Bertram H. Silverman ’34, who conquered life despite several health setbacks, died on July 13, 2009, in Peabody, Massachusetts, after a brief illness.
He was born in Portland on May 15, 1913, and became ill with rheumatic fever just as he was about to enter elementary school. He was bedridden for months, delaying his schooling for a year, but he excelled to such a degree that he received several double promotions and ended up graduating from Portland High School at the age of 16, the youngest class salutatorian in the school’s history. He took a year of post-graduate classes at Portland High School before entering Bowdoin, where he graduated cum laude, a member of Phi Beta Kappa. After college he joined the family wool waste business, P. Silverman and Son, in Portland, where he worked as the manger from 1934 to 1949, and as its owner from 1949 to 1965. He founded Portland Woolen Co. in 1965, and in 1972 founded Portland Textile Co., a retail and wholesale fabric business selling to stores and companies throughout the country. He operated a local store, Carlbert Fabrics, until his retirement in 1983. From 1959 to 1966, he served as president of Shaarey Tphiloh Synagogue, where his grandfather had been a founding vice president in 1904. In 1989, after the death of Evelyn Setlin Silverman, his wife of 46 years, he joined SCORE (Service Core of Retired Executives) as a way to stay active and share his expertise with fledgling business people. At the age of 70, he was diagnosed with macular degeneration, a progressive eye disease that causes a loss of center vision. His positive outlook and determination to adapt to his condition impressed his doctors so much that they encouraged him to write a book about his coping strategies. In 1997, he published “Bert’s Eye View: Coping with Macular Degeneration,” which is now in its 3rd printing, and donated all profits from sales of the book to the Iris Network, the Maine Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired. He was often called upon to speak to senior citizen groups, and was a guest speaker on several radio and TV shows. His motto was always, “Cope, don’t mope, there’s hope!” He enjoyed golf, and played with a friend whose job it was to locate the ball after he hit it. In 2003, he moved from Portland to Woodbridge Assisted Living Facility in Peabody, Mass., to be closer to his daughter and her family. Nominated by the staff at Woodbridge, he was recognized as Senior Volunteer of the Year by both the MassAging Organization and the Massachusetts Assisted Living Facilities Assoc. He is survived by a daughter, Marjorie Afergan; a sister, Phyllis Kapstein; and two grandchildren.