 53 Quaker Road in Queensbury. Burial followed at the Temple Beth-El Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, donations in our father’s memory may be made to the Albert Berkowitz Scholarship Fund by check payable to this Fund and sent to the Glens Falls Foundation at 16 Maple Street, Glens Falls, New York 12801, or to the Granville Rescue Squad, 56 East Potter Avenue, Granville, New York 12832.