Original Member of the Juniper Park Civic Association and at the age of 98 he is still active and still going strong
Carl Berner was born in Stuttgart, Germany on January 27, 1902. His parents died when he was a toddler, and shortly thereafter his French maternal Grandmother took him to live with her in France, where he remained until he was about ten years old. In 1912, he returned to Germany to live with his paternal Grandmother, Inger, whom he remembers with special fondness. His education in the public/”burger” schools was relatively uneventful. It did however provide him with a strong foundation in mechanical manufacturing, which later became his life’s work. He also learned to speak English, for which he was very grateful, when he immigrated to the United States in 1928. He vividly remembers catching a first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty, as he arrived in New York Harbor on the Bremen oceanliner. His sister, Marie (Dreves), who was one year younger, preceded him to America. In 1936, he met and married the “love of his life” Margaret (deceased), a Scandinavian beauty. Emily, their only child, was born on September 23, 1943. Early morning shoppers at Silver Barn are pleasantly greeted by Emily, as she packs groceries with Cashiers Maria, Lucy, Rena, or Sue.
Shortly after arriving in the U.S., Mr. Berner went to work as the Night Building Superintendent at the Chrysler Building in Manhattan. For five years, he worked nights, ten hours a day, six days a week. He loved his job, and he even had his picture taken atop the gargoyle on the Chrysler Building, 405 Lexington Avenue. In 1933, because of his fluency in French and German, the U.S. Government invited him to become a foreign agent, but he declined. After leaving his Chrysler job, in the height of the Depression, Carl became an entrepreneur and opened a toy-making business, initially metal toys, and later plush animals, teddy bears, and dolls. He labored sixteen hours a day to design his own toy collection. His dolls became collector’s items. His toy-making expertise was in demand by larger business concerns, and he was invited to train younger workers in the industry, until his retirement.
In 1938, Mr. and Mrs. Berner bought their first home in Middle Village for the grand sum of $5,190.00. They loved their new home and worked together to secure monthly mortgage payments of approximately $40.00. They immediately became members of the Eliot Avenue Civic Association, which is the precursor of the Juniper Park Civic Association. For 62 years, this stately, gracious 98-year-old gentleman has participated in civic activities in our community. He knows more about the history and landscape of Middle Village than most of us can even imagine.
“Retirement can be boring,” but not for Mr. Berner. He stated that he considers himself a “humanitarian.” He enjoys helping his neighbors, especially elderly people, with odd jobs around their homes. It is not unusual to meet Carl walking to Juniper Valley Park, to Edwards Supermarket on Grand Ave., or to the Home Depot on Woodhaven Blvd. He walks an average of five miles a day. He attributes his good health and longevity to his daily walks and to “helping people, especially the elderly.”