Phil Berman Boxer “I’LL BUY THAT DREAM” Dad






DAD’S BIOGRAPHY (AS I REMEMBER) by Ellen Berman Philip (Phil) Berman was born Philmore Berman, on September 2, 1926 in Paterson, NJ. Phil was born into a proud and hard working eastern european immigrant Jewish family. He had one younger sibling, Marvin. His life was deeply influenced by warm and loving grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. They all lived within walking distance and often gathered together to eat dinner and tell stories and have lots of belly laughs of days gone by. Phil Berman was a brave man that had an amazing career as an amateur and professional boxer winning the golden gloves and diamond gloves. He was up on top boxing in front of thousands of screaming fans at Madison Square Garden and Yankee Stadium in New York. He served his country in WWII in the Navy. He came back a decorated war hero winning the Purple Heart of Courage. Phil won the Navy Boxing Olympics overseas. Phil served a few years as a heroic City of Paterson NJ Fireman, and the rest of his career as Lieutenant assigned as the Director of Instruction and Physical Fitness for the New Jersey State Police Headquarters. Phil’s father Louis, and his mother Lillian, named their first born Philmore because they admired President Millard Fillmore. They believed that their son was destined for greatness. Grandpa Louis was the eldest in his family and was greatly loved, admired and depended upon by his family. He became quite successful in Paterson as the owner of Louis Berman Plumbing and the President of a commercial real estate firm that he named after me…Ellen Sue Realty Company… a year after I was born … by the way I was born on Grandpa’s birthday…April 29th.  Grandma Lillian had a very rough childhood, as she and her siblings grew up in the Paterson Daughters of Miriam Orphanage. Grandma Lillian deeply loved her husband, sons and grandchildren. She was a gourmet cook and collected gorgeous antiques. Lillian worked part-time as a private duty nurse and was one of the best in her field. Lillian opened up a liquor store when she was in her mid-fifties and always had a pot of delicious chicken soup on a hotplate in the back. Phil adored his parents and throughout his life no matter how busy he was, Dad would visit his parents and spend quality time with them at least a few times a week. Phil was an excellent student and athlete. He took pride in everything that he did. He played football for Eastside High School in Paterson, NJ. He was a gifted athlete and was approached by a scout for a college football scholarship. {By the way, his eldest grandson became a Division 1 Athlete and graduated from a prestigious University.} Young Phil Berman told the scout he wanted to join the navy and be a boxer and college was not what he wanted to do upon graduation from high school. While Phil was still in high school, age 15, he pretended to be 18 and became an amateur boxer and went on to be a professional boxer. Phil Berman won the diamond gloves, golden gloves, and was one of the three contenders that was a threat to the only undefeated heavyweight champion of the world, Rocky Marciano. { This fact about Phil Berman is mentioned on p.42 of Marciano’s biography {ROCKY MARCIANO: THE ROCK OF HIS TIMES}. Many people wondered why Dad’s promising career as a boxer was cut short. He was too proud to tell people that his boxing career was cut short because his wrist was badly injured in a plane crash when he was in the navy. When Phil returned from overseas and resumed his professional boxing career he realized that his punch power was not the same. His wrist injury worsened the more he continued in the ring. Even though his pro boxing career was cut short Dad was able to teach boxing at the NJ State Police Academy for the rest of his career. The Prolific Phil Berman wasn’t only bigger than life as a boxer…he was a brave fireman that saved lives in a chemical tank explosion. The newspaper reported and I will quote from THE PATERSON NEWS, “It was impossible to raise the body of Malone from the tank because of agitator blades on the inside of the tank. Fireman Phil Berman, well known Heavyweight Boxer, then decsended into the tank and with almost super human strength lifted the body of Malone between the blade until the top tank was reached.” Mr. Malone survived. Dad was proud to serve his country overseas in the Navy, serve his city as a Fireman, and serve his state as a Lieutenant in the NJ State Police. He was asked to develop a physical fitness manual that was distributed throughout the United States. He recruited me to be his right hand person for this important task. I took pictures and typed up this manual on our home typewriter when I was a young teen. So many fathers were not allowed to bring their children to work with them, especially in the 1960’s. I was so fortunate to occasionally go to work with my Dad. It made me feel so smart and so important because he always found a way for me to help him with something. When Dad was a State Trooper he was selected for special event details to the White House in Washington, D.C. to guard President Kennedy, President Johnson and President Carter. {Proud to report that Phil’s son has a very important career in Washington, D.C. putting his math genius to work.} Phil married Doris on November 19, 1950 and they had five children together (eldest to youngest) Ellen, Laurie, Joseph, Hedy and Dori. Phil met his future wife when she was competing in the Miss New Jersey Beauty contest. Doris was a child prodigy pianist and piano was her talent in the contest. On top of it all, she was a gorgeous knockout. The rest is history. Phil loved to sing…. so Doris played the piano and Phil sang…it surely sounded like a good combination. They looked like the couple on top of a wedding cake. In the 50’s the theme was “I’ll Buy That Dream”. Their dreams turned into many trials and tribulations. Phil loved being a son, father and grandfather. He enjoyed the precious moments of life. Phil was a great storyteller; if he wasn’t telling exciting stories about his childhood and boxing career he would be singing. To me, he sounded better than Frank Sinatra and Robert Goulet. When we were growing up, Dad would sit at the edge of the bed and sing songs to us before we would go to sleep. His favorite song was a song that was very popular in WWII…. COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS…He would sing so beautifully…”When your worried and you can’t sleep…just count your blessings instead of sheep and you’ll fall asleep counting your blessings.” He loved singing, reading, spelling, movie trivia, boxing, swimming, running, bowling. Speaking of bowling…Dad would take me to his State Police bowling league on Tuesday evenings. I became their official score keeper when I was in elementary school. Dad’s favorite meal was steak and spaghetti….he ordered it right away when he returned from overseas in WWII. Phil loved food…on Sunday mornings we would go to Jerry and Joe’s Deli in Levittown to pick up lox and bagels if we were in town. We usually were out of town visiting the grandparents in Paterson and Passaic for the weekend. Dad found his passion in all of his career choices. He would take my sister Laurie (she always knew how to make me laugh) and me to work with him to the NJ State Police Academy. We would swim in the indoor pool, play in the gym, and be on the sidelines when he gave Academic and Physical Fitness classes to his recruits. {No wonder three of his daughters became educators.} Dad declared his daughter Ellen as one of the three major forms of communication in the 60’s…TELE VISION & TELE PHONE & TELE ELLEN. Dad gave me this title when I was in second grade. We were living in an apartment in Trenton. I was seven years old and was on my first school field trip to Millside Farms. I had my nose pressed on that school bus window the whole time so that I could report every detail to my Dad as soon as he got home from work. All of a sudden, I see these cute brand new model homes on the side of Highway Route 130. I anxiously wrote down the phone number that was on the sign. I was jumping out of my seat with excitement. I let my teacher and classmates know that when I told my Daddy about these houses he would surely buy one for our family. Dad called the number the next day and we went on a tour of the model homes the following weekend. Two months later we moved into our affordable post-war light green and dark green corner lot cape cod home in the Pennypacker Park section of Levittown, NJ. Phil’s entire life was filled with adventure and never boring. He would sneak out of the house when he was growing up and meet his friends on street corners making what he called “roast potewts”. Phil and all of his buddies would light a bonfire and kid around roasting these “potewts”..aka potatoes…on the edge of a stick. Dad had so much charisma. The whole room would light up when he entered. Most weekends he would pile all the kids in the car and drop us off to spend the weekend with our grandparents in North Jersey. We would stop at the Howard Johnson’s on the turnpike for something to eat. When Dad would walk in people thought he owned the place. I remember Dad inviting other families to sit down and eat with us. Sometimes Jerry Stiller and Ann Meara ate with us. They were booked for comic gigs on the road at the time. Dad’s friend, Jack LaLanne the fitness guru, would eat with us too. Dad was very well known in New Jersey. Phil looked like a million dollars when he would wear his custom made fine suits. Everywhere we went, people would know Phil Berman. Once he would engage in a conversation, it could go on for hours. Why not; he was charismatic, intelligent, interesting and had a great sense of humor. He loved to talk and he loved people. Phil retired from the NJ State Police when he was in his early fifties so that he could enjoy time with his son and two youngest daughters attending high school and beginning college in Arizona. He was flying back and forth for many years to see them (my mother and younger siblings moved to Arizona my senior year of high school) and he was so happy to finally make Tucson his home. Dad was so very proud of the scholastic and sports accomplishments of his children. Phil was the President of their fan clubs. Our Dad, President Philmore, always encouraged his children to do their best and have fun. Dad would be sitting in the front row relishing every moment that he spent cheering his champions on at their football games, handball matches and gymnastic meets. Dad passed away at the age of 67 on May 4, 1994 of congestive heart failure. His gravesite is at the National Memorial Cemetery in Phoenix, AZ. My father lives on in my heart. Dad is present in all aspects of my life. The time that I spent with my father and the memories that I have mean the world to me. I take so much pride in being the daughter of Phil Berman.

[Background Music “I’ll Buy That Dream”]

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