By Steve Mosco
An original member of the Juniper Park Civic Association and one of the oldest men in the city died this week at the impressive age of 110.
Carl Berner, a fixture in the Middle Village community since 1938, died at his home Monday weeks before his 111th birthday. Berner was well-known in the neighborhood for his commitment to civic responsibilities, including his penchant for taking long walks with a broom and trash can in an effort to keep the streets tidy.
“He was a kind and warm soul, a craftsman, a great man and a gentleman,” said Tony Nunziato, a Middle Village resident and Juniper Park Civic Association activist. “He always gave back to the community and he was very proud of his work.”
His work to keep the neighborhood clean was recognized in 2006 when Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the city Sanitation Department honored Berner for his efforts to stomp out litter. At the time, Berner said cleaning the streets was part of his normal walking routine.
Nunziato said that up until a couple of years ago, Berner walked for miles every day, and the proud supercentenarian credited those frequent strolls, along with his daily bowl of oatmeal, as the key to his health and longevity.
“He was of that strong European stock. He was very healthy. He walked everywhere and, if oatmeal is the key, then pass it this way,” said Nunziato. “I knew him for 10 years and he really rekindled in me what being an American is all about. He was a proud man.”
Born in Stuttgart, Germany, Jan. 27, 1902, Berner immigrated to the United States in 1928 and in short order went to work as the night building superintendent at the Chrysler Building in Manhattan. According to the Juniper Civic website, Berner loved his job as superintendent and worked 10 hours a day, six days a week for five years.
After leaving his Chrysler job, Berner became an entrepreneur and opened a toy-making business, initially fabricating metal toys and later plush animals, teddy bears and dolls. During this time in 1936, Berner met and married Margaret, a Scandinavian immigrant, with whom he had a daughter, Emily, in 1943.
His wife died in 1987, but Berner stayed in Middle Village and continued to live with his daughter.
City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) said the community will remember the neighborhood fixture and he will continue to inspire all the residents.
“Carl Berner dedicated his life to making our community a better place,” she said. “He will be sorely missed, and his legacy will live on in the countless number of people who were inspired by his dedication and continue to fight to improve our neighborhoods.”
Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4546.