Sisters Lived Together, Died Together
Shelli Liebman Dorfman
y the time a passerby noticed
smoke coming from a home on
Berkley Street in Oak Park on
Sunday morning, April 5, 2009, the two
elderly residents inside were probably
According to Oak Park fire inspector,
Todd Barthel, sisters, 94-year-old Belle
Schram and 90-year-old Florence Scheff,
appear to have succumbed to the house
fire before firefighters were called.
"A man driving by saw smoke com-
ing from the home," Officer Barthel
said. "He knocked on the windows and
yelled and then forced entry through
the front door." The man called 911 at
approximately 9:30 a.m.
"The fire almost burned out before we
were called," Barthel said. "It appeared to
have been burning for close to an hour.
Our guys immediately went inside, but it
was a situation where it was way too late.
The ladies were already deceased well
before our arrival. The crew did every-
thing perfectly. If there had been a chance
to save them, they would have done it."
There were smoke detectors in the one-
story home but it is not known if they
"We believe the ladies were asleep
when the fire started:' Barthel said. "We
believe they woke up because of the fire
or the smoke or maybe the smoke detec-
tors. Based on how bad it was inside the
house, they didn't have enough the time
or maybe the strength to get out:'
Both women were pronounced dead
at the scene, with one being found in a
bathroom, the other in a hallway.
The cause of death for both Mrs.
Schram and Mrs. Scheff was smoke inha-
lation. No one else was in the home at the
time of the fire.
"The fire has been investigated and the
cause is undetermined," Barthel said. "But
it is believed to be accidental. This is a
The sisters were unusually close, hav-
ing lived together for approximately 40
years. "They were widowed young and
moved in to the house together:' said Mrs.
Schram's granddaughter Marla Schram-
Wolfe. "They spent all their time together','
Schram-Wolfe helped with grocery
shopping but said the women were able
to get out on their own. "They were
active she said. "They went out to eat
and spent holidays at my house. My aunt
[Mrs. Scheff] — who had a great sense of
humor — drove and she didn't even wear
glasses. In the last couple of years, they
were blessed with great-grandkids who
were so important to them."
Schram-Wolfe also said her grand-
mother and aunt had a special relation-
ship with all members of the family,
including each other's grandchildren.
"The sisters each found a way to make
every one of their children and grand-
children feel like the favorite and found
time to have special moments with each
grandchild:' said Rabbi Joshua Bennett of
Bennett officiated at a single funeral
service that was held for both Mrs. Schram
and Mrs. Scheff. "That was because their
lives were so intertwined," he said.
"They were so much more than sisters.
They died tragically together in the fire,
but first they had so much beautiful life
together, experiencing the world in spe-
Mrs. Schram is survived by her
son, Stuart (the late Donna) Schram
of Commerce Twp.; daughter-in-law,
Sandra Schram; brother, Edward Taylor
of Farmington Hills; grandchildren, Lori
Schram, Marla (David) Schram-Wolfe,
Darcy Schram, Anthony (Jill) Schram,
Nicolas Schram; great-grandchildren,
Claire, Chloe and Adin.
She was the beloved wife of the late
Mitchell Schram; mother of the late Calvin
Schram; sister of the late Florence Scheff.
Mrs. Scheff is survived by her son,
Leslie Robinson; brother, Edward Taylor
of Farmington Hills; granddaughter,
Stacey Porvin; great-nieces and great-
nephews, Lori Schram, Marla (David)
Wolfe, Darcy Schram, Anthony (Jill)
Schram and Nicolas Schram; great-great-
nieces and great-great-nephew, Claire,
Chloe and Adin.
Mrs. Scheff was the beloved wife of the
late Irving Scheff; sister of the late Belle
Interment for both women was at the
Adat Shalom Memorial Park in Livonia.
Contributions may be made to Jewish
Family Service or to a charity of one's
choice. Arrangements by Dorfman
Businessman And Family Man
orman Lacoff, 81, of Boynton
Beach, Fla., formerly of West
Bloomfield, died in hospice
care in West Palm Beach, Fla., April
6, 2009. He was a well-known home
furnishings showroom owner in the
Michigan Design Center.
A trailblazer within the home furnish-
ings industry, Mr. Lacoff teamed with
Marvin Danto in 1976 to conceptual-
ize and launch the Michigan Design
Center in Troy. His firm, Norman Lacoff
and Associates (NLA), was the first
showroom to open and a fixture of the
Michigan Design Center for more than
Prior to that, Mr. Lacoff opened
Decorators' Showroom in Detroit
in 1962. The business relocated to
Southfield in 1973, expanding its lines
and changing its name to Norman
Lacoff and Associates.
Norm Lacoff's partner in business
— and in life — was his beloved wife,
Audrey. Married for more than 60 years,
they met while working together at
Baker's Shoes in Detroit, when he was
18 and she was 16. After his service in
Mr. Lacoff was known as a self-made
the U.S. Army in Germany at the end of
man and a devoted husband, father,
World War II, they were married in 1948. grandfather, great-grandfather, brother,
The births of daughters Ellen, Renee,
son, uncle, business associate and friend.
and Susi rounded out their family of
He lived life to its fullest and on his own
five. Norm often said that like the fingers terms. At the core of his individuality
of a hand, they needed to support one
was a spirit of sharing. He and Audrey
another and work as a team.
always wanted others to enjoy all that
From three daughters came three
life brings and they led by example.
sons-in-law, six grandsons
He retired in 2004 and he
and two great-granddaugh-
and Audrey later moved to
ters. As their family grew, the
Boynton Beach, Fla. He passed
couple embarked on a new
away in peace and comfort,
adventure — taking owner-
surrounded by family and
ship of an A-frame home on
listening to the music of 1945,
the island of Eleuthera in
the year he and Audrey met.
the Bahamas, named "Wings
He is survived by his
of a Dove which became a
beloved wife of 60 years,
gathering point for family
Audrey Lacoff; children, Ellen
and friends for more than 20 Norman L acoff
and Cary Adelman of Oak
Park, Renee and Michael
Whether hosting business recep-
Freedman of Alexandria, Va., Susi and
tions or family gatherings in Detroit,
Jeff Resner of Centerport, N.Y.; grand-
Eleuthera or Florida, the Lacoffs cre-
children, Brian and Erica Freedman, Eric
ated an affair that was always "an event"
and Karen Adelman, Danny and Angela
where people met and became friends
Freedman, Scott Adelman, Lyel Resner
and Ben Resner; great-granddaughters
Jocelyn Adelman and Ella Freedman;
sisters-in-law, Elaine Lacoff, Harriett
Travis; sister-in-law and brother-in-law,
Loretta and Larrie Globerson; many
loving nieces, nephews, cousins, friends
Mr. Lacoff was the devoted son of
the late Esther and late Meyer Lacoff;
brother of the late Betty (and late
Bernie) Plavnick, the late Edith (and
late Jack) Chapin and the late Gerson
Lacoff; brother-in-law of the late Murray
Contributions may be made to a char-
ity of one's choice or Hospice of Palm
Beach County, 5300 East Avenue, West
Palm Beach, FL 33407, (877) 494-6890;
the Adele and Ray Galper Send a Kid
to Camp Fund, 6600 W. Maple, West
Bloomfield, MI 48322, (248) 661-1000;
Temple Israel Rabbis Discretionary
Fund, 5725 Walnut Lake Road, West
Bloomfield, MI 48323, (248) 661-5700.
Interment at Beth El Memorial Park.
Arrangements by Ira Kaufman Chapel. [11
Obituaries on page C34
April 16 • 2009