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Bernard & Selma Brown

Our Family Legacy

As told by Bernard & Selma Brown

Bernard & Selma Brown

Our Family Legacy

As told by Bernard & Selma Brown

Produced by Family Heirloom Arts


Portland, Oregon

Lisa Kagan: Director, Oral Historian, Writer, Photography Editor, Book Designer

Emily García: Book Designer, Production Manager

Anya Hankin: Text Editor

Elizabeth Katz: Researcher

Connie Lenzen: Genealogist

Joseph Webb: Digital Photography Artist

Joan E. Hamilton: Transcriptionist

Julie Zander: Copy Editor

Mollie Firestone: Proofreader

Copyright © 2014

Bernard & Selma Brown

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

Printed by Stevens Printing, Portland, Oregon.

Book binding by Grossenbacher Bros., Inc.

Front Cover Caption:

Bernard and Selma Brown on their wedding day, February 9, 1946

Cover design by Emily García

Harry and Rose Brown

Tillie and Manuel Nepom

Content for this book is based on oral history interviews of Bernard and Selma

Brown; their three children Shelley, Jordan and Eden Brown; and their daughter-in-law,

Stacey Brown. Content for Chapter 11, “Celebrating Bernard and

Selma,” is based on additional interviews of their friends and family, including

Frieda Cohen, Charlotte Amiton, Jerry Stern, Beverly Galen, Lynn Coleman,

and Les and Lila Kerr. Interviews were conducted by Lisa Kagan and Eden Rose

Brown in 2011–2014. Extensive research conducted by Elizabeth Katz provided

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

This book is dedicated to my grandparents in honor of their

courage, determination and sacrifice, and to my parents for

their unwavering love, wisdom and support. May their

compelling stories and their gifts so selflessly given serve to

inspire and encourage the generations to come.


Part I



by Eden Rose Brown


Chapter 1

Bernard’s Story


Chapter 2

Selma’s Story


Part II

Our Life


Chapter 3

Letters During

the War Years


Chapter 4

Building a Strong



Chapter 5

A Lifetime of Service


· vi ·

Chapter 6

Three Generations



Chapter 7

Spirit of Adventure


Chapter 8

Our Adult Children


Chapter 9

Investing in the

Next Generation


Part III


Sixty-five Years

of Marriage

Chapter 10

A Lifetime of Love


Chapter 11


Bernard & Selma



Notes, Ancestral Charts,

& Acknowledgments


· vii ·


In all of us there is a hunger, marrow deep, to know our heritage — to know who we are

and where we came from. The family is our refuge and our springboard;

nourished on it, we can advance to new horizons. In every conceivable manner,

the family is link to our past, bridge to our future.

– Alex Haley

Understanding and appreciating the wisdom,

sacrifices, and values of our ancestors is

essential to understanding who we are today. The

European immigration of the late nineteenth

century, the horrors of the pogroms, the Holocaust,

the trauma of two world wars; these are the fires

that have tested and forged our family’s history.

Our ancestors were tough; they had strength and

determination, enduring sacrifice and tragedy that

is almost beyond comprehension. Yet it was those

enduring qualities — their inner strength, determination,

intellect, and perseverance — that made

them survivors. I am forever humbled and grateful

for the legacy and the life they have provided

without ever having expected anything in return.

Thanks to them, we are here today to tell our family’s


Over the years I have loved hearing bits and

pieces of family history. It might have been a recollection

about the time my father, Bernard, wisely,

and with a good deal of chutzpah, figured out how

to drive that two-and-a-half-ton Army supply truck

from Paris back to the front during World War II;

or the story of how my brave grandmother, Tillie

Lorber, traveled by herself from a Polish shtetl to

Portland, Oregon, when she was only thirteen

years old. But as wonderful as these stories are, I

realized that many, if not most, of them would be

lost forever if we did not make an effort to record

them for future generations.

I began little by little, first by tape recording

conversations with Baba Tillie, who was in her late

eighties when I lived with her while attending law

school; then by visiting Ellis Island and researching

my grandparents’ arrival to America; and finally

by informally video recording my cherished cousin

Frieda Cohen on a number of occasions (it seemed

like we always picked the noisiest restaurants).

However, it was the fortuitous meeting of my dear

friend Elizabeth Katz, coupled with my parents’

upcoming sixty-fifth wedding anniversary celebration,

that provided the catalyst for me to embark

on a five-year journey, researching our family’s

genealogy and creating a formal family history

book centered on my parents’ life stories. I was

inspired to create this book to honor our ancestors,

whose sacrifices allowed us to become Americans,

and to celebrate my beloved parents, the strength

· viii ·

of their relationship, and our close-knit family,

rooted in their love.

This book was initially intended to be a surprise

for my parents. However, I soon realized

that engaging them in the process would create a

richer and more meaningful experience for them.

My folks loved the idea and jumped right in. They

welcomed first Elizabeth Katz and then Lisa Kagan

into their home to interview them — for hours at a

time, and over many months. They loved revealing

their personal histories, telling their stories, reminiscing,

and, as the process unfolded, adding to

their own knowledge of our family’s past through

the genealogy research we shared with them.

As the family history project energized my

parents, the project also allowed cousin Frieda, our

family’s treasured storyteller, to share her memories

and insights of our family in old South Portland.

Now in her nineties, with a keen intellect and

astounding memory, Frieda is a walking encyclopedia

of Jewish history from the late nineteenth

and early twentieth century; including a wealth of

information detailing our family’s heritage. Frieda

didn’t simply recall the specifics of where and when

people immigrated and how everyone is related;

through subtleties and nuance she illuminated

their spirit, character, and values. What might

easily have been sepia-toned recollections became

multidimensional, Technicolor vignettes. Through

her vibrant storytelling, Frieda has kept the very

spirit of our ancestors alive, and by remembering

them, we honor them.

Each generation has its own challenges, and

although each generation must create its own

path to the future, they can benefit greatly from

knowing their history. By honoring those who

have come before us, we inspire those who follow.

My hope is for the younger generations to cherish

our family’s legacy and to let this book establish

a foundation for them, strengthening their bonds

with each other through an understanding of their

common heritage. To these future generations I

speak directly: look toward the past in search of

yourselves and do so early and often. Do not wait

until your parents and grandparents are unable to

share their stories. Be history seekers now! Use the

latest tools and technology at your fingertips to

capture the sounds of their voices, the joy in their

smiles and laughter as they share their memories;

ensure that family photos, letters, and memorabilia

are preserved and safeguarded; share a reverence for

family history and do everything you can to keep

those treasures safe for the future. And, one day,

as your own stories unfold over the years to come,

create your own supplement to this book so that

each generation can pass its stories forward.

Creating a legacy project like this is well worth

the time and effort invested. As I lead my clients

through their estate planning process, I teach them

that “it’s not about what you own, it’s about what

you value.” In other words, a family’s values are

much more important than its valuables. It was

essential for me to incorporate this philosophy

into documenting our own family’s legacy, and

it provided both the motivation for starting this

project, and the will to complete it. Five years is a

long time, but I am thankful that we embarked on

this journey and it is incredibly gratifying to see

our family’s rich history coming to life throughout

the pages.

Eden Rose Brown

Salem, Oregon

October 18, 2014

· ix ·

Bernard & Selma Brown

Our Family Legacy

Part I


Understanding what our ancestors have gone through

encourages us not to take our own freedom for granted.

Knowledge of who and what came before has given

me a richer context for making sense of my own life.

I am deeply inspired by the strength and courage

of our family, and I admire the dedication to building

a better life, even against the odds.

Bernard Brown

I hope that through reading this book our grandchildren

will be able to connect with the origins of our family

history, and that they will feel proud of where they

have come from. I hope these stories give them the

courage they need to overcome challenges in their own

lives as they arise, just as the generations before them

sought to do.

Selma Brown

Bernard’s Story

As told by Bernard Brown

When I was a child, I knew very little about

my ancestors, yet their stories have always

been a part of me, helping to shape the person I

have become. As I have grown and learned more

about their experiences before they came to this

country, I have come to realize just how valuable

their stories are. Understanding what our ancestors

have gone through encourages us not to take our

own freedom for granted. Knowledge of who and

what came before has given me a richer context for

making sense of my own life.

I am deeply inspired by the strength and courage

of our family, and I admire the dedication to

building a better life, even against the odds.

It is very special for me to be able to share

these stories with our children and grandchildren,

weaving together tales of the generations that came

before us with reflections on our own life experiences.

It is my hope that this book will provide our

children and grandchildren with a deeper understanding

of where they have come from as they

Facing page: A collection of photos of the Brown family and

friends over the years I

continue to grow and develop in the years to come.

It has only been in the last twenty years that

Selma and I began to truly discover our family history.

The process of uncovering stories and pictures

while we piece together our legacy has been profoundly

rewarding, but not without its challenges.

My grandparents were not very eager to share

recollections of their life in Russia. They avoided

talking about their experiences, because many of

their memories of those years were unpleasant and

laden with hardship. They did not want to call to

mind the pain they had endured, or burden the

younger generations with stories of suffering.

My grandparents’ lives were quite difficult

before they came to America. Every day was a

struggle for them, but still they persevered. I

appreciate what they endured in order to travel to

America, and I know they fought to survive for the

future of our family.

My parents also shared very little about their

childhood. When I was growing up, I never

thought to ask them questions about their early

experiences or inquire about their pasts. As a child

I was more focused on what was going on in the

· 5 ·

Harry and Rose Brown

moment. Therefore, my parents rarely volunteered

much personal information, as it was hard for them

to explain how different their lives were before they

moved to America. Their primary focus was on

doing their best to develop their lives here. They

did not want to dwell on the past; they wanted to

build toward the future. They were able to establish

more comfortable, prosperous, and stable lives for

themselves and our family, and that was what was

most important to them.

As a young adult, I recognized what my parents

had been able to accomplish. I realized that if I put

my mind to it, I could achieve the goals I set for

myself, just like they had done before me. I built

upon their successes to create the best life I could

for our family.

Due to the hard work our parents, and their

parents before them, Selma and I had and continue

to have all of the freedoms to live as we choose.

Our children and grandchildren are afforded

expanded opportunities to pursue their passions

and goals. None of this would have been possible if

our parents had not come to this country, and I am

thankful for all of their efforts.

Each generation can learn from the examples of

the generation that came before them. We all have

our unique set of challenges and opportunities. We

have to do the best we can with what we have. I

cannot express in words the depth of the appreciation

that I have for my ancestors and what they

went through for us. There is no end to the gratitude

I have for them.

I think the family stories in this book will help guide the younger generation to

grow into their best possible selves. The origin stories highlighting the ancestral

history blew me away. You begin to see how different patterns and tendencies

emerged in our family, dating back as far as our ancestors in Russia, and how

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

perspective on your own life and how being connected to your roots can

help direct you on your own life path.

– Jordan Brown

· 6 ·

The Volhynia Region

Both my paternal and maternal great-grandparents

came from the Volhynia province. Although

the Volhynia province lies in what is now the

northwest area of the Ukraine, it was previously

ruled by Lithuania, Poland, the Russian Empire,

and the Soviet Union. The Jews in this area

thought of themselves as Russian, or sometimes

Polish, but not Ukrainian. My great-grandparents

and their families primarily spoke Yiddish. They

hardly knew any Russian, since Jews were not

permitted to attend Russian schools. In those days,

Jewish boys attended yeshivas, intensive study

schools, where they studied Hebrew and traditional

texts. It was not customary for Jewish girls to

attend yeshivas at that time.

The Volhynia region is an area made up of coal

mines, forests, lakes, marshes, and rich agricultural

lands. It includes the headwaters of the Pripyat and

Western Bug rivers. Jews have lived in Volhynia

since the twelfth century and worked primarily

in commerce and crafts. In the early seventeenth

century, nobles began to lease their estates to Jews,

enabling them to manage the properties and bring

in revenue from the estates. This opened additional

avenues for members of the Jewish community to

earn decent livelihoods. The growing power and

success of the Jews embittered the peasants, townspeople,

and lower aristocracy, who turned on them

in the Chmielnicki massacres of 1648.

Although the Jewish population rebounded

quickly, persecutions and misfortune, including

life-threatening diseases, continued into the eighteenth

century. In the mid-nineteenth century,

many of the community’s wealthy Jews leased the

alcoholic beverage excise from the government, and

the number of Jewish innkeepers grew. Following

the mid-nineteenth century, Jews became

increasingly involved in industries such as wood

processing, animal products, and agricultural crops.

The Jews of Volhynia were not harmed directly

by pogroms during the 1880s and throughout

1905–1906, but many disasters befell them during

World War I and the Russian civil war. During

World War II, they suffered not only at the hands

of the Germans, but also of the Ukrainians. Tens

of thousands perished.

As conditions worsened for Jews in this region,

my family and others in their community had

to wrestle with a difficult decision; should they

continue to struggle in order to remain in their

country of origin, or should they risk everything in

search of a better life elsewhere?

The Bronstein Family

Aaron and Esther Bronstein were my paternal

great-grandparents. Their son, Harry Abraham

Browne, was my paternal grandfather. Harry

was born on February 3, 1862, in Dombrowitz, 1

Ukraine, in the Volhynia region. Harry was the

oldest of six children, and his parents’ only son.

His sisters were Sura, Bayleh, Faygle, Rahsel, and

Mariam. Years later, when he emigrated to the

United States, my grandfather’s last name was

changed from the original “Bronstein” to the anglicized


The Fish Family

My maternal great-grandparents were Beryl

and Bessie Fish who also lived in the Volhynia

region. Beryl was born around 1838 in Horodets, 2

Ukraine. Bessie was born a few years later, around

1840, in the same town. Their last name, “Fish,”

is an anglicized version of the German and Jewish

word “fisch.” It is thought to be drawn from

nature referring to fish, or of occupational origin,

· 7 ·

I was his German interpreter for the prisoners

in Germany. That was quite a bonding experience.

He said, “Well, are you ready to stay in the

military? I can arrange that for you.” I said, “No,

I want to get out as soon as I can.” He said, “How

many points do you have?” I replied that I had

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

you in for a Purple Heart for the time when you

were wounded. If I do that, you are going to get

more points.” I was wounded in action on April

2, 1945, in France when I was hit with mortar

shrapnel in the back of my upper right leg and in

a small section of my back. It was a bloody injury,

but I do not recall much pain. My wounds were

treated by our company medics, which allowed

me to continue in battle with my unit. Thanks to

my captain and his recollection of this incident, I

did receive a Purple Heart and I was able to leave

the service early.

It had been an incredibly challenging and

frightening two-year span. I was inducted into

the service on July 23, 1943, in Salem; I departed

Europe on September 4, 1945; and finally, I arrived

back in the United States on September 11, 1945.

I received an EAME Ribbon. The European-

African-Middle Eastern Campaign Ribbon and

Medal was awarded for service performed in those

theaters between December 7, 1941, and March

2, 1946. I also received a Combat Infantry Badge,

which was awarded for participation in combat.

Many soldiers felt this was the single most important

decoration a man could wear. In addition I

was awarded an Expert Infantry Badge, a Good

Conduct Medal, and a Purple Heart.

The Adjusted Service Rating (ASR) was a

system that sought to discharge soldiers from

service in an equitable manner. My ASR rating was

50.38. Those who had served overseas would be

discharged first, and the men who had fought in

combat would be the first to leave. When the war

ended, men were shifted to units where everyone

held a similar point total. The last unit a man

served in was not always the one he fought with.

My Separation Qualification Record is as follows.

I spent three months as a private in basic

infantry, sixteen

months as private

first class (PFC)

as a light machine

gunner, one

month at PFC as

an ammunition

bearer, and five

months at PFC as

a clerk typist. In

the latter position,

I maintained

the sick book,

morning reports,

duty roster, payroll,

and vouchers

at company

headquarters. Bernard’s Purple Heart

As a private, I

earned fifty dollars base pay per month. My pay

increased as I moved up in rank, served overseas,

and received various decorations. I spent none of

my income during the war years, and therefore I

was able to have the money I earned sent home

and put away as my savings after the war.

The feeling that I had upon being discharged

from the service is indescribable. It was so

strange—all of the possibilities for my life really

opened up again. It was a huge relief. I could not

wait to return to Oregon and begin the next phase

of my life.

· 42 ·

Bernard's formal Army photo, 1944

· 43 ·

Selma’s Story

As told by Selma Brown

Everybody has a history, yet many of us know

very little about where we came from. Now

there is more of a movement for people to learn

about their ancestors than when I was growing up.

I really appreciate that our daughter Eden started

uncovering our family stories. I would have never

thought of embarking on creating a book like this;

we are very grateful to Eden for this opportunity.

It has been an extremely meaningful process. It is

amazing to me that we can access so much information

about our family immigration stories. I had

no idea that so many of the ship rosters and travel

records were still available and could provide such

detailed information about their journeys.

Now I wish I had asked my parents to tell me

more of their stories while they were alive. As a

child, I thought that my parents just started existing

when they came to Oregon. When you are

younger, you tend to focus more on yourself. As

you grow older, your awareness changes. My parents

rarely shared early memories of their lives with

Facing page: A collection of photos of the Nepom family

over the years II

anyone, not even members of their community in

Portland who had similar experiences. They did

not have very happy memories, so they probably

preferred to forget them.

My parents experienced significant changes in

their lifetimes, yet they rarely complained about

the difficulties they endured. I think they were

always grateful for all of the opportunities available

to them in the United States. Having come from

Russia, where religious persecution was rampant,

they valued the religious freedom afforded to them

in America.

Judaism was very important to my parents.

They were quite generous with their congregation—Shaarie

Torah Synagogue—throughout their

lives. Even though they did not have very much in

the beginning, they always shared what they could

with the synagogue. My father was the first board

member to be nominated for life at Shaarie Torah.

I definitely obtained my Jewish identity from my

parents. For the younger generations, Judaism

is part of their identity, but they may not always

appreciate it in the same way because that aspect of

their identity was never threatened. I learned from

· 45 ·

Manuel Nepom’s jitney in front of Shattuck School in South Portland, c. 1916

my parents how meaningful it is to be able to practice

your religion openly in your community.

In addition to the religious freedom we experienced

here, my family appreciated the wealth

of business opportunities afforded to them in

America. My father, Manuel, as well as Bernard’s

father, Harry, took advantage of these opportunities

and decided to start their own businesses.

They made up their minds to do it, and they did.

There is a lot of incentive to become an entrepreneur

here. By becoming your own boss you can

gain more control over your destiny. My parents

enjoyed the freedom to make their own way. That

was a huge change from the life they had led in

Russia. I really appreciated the life my parents

were able to build for our family.

Both Bernard and I had it much easier than

our parents did when they were growing up. In

turn, our children and grandchildren have had

things a bit easier in some ways than we did. Each

generation has some advantages to start off with

that the previous generation did not have. Our

grandchildren are just beginning to develop their

own directions in life. They are figuring out what

is important to them and what kind of lives they

want to establish as they grow older. I hope that

through reading this book they will be able to

connect with the origins of our family history, and

that they will feel proud of where they have come

from. I hope these stories give them the courage

· 46 ·

they need to overcome challenges in their own

lives as they arise, just as the generations before

them sought to do.

As I began to enter adulthood, I started to

realize how hard it is to manifest my own dreams,

and this gave me more respect for what my parents

endured to gain their success. Even with some help,

it is very challenging to become successful and

build a stable life. As my parents aged, they were

very proud of what Bernard and I had achieved.

That meant a lot to us. We have been very fortunate,

but we worked hard for what we have. It did

not just come. We are very proud of our children

and grandchildren. We are appreciative of our close

relationships with them. It is remarkable to see

how our family has developed and grown since my

ancestors came to this country.

The Nepom Family

I never had the opportunity to meet my paternal

grandparents, Moishe Shmuel Nepom and

Rose Hanken. I was named after my grandfather,

Moishe. My Hebrew name is Shimela, which I

guess is the feminine derivative of Shmuel. In

Jewish tradition it is common to name a newborn

child after a deceased relative, though I am not

sure how common it was to name a girl child after

a male relative. My mother

always called me “Shimela

Diamond from the Sky.” So

even though I never knew my

grandfather, we were connected

through the lineage of

our names.

Moishe and Rose lived in

Krolevetz, Russia, which is

about 400 miles east of the

Horodets area. They had five

children: Aharon, Ya’akov, Rose, David, and my

father, Manuel. Their daughter Rose’s Hebrew

given name was Rachel or Raisel, but she went by

Rose once she immigrated to the United States.

It is thought that my grandparents’ oldest sons,

Aharon and Ya’akov, were killed in the Russian

Revolution. Since they died young and never came

to the United States, the family knows very little

about them.

My grandmother Rose passed away when she

was a young woman, leaving my grandfather

Moishe with their five children. Following this

devastating loss for the family, my grandfather

eventually married a woman named Luba. They

went on to have two children of their own, Bertha

and Melvin Meyer.

Following the death of their mother, my father,

Manuel, and his siblings David and Rose decided

they wanted to leave Russia and seek a better life

for themselves in America. My father’s brother

David was the first member of the Nepom family

to immigrate to the United States. In the

travel records, David Nepom’s name was listed as

Nochum Nepomnjastschi. He departed Bremen,

Germany, in 1910 and migrated to Portland. 38

David entered the United States through

Galveston, Texas.

I have settled down in Portland, Oregon and make

ten dollars a week. I hope that with God’s help I

will be making more soon. In Galveston, people

cared for me and other emigrants as a father would

care for his children. 39

– David Nepom (From an excerpt that David wrote about his experiences)

· 47 ·

Letters During

the War Years

As told by Bernard Brown


began writing to Selma while I was in the

service. I was also writing to some other girls

at that time, but they were girls I knew from high

school in Salem and they were not Jewish. Both

Selma and I dated different people in high school,

and we had never dated each other. My connection

to the Jewish community was important to me, so

I thought that if I wrote to Selma, I could get the

news of the Portland Jewish community.

Selma told me she was flabbergasted when

my first letters arrived. As time passed, my letters

became more romantic, but Selma did not reciprocate.

She always answered my letters but she did

not return my romantic sentiments.

I appreciated her responses. I had seen many

other men receive letters full of what I considered

to be unrealistic promises. At the time I did not

even really think about our connection developing

into marriage. I was just a nineteen-year-old

kid who was scared and a bit homesick. Selma’s

letters were so comforting to me; they were not

We rarely saw each other before he

went overseas. I don’t know why

he thought to write. I guess that

is what you call fate. Why did he

write to me? I was not interested in

him and I was plenty busy.

When I started receiving

Bernard’s letters, I felt that he was

probably lonely and scared, and

it must have made him feel better

to think he had a girl waiting for

him when he returned. That was to

be expected. Yet I anticipated that

nothing would come of it after the

war was over.

Selma Brown

Facing page: A collection of photos and letters celebrating

Bernard and Selma’s early relationship III

· 73 ·

· 74 ·

The first letter that Bernard sent to Selma when he was in basic training in the Army

· 75 ·

I did not do anything to encourage

Bernard in my responses to his

letters. I was going with somebody

else pretty seriously when he started

writing to me. Yet Bernard’s letters

grew more and more romantic

as the time went on. I really felt

compassion because I knew he had

to be scared to death. What did he

know about living like that? How

could anybody be prepared for that

kind of experience?

Selma Brown


gushy or anything like that, but they were real.

Selma remained in my thoughts while I was away.

Throughout the war, I carried Selma’s picture in

the handle of my pistol.

As Selma’s letters kept coming, the feeling

grew that I just wanted to be closer to her. I did

not know her very well. We never dated. Her letters

were so down-to-earth, I could really relate to

them. I wanted to get to know her better. Yet the

more I pursued her, the more she rejected me. She

had a whole other life going on at home that I was

not a part of. I did not ask her to marry me through

the letters, but sometimes I would write “when

we’re together” or “when we’re married,” though

that was mainly something I was hoping for.

When I returned from my time overseas, I was

back in Salem for a few days on furlough before I

headed to Brownsville, Texas, to finish my military

service. As soon as I arrived home, I knew I had to

see Selma. We made arrangements to go out one

night. I could not wait. I arrived at her house and

knocked on the door. She opened the door and she

looked at me and said, “Oh, you grew a mustache.”

She was not that taken by the mustache, yet that

did not seem to deter us from hitting it off the rest

of the evening. We went to dinner at a Chinese

restaurant in the Hollywood District of Portland.

I remember it so well. As we talked, I got a better

· 76 ·

sense of who she was. I kept thinking to myself,

“Boy, she is the real thing. I would really like to get

together with her.”

We continued to spend time together during

those few days while I was home on furlough.

One night we were at Hill Villa, where the Chart

House restaurant is now, and we were sitting in my

car overlooking the city. We were necking and I

decided to ask Selma to marry me. I said, “Selma,

I want you to be my wife. Let’s get married.” She

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

she was so much in love she did not even think

twice. I was thrilled; it felt right. Then I said to her,

“I need to talk to your

parents also. I want to

get their permission.”

I felt like I had to ask

Selma first to make sure

that she would say yes.

The next day I asked

her parents’ permission.

It helped that I already

enjoyed a good relationship

with them from

when we were growing

up in South Portland.

I had always been crazy about Selma’s mother,

Tillie. In fact, I called her my “girlfriend” for

as long as I can remember. Her father, Manuel,

said, “Well, I always want you to take good care

of my daughter.” They gave me their blessing. My

parents thought Selma was the finest girl they had

ever known.

As it turns out, our parents were connected

before we even got together. My mother’s sister,

Gittel, and Selma’s mother’s brother, Benjamin, got

married in Europe. Our mothers lived in the same

village in Europe, so they knew each other. They

were the first of our families to settle here and then

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

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

on furlough. My parents were deliriously happy. Not only did they love Bernard,

but also they had not been that fond of my previous boyfriend. Bernard has been

a wonderful husband. He takes care of me, which is really important. I take care

of him too. It works both ways. It has turned out really well.

Selma Brown

· 77 ·

Building a Strong


As told by Bernard Brown

When we moved to Salem in 1950, we

rented a little house at 658 Breys Avenue

in Northeast Salem while we began looking for

a home to purchase. I knew the Candalaria area

from my high school days. I had always liked the

big hill in that area, which was not developed then.

The hill was woodsy and covered in Scotch broom,

which bloomed bright yellow, and there was a road

to the top with great views.

Not long after we moved to Salem, I came

across an empty lot in that area and contacted the

owner, who was willing to sell it. We paid $4,000

for the lot, which was the last one to be developed

on the corner. We obtained a loan from First

National Bank, at the new Candalaria branch. We

opened the first two accounts at the new branch.

During that time our daughter Shelley Nadene

Brown was born on May 25, 1951. We were very

excited about having our first child and we could

not wait for her arrival. It was amazing to bring her

home. She was such a beautiful baby. It is hard to

Facing page: A collection of photos highlighting the early

years of the Brown family IV

put into words the way I felt when she arrived. We

were filled with love for her and eager to welcome

her into our family.

As we acclimated to becoming new parents,

we also embarked on the project of designing

and building our first home on the lot we

had purchased. Selma worked with architect

Roscoe Hemenway to design the house. Roscoe

Hemenway was born in Cottage Grove, Oregon,

in 1899, and practiced architecture in Portland

for more than thirty years. He became one of the

city’s most prominent residential architects, with

many fine homes to his credit before his death

in 1957. The majority of his residential designs

were in the Colonial Revival style, but he also

designed some ranch style homes like ours. Roscoe

was also the architect who had designed Tillie

and Manuel’s new Portland home at 2808 NW

Cumberland Road.

We had the lot leveled and we received fill for

free from nearby excavations. After Shelley was

born, with Selma’s history of miscarriages, we did

not know if we would be able to have any more

children. With this in mind, we altered the original

· 93 ·

Shelley and I were only two-and-a-half years apart, so we shared a lot of closeness

growing up. She was a wonderful big sister. We played dolls together when we

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

took care of me throughout elementary school, always looking out for me since I

was a few grades behind her. Shelley had wonderful friends and they were always

very kind to me, even though they were three years older. Shelley and I both

went on to attend the University of Washington, where she helped me acclimate

to university life when I was a freshman. We continued to enjoy spending time

together as we grew older, and always look forward to our visits to this day.

I loved to play sports as a child and when Eden was old enough, I started

teaching her how to play ball, how to throw and catch. It was a lot of fun for us

to play sports together and, as a result, she grew into a very coordinated athlete.

Eden also always enjoyed hanging out with my girlfriends when I would bring

them over. A number of the girlfriends I had in high school were athletic and

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

along on some of our dates and she was always excited to be included.

– Jordan Brown

was born seven years later, on March 1, 1961, completing

our family of five. Eden was an absolutely

darling child and a beautiful baby. It was always a

pleasure to be with her. From the beginning, Eden

always looked so much like her mother. Since she

was ten when Eden was born, Shelley really took

over caring for Eden when she arrived home from

school. Shelley was like her little mother. From the

very beginning they were close. They have always

loved each other so much and still do.

Eden was a very clever and thoughtful child,

and an avid reader from a young age. She has

always been a natural at sports and held her own

when she played sports with her older sister and

brother. From the

beginning she was

very independent

and strong-willed.

She forged her

own way. We were

a little bit more

easy-going with

our parenting

approach by the Jordan

time she arrived,

which allowed her to explore and experiment from

a young age. Raising our children has been one of

our greatest joys and we had a lot of fun doing it.

· 98 ·



Shelley and Jordan

· 99 ·


Bernard and Selma

Reflections by Family and Friends

Reflections by

Frieda Cohen

Bob was my baby cousin, the favorite of the

entire family because he was so beautiful and so

sweet. Selma was like my little sister; she was an

adorable little girl. I knew both of them from the

time they were born and no day ever went by that

I was not in Selma’s home because her older sister

Betty was my best friend. The sun did not set on

a day that I did not see Betty. That was the way

we grew up. So every day I was at their house and

Tillie, Selma’s mother, was like my second mother.

They lived just about four blocks from our house,

and all the children attended the same schools. We

were very close as a family. Tillie’s brother, Ben

Lorber, was married to my aunt Gittel, my mother’s

older sister. My sister Lillian worked for Manuel,

Selma’s father. Manuel was one of the most honorable

businessmen I have ever known. He was

extremely good to my sister as an employer. He

was the type of businessman who made you wish

Facing page: A collection of images from Bernard and

Selma’s 65th wedding anniversary celebration XI

that all businesses were run by someone like him.

He worked very hard and expected his employees

to put in the same effort. That is why he loved my

sister; she was his counterpart in that way.

As a young girl, Tillie used to often come to

our house because she loved to feed and play with

my older sister Lillian when she was a baby. Of

course my parents would say, “Tillie, you’ll stay

and have dinner with us.” One of Tillie’s favorite

stories was that they had fresh pumpernickel

bread and butter on the table. My father told

her to take some and she picked up a piece and

barely smeared a little bit of butter on the bread.

My father took it away from her and lathered the

bread with butter. She told me as long as she lived,

she had never tasted anything that good. She

always appreciated my family’s friendship and generosity

to her over the years, from the time when

she had just arrived in Portland as a poor immigrant

girl into her adulthood.

Bobby’s mother, my aunt Rose, was my

mother’s baby sister and my mother adored her.

Five days a week I went to Hebrew school at the

Neighborhood House, and Bobby and his family

· 229 ·

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