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Suzanne Raphael Berkson, 87, died peacefully on Dec. 12 in the company of Gershon, her beloved husband of nearly 68 years.
Suzie was an artist whose creative life force imbued all of her endeavors. From the publication of one of her early woodcuts in the UNICEF calendar to her sketches and illustrations of the world around her, she brought her vision to works in many media until the very end of her life. For more than 30 years, she instructed and inspired hundreds of students at Roycemore School, establishing the art department there as a significant attraction for the school as a whole. She extended that influence through the Young Evanston Artists Festival, where the Roycemore booth was always a standout attraction for the whole community.
Deeply committed to Jewish values and traditions, Suzie and her family celebrated holidays and rites of passage with joy and excitement. Many of her artworks reflected this centrality and she increased her knowledge of and passion for Judaism by becoming a bat mitzvah as an adult. The marriage of these two themes in her life found full expression in her illustration of a story by Isaac Bashevis Singer, “A Parakeet Named Dreidel,” published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, a project she took on and completed at the age of 82.
Her adored grandchildren were beneficiaries of her creativity, commitment to art education and sense of adventure. From handmade Halloween costumes, to personally illustrated birthday cards to escorted tours of the Art Institute, Suzie delighted in sharing and caring with all five of them.
Suzie was devoted to the many friends she made and kept throughout her life. From her childhood in Astoria, N.Y., to the far-flung places she lived before settling in Evanston in the early 1960s, to her colleagues from Roycemore, to the book, current event and exercise groups she joined, each person she befriended has benefited from her generous, warm connection and support.
Suzie was a graduate of the High School of Music and Art in New York City, a credential she shared with Gershon. She went on to earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts summa cum laude from Syracuse University, and in the course of her teaching career, she earned a Master of Arts in Teaching from Northwestern University.
In addition to Gershon, she is survived by her daughter Jennie Berkson (David Edelstein), son Adam Berkson (Linda Stremmel), five grandchildren: Samuel Edelstein (Erika), Daniel Edelstein (Jevhon Rivers), Isabel Berkson, Anna Berkson (Alexia) and Miriam Berkson, three great-grandchildren: Adalise, Benjamin, and Gabriel Edelstein, and her brother Arthur Raphael (Sharon).
In lieu of flowers, donations in Suzie’s memory can be made to The Astoria Center of Israel 27-35 Crescent Street, Astoria, N.Y. 11102; Roycemore School 1200 Davis St., Evanston, Ill. 60201, or Young Evanston Artists P.O. Box 6208 Evanston, Ill. 60204
A memorial service, celebrating Suzie’s life will be planned in the future.