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Bernard and Selma Brown: Our Family Legacy

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<strong>Bernard</strong> & <strong>Selma</strong> <strong>Brown</strong><br />

<strong>Our</strong> <strong>Family</strong> <strong>Legacy</strong><br />

As told by <strong>Bernard</strong> & <strong>Selma</strong> <strong>Brown</strong>


<strong>Bernard</strong> & <strong>Selma</strong> <strong>Brown</strong><br />

<strong>Our</strong> <strong>Family</strong> <strong>Legacy</strong><br />

As told by <strong>Bernard</strong> & <strong>Selma</strong> <strong>Brown</strong>


Produced by <strong>Family</strong> Heirloom Arts<br />

www.<strong>Family</strong>HeirloomArts.com<br />

Portl<strong>and</strong>, Oregon<br />

Lisa Kagan: Director, Oral Historian, Writer, Photography Editor, Book Designer<br />

Emily García: Book Designer, Production Manager<br />

Anya Hankin: Text Editor<br />

Elizabeth Katz: Researcher<br />

Connie Lenzen: Genealogist<br />

Joseph Webb: Digital Photography Artist<br />

Joan E. Hamilton: Transcriptionist<br />

Julie Z<strong>and</strong>er: Copy Editor<br />

Mollie Firestone: Proofreader<br />

Copyright © 2014<br />

<strong>Bernard</strong> & <strong>Selma</strong> <strong>Brown</strong><br />

All rights reserved. Reproduction of the whole or any part of the contents without permission is prohibited.<br />

Printed by Stevens Printing, Portl<strong>and</strong>, Oregon.<br />

Book binding by Grossenbacher Bros., Inc.<br />

Front Cover Caption:<br />

<strong>Bernard</strong> <strong>and</strong> <strong>Selma</strong> <strong>Brown</strong> on their wedding day, February 9, 1946<br />

Cover design by Emily García


Harry <strong>and</strong> Rose <strong>Brown</strong><br />

Tillie <strong>and</strong> Manuel Nepom<br />

Content for this book is based on oral history interviews of <strong>Bernard</strong> <strong>and</strong> <strong>Selma</strong><br />

<strong>Brown</strong>; their three children Shelley, Jordan <strong>and</strong> Eden <strong>Brown</strong>; <strong>and</strong> their daughter-in-law,<br />

Stacey <strong>Brown</strong>. Content for Chapter 11, “Celebrating <strong>Bernard</strong> <strong>and</strong><br />

<strong>Selma</strong>,” is based on additional interviews of their friends <strong>and</strong> family, including<br />

Frieda Cohen, Charlotte Amiton, Jerry Stern, Beverly Galen, Lynn Coleman,<br />

<strong>and</strong> Les <strong>and</strong> Lila Kerr. Interviews were conducted by Lisa Kagan <strong>and</strong> Eden Rose<br />

<strong>Brown</strong> in 2011–2014. Extensive research conducted by Elizabeth Katz provided<br />

the background information for the family history included in Part I, “Origins.”


This book is dedicated to my gr<strong>and</strong>parents in honor of their<br />

courage, determination <strong>and</strong> sacrifice, <strong>and</strong> to my parents for<br />

their unwavering love, wisdom <strong>and</strong> support. May their<br />

compelling stories <strong>and</strong> their gifts so selflessly given serve to<br />

inspire <strong>and</strong> encourage the generations to come.


Contents<br />

Part I<br />

Origins<br />

Introduction<br />

by Eden Rose <strong>Brown</strong><br />

vii<br />

Chapter 1<br />

<strong>Bernard</strong>’s Story<br />

4<br />

Chapter 2<br />

<strong>Selma</strong>’s Story<br />

44<br />

Part II<br />

<strong>Our</strong> Life<br />

Together<br />

Chapter 3<br />

Letters During<br />

the War Years<br />

72<br />

Chapter 4<br />

Building a Strong<br />

Foundation<br />

92<br />

Chapter 5<br />

A Lifetime of Service<br />

104<br />

· vi ·


Chapter 6<br />

Three Generations<br />

Together<br />

122<br />

Chapter 7<br />

Spirit of Adventure<br />

142<br />

Chapter 8<br />

<strong>Our</strong> Adult Children<br />

168<br />

Chapter 9<br />

Investing in the<br />

Next Generation<br />

210<br />

Part III<br />

Celebrating<br />

Sixty-five Years<br />

of Marriage<br />

Chapter 10<br />

A Lifetime of Love<br />

220<br />

Chapter 11<br />

Celebrating<br />

<strong>Bernard</strong> & <strong>Selma</strong><br />

228<br />

Appendix<br />

Notes, Ancestral Charts,<br />

& Acknowledgments<br />

264<br />

· vii ·


Introduction<br />

by Eden Rose <strong>Brown</strong><br />

Intro copy will go here. Mincipid quaspera<br />

sinctae ssitas assundit es ut et quatem ut vellaudant<br />

hilit quam dolorest que quam quia dolo dolor<br />

maximus eaquia a diorat volupta tusdam, que<br />

molent, consectatur abore simill<strong>and</strong>am, sinull<strong>and</strong>unt<br />

voluptiae naturibusae volorum que rest, tore,<br />

nonet mos a cus dolenimaion reperib eaquatem<br />

experepudita sinus erovid qui aliquam inventur<br />

accum, nonsequid experumquid evenis et quam<br />

fugiatem ullaut voloren ditatiat prori dunt, eum et<br />

acimodi cipsum ea doluptat hicimin pedis as mos<br />

con pratemq uiatur? Pore voluptaecus ut veliquam<br />

repe et odips<strong>and</strong>a nonecae ptatus que nectemporepe<br />

volore inctionsed mos quid ut a nosaper<br />

ferrores atqui aut laborro optisciaerum a nulpa<br />

dolut liquisciis velestio. Et optatem re, is sit qui<br />

dolent voloreperrum vendercil il imolore sectium<br />

fugia et res de non nem dolut lanimillest, non et<br />

iur? Bea ni quo quunto istio. Lupti doloribea nes<br />

esto te volupta tibus.<br />

Ferum hitat eum volum et et ipsaect emporrum<br />

eliquo ium labores equamusam quuntum que<br />

aceri sitaspe rrores quunt ad quam a se quunt la qui<br />

consequam essum volorestia nonesti deliber citatius<br />

evenis ant ab in con reperum endus, tem illitate<br />

sendam res et, autem es que incipsae cullaborro.<br />

Ilia voluptur, ut es eum fugit dolorep ratur, sum<br />

quaspe pra ipsapis num laccum cora dignis id qui<br />

ulparit amenti omnit que pro voluptaquia corit<br />

eum re verum idebist officit et qui undam qui quae<br />

nihiciditam earcimus.<br />

At maximin ctisti ne voloreroria ne nis aut<br />

omnis que nonsed qui cullita sus nonse dolum et<br />

fugia aut vollestem que nimus eturecte l<strong>and</strong>itatur?<br />

Epellup taturio. Ficturestis enima vent mi, ut<br />

pero ipsam sanim que omnim voles dust endisci<br />

dem quos et plab in conse consed ut ipid quis incti<br />

odit raecus sum aliqui dolenecto berae ma volutem<br />

vel imagnia ndaeprorum litaqui dit volut aut utas<br />

eicit as essinciur repud<strong>and</strong>i dolor re net vollab<br />

invento blaborro etus am quiam nus.<br />

Porerrum fugitas et estiistius dis ipsam, quis<br />

endelit exeratem nectet odi ab id quossinus es sanis<br />

de ventium essimpo rerspe prate plit qui blaudip<br />

saeprestiae ressitis solupiendit fugia qui vendiatibusOptat<br />

restemquam inctur re sint, ne natur,<br />

volendiDolora pa qui to conecus sitius sam ipsunt<br />

ea sequist, ab inveribero quam, vellore sequid.<br />

Iquam eossimus et quataqui aut latemquatiis molor<br />

simaioribea soluptatur aut licitas que voluptis nihit<br />

que veni venis asperit, vel et latiberatur sum saepelit,<br />

sequis illoreptur, el ide sant et et eatas.<br />

· ix ·


<strong>Bernard</strong> & <strong>Selma</strong> <strong>Brown</strong><br />

<strong>Our</strong> <strong>Family</strong> <strong>Legacy</strong>


Part I<br />

Origins


Underst<strong>and</strong>ing what our ancestors have gone through<br />

encourages us not to take our own freedom for granted.<br />

Knowledge of who <strong>and</strong> what came before has given<br />

me a richer context for making sense of my own life.<br />

I am deeply inspired by the strength <strong>and</strong> courage<br />

of our family, <strong>and</strong> I admire the dedication to building<br />

a better life, even against the odds.<br />

–<strong>Bernard</strong> <strong>Brown</strong><br />

I hope that through reading this book our gr<strong>and</strong>children<br />

will be able to connect with the origins of our family<br />

history, <strong>and</strong> that they will feel proud of where they<br />

have come from. I hope these stories give them the<br />

courage they need to overcome challenges in their own<br />

lives as they arise, just as the generations before them<br />

sought to do.<br />

–<strong>Selma</strong> <strong>Brown</strong>


<strong>Bernard</strong>’s Story<br />

As told by <strong>Bernard</strong> <strong>Brown</strong><br />

When I was a child, I knew very little about<br />

my ancestors, yet their stories have always<br />

been a part of me, helping to shape the person I<br />

have become. As I have grown <strong>and</strong> learned more<br />

about their experiences before they came to this<br />

country, I have come to realize just how valuable<br />

their stories are. Underst<strong>and</strong>ing what our ancestors<br />

have gone through encourages us not to take our<br />

own freedom for granted. Knowledge of who <strong>and</strong><br />

what came before has given me a richer context for<br />

making sense of my own life.<br />

I am deeply inspired by the strength <strong>and</strong> courage<br />

of our family, <strong>and</strong> I admire the dedication to<br />

building a better life, even against the odds.<br />

It is very special for me to be able to share<br />

these stories with our children <strong>and</strong> gr<strong>and</strong>children,<br />

weaving together tales of the generations that came<br />

before us with reflections on our own life experiences.<br />

It is my hope that this book will provide our<br />

children <strong>and</strong> gr<strong>and</strong>children with a deeper underst<strong>and</strong>ing<br />

of where they have come from as they<br />

Facing page: A collection of photos of the <strong>Brown</strong> family <strong>and</strong><br />

friends over the years I<br />

continue to grow <strong>and</strong> develop in the years to come.<br />

It has only been in the last twenty years that<br />

<strong>Selma</strong> <strong>and</strong> I began to truly discover our family history.<br />

The process of uncovering stories <strong>and</strong> pictures<br />

while we piece together our legacy has been profoundly<br />

rewarding, but not without its challenges.<br />

My gr<strong>and</strong>parents were not very eager to share<br />

recollections of their life in Russia. They avoided<br />

talking about their experiences, because many of<br />

their memories of those years were unpleasant <strong>and</strong><br />

laden with hardship. They did not want to call to<br />

mind the pain they had endured, or burden the<br />

younger generations with stories of suffering.<br />

My gr<strong>and</strong>parents’ lives were quite difficult<br />

before they came to America. Every day was a<br />

struggle for them, but still they persevered. I<br />

appreciate what they endured in order to travel to<br />

America, <strong>and</strong> I know they fought to survive for the<br />

future of our family.<br />

My parents also shared very little about their<br />

childhood. When I was growing up, I never<br />

thought to ask them questions about their early<br />

experiences or inquire about their pasts. As a child<br />

I was more focused on what was going on in the<br />

· 5 ·


Harry <strong>and</strong> Rose <strong>Brown</strong><br />

moment. Therefore, my parents rarely volunteered<br />

much personal information, as it was hard for them<br />

to explain how different their lives were before they<br />

moved to America. Their primary focus was on<br />

doing their best to develop their lives here. They<br />

did not want to dwell on the past; they wanted to<br />

build toward the future. They were able to establish<br />

more comfortable, prosperous, <strong>and</strong> stable lives for<br />

themselves <strong>and</strong> our family, <strong>and</strong> that was what was<br />

most important to them.<br />

As a young adult, I recognized what my parents<br />

had been able to accomplish. I realized that if I put<br />

my mind to it, I could achieve the goals I set for<br />

myself, just like they had done before me. I built<br />

upon their successes to create the best life I could<br />

for our family.<br />

Due to the hard work our parents, <strong>and</strong> their<br />

parents before them, <strong>Selma</strong> <strong>and</strong> I had <strong>and</strong> continue<br />

to have all of the freedoms to live as we choose.<br />

<strong>Our</strong> children <strong>and</strong> gr<strong>and</strong>children are afforded<br />

exp<strong>and</strong>ed opportunities to pursue their passions<br />

<strong>and</strong> goals. None of this would have been possible if<br />

our parents had not come to this country, <strong>and</strong> I am<br />

thankful for all of their efforts.<br />

Each generation can learn from the examples of<br />

the generation that came before them. We all have<br />

our unique set of challenges <strong>and</strong> opportunities. We<br />

have to do the best we can with what we have. I<br />

cannot express in words the depth of the appreciation<br />

that I have for my ancestors <strong>and</strong> what they<br />

went through for us. There is no end to the gratitude<br />

I have for them.<br />

I think the family stories in this book will help guide the younger generation to<br />

grow into their best possible selves. The origin stories highlighting the ancestral<br />

history blew me away. You begin to see how different patterns <strong>and</strong> tendencies<br />

emerged in our family, dating back as far as our ancestors in Russia, <strong>and</strong> how<br />

they have been passed on throughout the generations. It begins to give you a different<br />

perspective on your own life <strong>and</strong> how being connected to your roots can<br />

help direct you on your own life path.<br />

– Jordan <strong>Brown</strong><br />

· 6 ·


The Volhynia Region<br />

Both my paternal <strong>and</strong> maternal great-gr<strong>and</strong>parents<br />

came from the Volhynia province. Although<br />

the Volhynia province lies in what is now the<br />

northwest area of the Ukraine, it was previously<br />

ruled by Lithuania, Pol<strong>and</strong>, the Russian Empire,<br />

<strong>and</strong> the Soviet Union. The Jews in this area<br />

thought of themselves as Russian, or sometimes<br />

Polish, but not Ukrainian. My great-gr<strong>and</strong>parents<br />

<strong>and</strong> their families primarily spoke Yiddish. They<br />

hardly knew any Russian, since Jews were not<br />

permitted to attend Russian schools. In those days,<br />

Jewish boys attended yeshivas, intensive study<br />

schools, where they studied Hebrew <strong>and</strong> traditional<br />

texts. It was not customary for Jewish girls to<br />

attend yeshivas at that time.<br />

The Volhynia region is an area made up of coal<br />

mines, forests, lakes, marshes, <strong>and</strong> rich agricultural<br />

l<strong>and</strong>s. It includes the headwaters of the Pripyat <strong>and</strong><br />

Western Bug rivers. Jews have lived in Volhynia<br />

since the twelfth century <strong>and</strong> worked primarily<br />

in commerce <strong>and</strong> crafts. In the early seventeenth<br />

century, nobles began to lease their estates to Jews,<br />

enabling them to manage the properties <strong>and</strong> bring<br />

in revenue from the estates. This opened additional<br />

avenues for members of the Jewish community to<br />

earn decent livelihoods. The growing power <strong>and</strong><br />

success of the Jews embittered the peasants, townspeople,<br />

<strong>and</strong> lower aristocracy, who turned on them<br />

in the Chmielnicki massacres of 1648.<br />

Although the Jewish population rebounded<br />

quickly, persecutions <strong>and</strong> misfortune, including<br />

life-threatening diseases, continued into the eighteenth<br />

century. In the mid-nineteenth century,<br />

many of the community’s wealthy Jews leased the<br />

alcoholic beverage excise from the government, <strong>and</strong><br />

the number of Jewish innkeepers grew. Following<br />

the mid-nineteenth century, Jews became<br />

increasingly involved in industries such as wood<br />

processing, animal products, <strong>and</strong> agricultural crops.<br />

The Jews of Volhynia were not harmed directly<br />

by pogroms during the 1880s <strong>and</strong> throughout<br />

1905–1906, but many disasters befell them during<br />

World War I <strong>and</strong> the Russian civil war. During<br />

World War II, they suffered not only at the h<strong>and</strong>s<br />

of the Germans, but also of the Ukrainians. Tens<br />

of thous<strong>and</strong>s perished.<br />

As conditions worsened for Jews in this region,<br />

my family <strong>and</strong> others in their community had<br />

to wrestle with a difficult decision; should they<br />

continue to struggle in order to remain in their<br />

country of origin, or should they risk everything in<br />

search of a better life elsewhere?<br />

The Bronstein <strong>Family</strong><br />

Aaron <strong>and</strong> Esther Bronstein were my paternal<br />

great-gr<strong>and</strong>parents. Their son, Harry Abraham<br />

<strong>Brown</strong>e, was my paternal gr<strong>and</strong>father. Harry<br />

was born on February 3, 1862, in Dombrowitz, 1<br />

Ukraine, in the Volhynia region. Harry was the<br />

oldest of six children, <strong>and</strong> his parents’ only son.<br />

His sisters were Sura, Bayleh, Faygle, Rahsel, <strong>and</strong><br />

Mariam. Years later, when he emigrated to the<br />

United States, my gr<strong>and</strong>father’s last name was<br />

changed from the original “Bronstein” to the anglicized<br />

“<strong>Brown</strong>e.”<br />

The Fish <strong>Family</strong><br />

My maternal great-gr<strong>and</strong>parents were Beryl<br />

<strong>and</strong> Bessie Fish who also lived in the Volhynia<br />

region. Beryl was born around 1838 in Horodets, 2<br />

Ukraine. Bessie was born a few years later, around<br />

1840, in the same town. Their last name, “Fish,”<br />

is an anglicized version of the German <strong>and</strong> Jewish<br />

word “fisch.” It is thought to be drawn from<br />

nature referring to fish, or of occupational origin,<br />

· 7 ·


I was his German interpreter for the prisoners<br />

in Germany. That was quite a bonding experience.<br />

He said, “Well, are you ready to stay in the<br />

military? I can arrange that for you.” I said, “No,<br />

I want to get out as soon as I can.” He said, “How<br />

many points do you have?” I replied that I had<br />

only forty-three points. He said, “I’m going to put<br />

you in for a Purple Heart for the time when you<br />

were wounded. If I do that, you are going to get<br />

more points.” I was wounded in action on April<br />

2, 1945, in France when I was hit with mortar<br />

shrapnel in the back of my upper right leg <strong>and</strong> in<br />

a small section of my back. It was a bloody injury,<br />

but I do not recall much pain. My wounds were<br />

treated by our company medics, which allowed<br />

me to continue in battle with my unit. Thanks to<br />

my captain <strong>and</strong> his recollection of this incident, I<br />

did receive a Purple Heart <strong>and</strong> I was able to leave<br />

the service early.<br />

It had been an incredibly challenging <strong>and</strong><br />

frightening two-year span. I was inducted into<br />

the service on July 23, 1943, in Salem; I departed<br />

Europe on September 4, 1945; <strong>and</strong> finally, I arrived<br />

back in the United States on September 11, 1945.<br />

I received an EAME Ribbon. The European-<br />

African-Middle Eastern Campaign Ribbon <strong>and</strong><br />

Medal was awarded for service performed in those<br />

theaters between December 7, 1941, <strong>and</strong> March<br />

2, 1946. I also received a Combat Infantry Badge,<br />

which was awarded for participation in combat.<br />

Many soldiers felt this was the single most important<br />

decoration a man could wear. In addition I<br />

was awarded an Expert Infantry Badge, a Good<br />

Conduct Medal, <strong>and</strong> a Purple Heart.<br />

The Adjusted Service Rating (ASR) was a<br />

system that sought to discharge soldiers from<br />

service in an equitable manner. My ASR rating was<br />

50.38. Those who had served overseas would be<br />

discharged first, <strong>and</strong> the men who had fought in<br />

combat would be the first to leave. When the war<br />

ended, men were shifted to units where everyone<br />

held a similar point total. The last unit a man<br />

served in was not always the one he fought with.<br />

My Separation Qualification Record is as follows.<br />

I spent three months as a private in basic<br />

infantry, sixteen<br />

months as private<br />

first class (PFC)<br />

as a light machine<br />

gunner, one<br />

month at PFC as<br />

an ammunition<br />

bearer, <strong>and</strong> five<br />

months at PFC as<br />

a clerk typist. In<br />

the latter position,<br />

I maintained<br />

the sick book,<br />

morning reports,<br />

duty roster, payroll,<br />

<strong>and</strong> vouchers<br />

at company<br />

headquarters. <strong>Bernard</strong>’s Purple Heart<br />

As a private, I<br />

earned fifty dollars base pay per month. My pay<br />

increased as I moved up in rank, served overseas,<br />

<strong>and</strong> received various decorations. I spent none of<br />

my income during the war years, <strong>and</strong> therefore I<br />

was able to have the money I earned sent home<br />

<strong>and</strong> put away as my savings after the war.<br />

The feeling that I had upon being discharged<br />

from the service is indescribable. It was so<br />

strange—all of the possibilities for my life really<br />

opened up again. It was a huge relief. I could not<br />

wait to return to Oregon <strong>and</strong> begin the next phase<br />

of my life.<br />

· 42 ·


<strong>Bernard</strong>'s formal Army photo, 1944<br />

· 43 ·


<strong>Selma</strong>’s Story<br />

As told by <strong>Selma</strong> <strong>Brown</strong><br />

Everybody has a history, yet many of us know<br />

very little about where we came from. Now<br />

there is more of a movement for people to learn<br />

about their ancestors than when I was growing up.<br />

I really appreciate that our daughter Eden started<br />

uncovering our family stories. I would have never<br />

thought of embarking on creating a book like this;<br />

we are very grateful to Eden for this opportunity.<br />

It has been an extremely meaningful process. It is<br />

amazing to me that we can access so much information<br />

about our family immigration stories. I had<br />

no idea that so many of the ship rosters <strong>and</strong> travel<br />

records were still available <strong>and</strong> could provide such<br />

detailed information about their journeys.<br />

Now I wish I had asked my parents to tell me<br />

more of their stories while they were alive. As a<br />

child, I thought that my parents just started existing<br />

when they came to Oregon. When you are<br />

younger, you tend to focus more on yourself. As<br />

you grow older, your awareness changes. My parents<br />

rarely shared early memories of their lives with<br />

Facing page: A collection of photos of the Nepom family<br />

over the years II<br />

anyone, not even members of their community in<br />

Portl<strong>and</strong> who had similar experiences. They did<br />

not have very happy memories, so they probably<br />

preferred to forget them.<br />

My parents experienced significant changes in<br />

their lifetimes, yet they rarely complained about<br />

the difficulties they endured. I think they were<br />

always grateful for all of the opportunities available<br />

to them in the United States. Having come from<br />

Russia, where religious persecution was rampant,<br />

they valued the religious freedom afforded to them<br />

in America.<br />

Judaism was very important to my parents.<br />

They were quite generous with their congregation—Shaarie<br />

Torah Synagogue—throughout their<br />

lives. Even though they did not have very much in<br />

the beginning, they always shared what they could<br />

with the synagogue. My father was the first board<br />

member to be nominated for life at Shaarie Torah.<br />

I definitely obtained my Jewish identity from my<br />

parents. For the younger generations, Judaism<br />

is part of their identity, but they may not always<br />

appreciate it in the same way because that aspect of<br />

their identity was never threatened. I learned from<br />

· 45 ·


Manuel Nepom’s jitney in front of Shattuck School in South Portl<strong>and</strong>, c. 1916<br />

my parents how meaningful it is to be able to practice<br />

your religion openly in your community.<br />

In addition to the religious freedom we experienced<br />

here, my family appreciated the wealth<br />

of business opportunities afforded to them in<br />

America. My father, Manuel, as well as <strong>Bernard</strong>’s<br />

father, Harry, took advantage of these opportunities<br />

<strong>and</strong> decided to start their own businesses.<br />

They made up their minds to do it, <strong>and</strong> they did.<br />

There is a lot of incentive to become an entrepreneur<br />

here. By becoming your own boss you can<br />

gain more control over your destiny. My parents<br />

enjoyed the freedom to make their own way. That<br />

was a huge change from the life they had led in<br />

Russia. I really appreciated the life my parents<br />

were able to build for our family.<br />

Both <strong>Bernard</strong> <strong>and</strong> I had it much easier than<br />

our parents did when they were growing up. In<br />

turn, our children <strong>and</strong> gr<strong>and</strong>children have had<br />

things a bit easier in some ways than we did. Each<br />

generation has some advantages to start off with<br />

that the previous generation did not have. <strong>Our</strong><br />

gr<strong>and</strong>children are just beginning to develop their<br />

own directions in life. They are figuring out what<br />

is important to them <strong>and</strong> what kind of lives they<br />

want to establish as they grow older. I hope that<br />

through reading this book they will be able to<br />

connect with the origins of our family history, <strong>and</strong><br />

that they will feel proud of where they have come<br />

from. I hope these stories give them the courage<br />

· 46 ·


they need to overcome challenges in their own<br />

lives as they arise, just as the generations before<br />

them sought to do.<br />

As I began to enter adulthood, I started to<br />

realize how hard it is to manifest my own dreams,<br />

<strong>and</strong> this gave me more respect for what my parents<br />

endured to gain their success. Even with some help,<br />

it is very challenging to become successful <strong>and</strong><br />

build a stable life. As my parents aged, they were<br />

very proud of what <strong>Bernard</strong> <strong>and</strong> I had achieved.<br />

That meant a lot to us. We have been very fortunate,<br />

but we worked hard for what we have. It did<br />

not just come. We are very proud of our children<br />

<strong>and</strong> gr<strong>and</strong>children. We are appreciative of our close<br />

relationships with them. It is remarkable to see<br />

how our family has developed <strong>and</strong> grown since my<br />

ancestors came to this country.<br />

The Nepom <strong>Family</strong><br />

I never had the opportunity to meet my paternal<br />

gr<strong>and</strong>parents, Moishe Shmuel Nepom <strong>and</strong><br />

Rose Hanken. I was named after my gr<strong>and</strong>father,<br />

Moishe. My Hebrew name is Shimela, which I<br />

guess is the feminine derivative of Shmuel. In<br />

Jewish tradition it is common to name a newborn<br />

child after a deceased relative, though I am not<br />

sure how common it was to name a girl child after<br />

a male relative. My mother<br />

always called me “Shimela<br />

Diamond from the Sky.” So<br />

even though I never knew my<br />

gr<strong>and</strong>father, we were connected<br />

through the lineage of<br />

our names.<br />

Moishe <strong>and</strong> Rose lived in<br />

Krolevetz, Russia, which is<br />

about 400 miles east of the<br />

Horodets area. They had five<br />

children: Aharon, Ya’akov, Rose, David, <strong>and</strong> my<br />

father, Manuel. Their daughter Rose’s Hebrew<br />

given name was Rachel or Raisel, but she went by<br />

Rose once she immigrated to the United States.<br />

It is thought that my gr<strong>and</strong>parents’ oldest sons,<br />

Aharon <strong>and</strong> Ya’akov, were killed in the Russian<br />

Revolution. Since they died young <strong>and</strong> never came<br />

to the United States, the family knows very little<br />

about them.<br />

My gr<strong>and</strong>mother Rose passed away when she<br />

was a young woman, leaving my gr<strong>and</strong>father<br />

Moishe with their five children. Following this<br />

devastating loss for the family, my gr<strong>and</strong>father<br />

eventually married a woman named Luba. They<br />

went on to have two children of their own, Bertha<br />

<strong>and</strong> Melvin Meyer.<br />

Following the death of their mother, my father,<br />

Manuel, <strong>and</strong> his siblings David <strong>and</strong> Rose decided<br />

they wanted to leave Russia <strong>and</strong> seek a better life<br />

for themselves in America. My father’s brother<br />

David was the first member of the Nepom family<br />

to immigrate to the United States. In the<br />

travel records, David Nepom’s name was listed as<br />

Nochum Nepomnjastschi. He departed Bremen,<br />

Germany, in 1910 <strong>and</strong> migrated to Portl<strong>and</strong>. 38<br />

David entered the United States through<br />

Galveston, Texas.<br />

I have settled down in Portl<strong>and</strong>, Oregon <strong>and</strong> make<br />

ten dollars a week. I hope that with God’s help I<br />

will be making more soon. In Galveston, people<br />

cared for me <strong>and</strong> other emigrants as a father would<br />

care for his children. 39<br />

– David Nepom (From an excerpt that David wrote about his experiences)<br />

· 47 ·


Letters During<br />

the War Years<br />

As told by <strong>Bernard</strong> <strong>Brown</strong><br />

I<br />

began writing to <strong>Selma</strong> while I was in the<br />

service. I was also writing to some other girls<br />

at that time, but they were girls I knew from high<br />

school in Salem <strong>and</strong> they were not Jewish. Both<br />

<strong>Selma</strong> <strong>and</strong> I dated different people in high school,<br />

<strong>and</strong> we had never dated each other. My connection<br />

to the Jewish community was important to me, so<br />

I thought that if I wrote to <strong>Selma</strong>, I could get the<br />

news of the Portl<strong>and</strong> Jewish community.<br />

<strong>Selma</strong> told me she was flabbergasted when<br />

my first letters arrived. As time passed, my letters<br />

became more romantic, but <strong>Selma</strong> did not reciprocate.<br />

She always answered my letters but she did<br />

not return my romantic sentiments.<br />

I appreciated her responses. I had seen many<br />

other men receive letters full of what I considered<br />

to be unrealistic promises. At the time I did not<br />

even really think about our connection developing<br />

into marriage. I was just a nineteen-year-old<br />

kid who was scared <strong>and</strong> a bit homesick. <strong>Selma</strong>’s<br />

letters were so comforting to me; they were not<br />

We rarely saw each other before he<br />

went overseas. I don’t know why<br />

he thought to write. I guess that<br />

is what you call fate. Why did he<br />

write to me? I was not interested in<br />

him <strong>and</strong> I was plenty busy.<br />

When I started receiving<br />

<strong>Bernard</strong>’s letters, I felt that he was<br />

probably lonely <strong>and</strong> scared, <strong>and</strong><br />

it must have made him feel better<br />

to think he had a girl waiting for<br />

him when he returned. That was to<br />

be expected. Yet I anticipated that<br />

nothing would come of it after the<br />

war was over.<br />

– <strong>Selma</strong> <strong>Brown</strong><br />

Facing page: A collection of photos <strong>and</strong> letters celebrating<br />

<strong>Bernard</strong> <strong>and</strong> <strong>Selma</strong>’s early relationship III<br />

· 73 ·


· 74 ·


The first letter that <strong>Bernard</strong> sent to <strong>Selma</strong> when he was in basic training in the Army<br />

· 75 ·


I did not do anything to encourage<br />

<strong>Bernard</strong> in my responses to his<br />

letters. I was going with somebody<br />

else pretty seriously when he started<br />

writing to me. Yet <strong>Bernard</strong>’s letters<br />

grew more <strong>and</strong> more romantic<br />

as the time went on. I really felt<br />

compassion because I knew he had<br />

to be scared to death. What did he<br />

know about living like that? How<br />

could anybody be prepared for that<br />

kind of experience?<br />

– <strong>Selma</strong> <strong>Brown</strong><br />

<strong>Selma</strong><br />

gushy or anything like that, but they were real.<br />

<strong>Selma</strong> remained in my thoughts while I was away.<br />

Throughout the war, I carried <strong>Selma</strong>’s picture in<br />

the h<strong>and</strong>le of my pistol.<br />

As <strong>Selma</strong>’s letters kept coming, the feeling<br />

grew that I just wanted to be closer to her. I did<br />

not know her very well. We never dated. Her letters<br />

were so down-to-earth, I could really relate to<br />

them. I wanted to get to know her better. Yet the<br />

more I pursued her, the more she rejected me. She<br />

had a whole other life going on at home that I was<br />

not a part of. I did not ask her to marry me through<br />

the letters, but sometimes I would write “when<br />

we’re together” or “when we’re married,” though<br />

that was mainly something I was hoping for.<br />

When I returned from my time overseas, I was<br />

back in Salem for a few days on furlough before I<br />

headed to <strong>Brown</strong>sville, Texas, to finish my military<br />

service. As soon as I arrived home, I knew I had to<br />

see <strong>Selma</strong>. We made arrangements to go out one<br />

night. I could not wait. I arrived at her house <strong>and</strong><br />

knocked on the door. She opened the door <strong>and</strong> she<br />

looked at me <strong>and</strong> said, “Oh, you grew a mustache.”<br />

She was not that taken by the mustache, yet that<br />

did not seem to deter us from hitting it off the rest<br />

of the evening. We went to dinner at a Chinese<br />

restaurant in the Hollywood District of Portl<strong>and</strong>.<br />

I remember it so well. As we talked, I got a better<br />

· 76 ·


sense of who she was. I kept thinking to myself,<br />

“Boy, she is the real thing. I would really like to get<br />

together with her.”<br />

We continued to spend time together during<br />

those few days while I was home on furlough.<br />

One night we were at Hill Villa, where the Chart<br />

House restaurant is now, <strong>and</strong> we were sitting in my<br />

car overlooking the city. We were necking <strong>and</strong> I<br />

decided to ask <strong>Selma</strong> to marry me. I said, “<strong>Selma</strong>,<br />

I want you to be my wife. Let’s get married.” She<br />

said, “Let’s do it” or something like that. I guess<br />

she was so much in love she did not even think<br />

twice. I was thrilled; it felt right. Then I said to her,<br />

“I need to talk to your<br />

parents also. I want to<br />

get their permission.”<br />

I felt like I had to ask<br />

<strong>Selma</strong> first to make sure<br />

that she would say yes.<br />

The next day I asked<br />

her parents’ permission.<br />

It helped that I already<br />

enjoyed a good relationship<br />

with them from<br />

when we were growing<br />

up in South Portl<strong>and</strong>.<br />

I had always been crazy about <strong>Selma</strong>’s mother,<br />

Tillie. In fact, I called her my “girlfriend” for<br />

as long as I can remember. Her father, Manuel,<br />

said, “Well, I always want you to take good care<br />

of my daughter.” They gave me their blessing. My<br />

parents thought <strong>Selma</strong> was the finest girl they had<br />

ever known.<br />

As it turns out, our parents were connected<br />

before we even got together. My mother’s sister,<br />

Gittel, <strong>and</strong> <strong>Selma</strong>’s mother’s brother, Benjamin, got<br />

married in Europe. <strong>Our</strong> mothers lived in the same<br />

village in Europe, so they knew each other. They<br />

were the first of our families to settle here <strong>and</strong> then<br />

<strong>Bernard</strong> was a pretty cute guy. I felt like I should go for it. I said “yes” when he<br />

proposed, even though we had spent only a few days together when he was home<br />

on furlough. My parents were deliriously happy. Not only did they love <strong>Bernard</strong>,<br />

but also they had not been that fond of my previous boyfriend. <strong>Bernard</strong> has been<br />

a wonderful husb<strong>and</strong>. He takes care of me, which is really important. I take care<br />

of him too. It works both ways. It has turned out really well.<br />

– <strong>Selma</strong> <strong>Brown</strong><br />

· 77 ·


Building a Strong<br />

Foundation<br />

As told by <strong>Bernard</strong> <strong>Brown</strong><br />

When we moved to Salem in 1950, we<br />

rented a little house at 658 Breys Avenue<br />

in Northeast Salem while we began looking for<br />

a home to purchase. I knew the C<strong>and</strong>alaria area<br />

from my high school days. I had always liked the<br />

big hill in that area, which was not developed then.<br />

The hill was woodsy <strong>and</strong> covered in Scotch broom,<br />

which bloomed bright yellow, <strong>and</strong> there was a road<br />

to the top with great views.<br />

Not long after we moved to Salem, I came<br />

across an empty lot in that area <strong>and</strong> contacted the<br />

owner, who was willing to sell it. We paid $4,000<br />

for the lot, which was the last one to be developed<br />

on the corner. We obtained a loan from First<br />

National Bank, at the new C<strong>and</strong>alaria branch. We<br />

opened the first two accounts at the new branch.<br />

During that time our daughter Shelley Nadene<br />

<strong>Brown</strong> was born on May 25, 1951. We were very<br />

excited about having our first child <strong>and</strong> we could<br />

not wait for her arrival. It was amazing to bring her<br />

home. She was such a beautiful baby. It is hard to<br />

Facing page: A collection of photos highlighting the early<br />

years of the <strong>Brown</strong> family IV<br />

put into words the way I felt when she arrived. We<br />

were filled with love for her <strong>and</strong> eager to welcome<br />

her into our family.<br />

As we acclimated to becoming new parents,<br />

we also embarked on the project of designing<br />

<strong>and</strong> building our first home on the lot we<br />

had purchased. <strong>Selma</strong> worked with architect<br />

Roscoe Hemenway to design the house. Roscoe<br />

Hemenway was born in Cottage Grove, Oregon,<br />

in 1899, <strong>and</strong> practiced architecture in Portl<strong>and</strong><br />

for more than thirty years. He became one of the<br />

city’s most prominent residential architects, with<br />

many fine homes to his credit before his death<br />

in 1957. The majority of his residential designs<br />

were in the Colonial Revival style, but he also<br />

designed some ranch style homes like ours. Roscoe<br />

was also the architect who had designed Tillie<br />

<strong>and</strong> Manuel’s new Portl<strong>and</strong> home at 2808 NW<br />

Cumberl<strong>and</strong> Road.<br />

We had the lot leveled <strong>and</strong> we received fill for<br />

free from nearby excavations. After Shelley was<br />

born, with <strong>Selma</strong>’s history of miscarriages, we did<br />

not know if we would be able to have any more<br />

children. With this in mind, we altered the original<br />

· 93 ·


Shelley <strong>and</strong> I were only two-<strong>and</strong>-a-half years apart, so we shared a lot of closeness<br />

growing up. She was a wonderful big sister. We played dolls together when we<br />

were very young because that was the kind of activity she did in those days. She<br />

took care of me throughout elementary school, always looking out for me since I<br />

was a few grades behind her. Shelley had wonderful friends <strong>and</strong> they were always<br />

very kind to me, even though they were three years older. Shelley <strong>and</strong> I both<br />

went on to attend the University of Washington, where she helped me acclimate<br />

to university life when I was a freshman. We continued to enjoy spending time<br />

together as we grew older, <strong>and</strong> always look forward to our visits to this day.<br />

I loved to play sports as a child <strong>and</strong> when Eden was old enough, I started<br />

teaching her how to play ball, how to throw <strong>and</strong> catch. It was a lot of fun for us<br />

to play sports together <strong>and</strong>, as a result, she grew into a very coordinated athlete.<br />

Eden also always enjoyed hanging out with my girlfriends when I would bring<br />

them over. A number of the girlfriends I had in high school were athletic <strong>and</strong><br />

liked to play sports, so I think Eden looked up to them. We would take Eden<br />

along on some of our dates <strong>and</strong> she was always excited to be included.<br />

– Jordan <strong>Brown</strong><br />

was born seven years later, on March 1, 1961, completing<br />

our family of five. Eden was an absolutely<br />

darling child <strong>and</strong> a beautiful baby. It was always a<br />

pleasure to be with her. From the beginning, Eden<br />

always looked so much like her mother. Since she<br />

was ten when Eden was born, Shelley really took<br />

over caring for Eden when she arrived home from<br />

school. Shelley was like her little mother. From the<br />

very beginning they were close. They have always<br />

loved each other so much <strong>and</strong> still do.<br />

Eden was a very clever <strong>and</strong> thoughtful child,<br />

<strong>and</strong> an avid reader from a young age. She has<br />

always been a natural at sports <strong>and</strong> held her own<br />

when she played sports with her older sister <strong>and</strong><br />

brother. From the<br />

beginning she was<br />

very independent<br />

<strong>and</strong> strong-willed.<br />

She forged her<br />

own way. We were<br />

a little bit more<br />

easy-going with<br />

our parenting<br />

approach by the Jordan<br />

time she arrived,<br />

which allowed her to explore <strong>and</strong> experiment from<br />

a young age. Raising our children has been one of<br />

our greatest joys <strong>and</strong> we had a lot of fun doing it.<br />

· 98 ·


Jordan<br />

Shelley<br />

Shelley <strong>and</strong> Jordan<br />

· 99 ·


Celebrating<br />

<strong>Bernard</strong> <strong>and</strong> <strong>Selma</strong><br />

Reflections by <strong>Family</strong> <strong>and</strong> Friends<br />

Reflections by<br />

Frieda Cohen<br />

Bob was my baby cousin, the favorite of the<br />

entire family because he was so beautiful <strong>and</strong> so<br />

sweet. <strong>Selma</strong> was like my little sister; she was an<br />

adorable little girl. I knew both of them from the<br />

time they were born <strong>and</strong> no day ever went by that<br />

I was not in <strong>Selma</strong>’s home because her older sister<br />

Betty was my best friend. The sun did not set on<br />

a day that I did not see Betty. That was the way<br />

we grew up. So every day I was at their house <strong>and</strong><br />

Tillie, <strong>Selma</strong>’s mother, was like my second mother.<br />

They lived just about four blocks from our house,<br />

<strong>and</strong> all the children attended the same schools. We<br />

were very close as a family. Tillie’s brother, Ben<br />

Lorber, was married to my aunt Gittel, my mother’s<br />

older sister. My sister Lillian worked for Manuel,<br />

<strong>Selma</strong>’s father. Manuel was one of the most honorable<br />

businessmen I have ever known. He was<br />

extremely good to my sister as an employer. He<br />

was the type of businessman who made you wish<br />

Facing page: A collection of images from <strong>Bernard</strong> <strong>and</strong><br />

<strong>Selma</strong>’s 65th wedding anniversary celebration XI<br />

that all businesses were run by someone like him.<br />

He worked very hard <strong>and</strong> expected his employees<br />

to put in the same effort. That is why he loved my<br />

sister; she was his counterpart in that way.<br />

As a young girl, Tillie used to often come to<br />

our house because she loved to feed <strong>and</strong> play with<br />

my older sister Lillian when she was a baby. Of<br />

course my parents would say, “Tillie, you’ll stay<br />

<strong>and</strong> have dinner with us.” One of Tillie’s favorite<br />

stories was that they had fresh pumpernickel<br />

bread <strong>and</strong> butter on the table. My father told<br />

her to take some <strong>and</strong> she picked up a piece <strong>and</strong><br />

barely smeared a little bit of butter on the bread.<br />

My father took it away from her <strong>and</strong> lathered the<br />

bread with butter. She told me as long as she lived,<br />

she had never tasted anything that good. She<br />

always appreciated my family’s friendship <strong>and</strong> generosity<br />

to her over the years, from the time when<br />

she had just arrived in Portl<strong>and</strong> as a poor immigrant<br />

girl into her adulthood.<br />

Bobby’s mother, my aunt Rose, was my<br />

mother’s baby sister <strong>and</strong> my mother adored her.<br />

Five days a week I went to Hebrew school at the<br />

Neighborhood House, <strong>and</strong> Bobby <strong>and</strong> his family<br />

· 229 ·

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