The first Rose Bowl game took place in Pasadena, CA. “Electric Theatre,” the first movie theater in the United States, opened in Los Angeles, CA. Theodore Roosevelt became the first President of the United States to ride in an automobile.
All of those things happened in 1902, which was also the year that Middle Village resident Carl Berner was born. Berner, who has been involved with local civic associations and a volunteer in the western Queens community since he moved there in 1938, just celebrated his 108th birthday on Wednesday, January 27.
“He is such a role model and inspiration to everyone,” said Bob Holden, who is the President of the Juniper Park Civic Association and has known Berner for more than 40 years.
Berner was born in Germany and immigrated to the United States in 1928. Shortly after, he began working as night building superintendant at the Chrysler building, but he soon decided it was time for a career change. He opened his own toy-making business that he ran for many years until retirement.
After he married his late-wife Margaret in 1936, they bought a house in Middle Village two years later for about $5,000. Berner still lives in the house with his daughter Emily today.
“The community is wonderful,” Berner said from his home on the afternoon of his birthday. “I knew so many neighbors; everyone was a friend.”
More than 60 years ago, Berner joined the Eliot Avenue Civic Association, which is now the Juniper Park Civic Association. In addition to participating in community meetings and neighborhood watch groups, Berner also made a habit of cleaning up streets in the community – something he continued to do into his 100s.
“If he’s not an inspiration for people to get out and volunteer in the neighborhood, nobody is,” Holden said. “I think back and say ‘why is the Juniper Park Civic Association so active and why do we have so many active people,’ and it’s Mr. Berner.”
Although two broken hips have limited his outside activities throughout the last few years, he said he is feeling better.
Berner said he didn’t have any wishes for his birthday, but there was one thing he would like.
“I want to get rid of this thing,” said Berner, pointing to his walker.