Bernie Katz: A Man of Many Hats

July 10, 2018

Bernard Katz #434

Bernie Katz lives in a peaceful fourth-floor apartment at Sterling Court. His home can only be described as an academic’s haven, with books and newspapers decorating his couch, each brimming with stories told from varying points of view. Next to them, an array of different colored hats.

Sitting on the recliner in his living room, Bernie points to the beige hat atop his head, smiling. “This one is my favorite.” Hats make him feel more comfortable, he says, so he always wears one. And hats aren’t Bernie’s only notable feature.

At 91 years of age, Bernie knows exactly how those closest to him would describe him.

“Jovial.” He doesn’t miss a beat. And from our first few exchanges, it’s obvious the word is fitting.

A New York native, Bernie laughs when asked about how he liked his hometown. “Well, I didn’t have a choice,” he chuckles, with no trace of bitterness. As Bernie shares with me the harsh realities of his youth, it becomes both more apparent and impressive why jovial is the perfect adjective to describe Bernie’s personality. As he puts it, “Attitude is very important.”

With a childhood steeped in poverty, Bernie began working at the age of 8, doing various odd jobs in the streets of Manhattan–from shining shoes to selling magazines. But despite his early introduction to the workforce, Bernie chose not to retire until he was 80 years of age, just a little over a decade ago.

“Curious”—Bernie’s second choice of adjective. “I’m a big reader,” he explains. “I quit high school, but I never stopped learning.”

At 18, Bernie joined the United States Army Medical Corps, an achievement that he rightfully remembers with pride. He learned a lot as an army man and continued learning long after his military career. When he left the army, Sergeant Bernie Katz entered the world of sales—insurance and securities, but he never became boxed in.

Bernie journeyed as a student of the world, amassing about a million miles in travel, attending workshops and reading books at every opportunity—his preferred subject-matter ranging from biographies to selling, a true testament to his determination to learn. And from his stories, it becomes clear that Bernie relished his visits to the big, bustling cities, citing Nashville, Los Angeles, and Seattle as some of his favorites.

As well as traveling and being a voracious reader, Bernie loves to play golf. He plays twice a week with friends outside of Sterling Court. True to his nature, Bernie’s joviality never wanes when talking about his sport, jokingly revealing that “My putting sucks!”

Talking about his life at Sterling Court, Bernie explains that while he doesn’t attend many of the community’s social events, he still loves being a resident. He finds great comfort in the tight-knit community and admires the kindness of the staff and his fellow residents.

“I walk down the hall, and people always say, ‘Hello, Bernie!’” It’s an easy image to conjure—Bernie, walking down the halls of Sterling Court, donning one of his many, different colored hats.

 

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