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December 08, 2011 - Image 61

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2011-12-08

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Slain Woman A 'Once In A Lifetime' Friend

Ronelle Grier
Contributing Writer


hose who were close to Helen Gale,
the victim of a horrific murder,
remember her as "a tall woman
with a tall personality and a huge heart."
She was a devoted mother, grandmother
and friend, a woman whose love of knowl-
edge, reading and the arts was only sur-
passed by the love she had for her family
and friends.
Mrs. Gale, 81, was found dead on Nov.
26 in the back seat of her 2005 Honda
Accord, which had been abandoned and
set on fire in an alley along Buena Vista
in Highland Park, 12 miles from her
Southfield home. The circumstances of
her death are still being investigated by
Helen's daughter Stephanie Johnson
of Holland, Mich., is confident that
the mystery surrounding her mother's
death, which is being investigated by the
Southfield Police Department, will be
solved soon.
"The detectives have been absolutely
wonderful — smart, nice and compas-
sionate she said. "If anybody's going to
figure out what happened, they will."
On Dec. 1, friends and family members
gathered at the Farmington Hills home of
Marcie and Ashley Israel, where Helen had
been a frequent Shabbat dinner guest.
Helen had been a friend of Marcie's
mother, Jeanette Weissman, since Helen
moved to Michigan more than 40 years
ago. Weissman, who was pregnant and
confined to bed at the time, still remem-
bers the day Helen knocked on her door,
introduced herself and offered to drive
young Marcie to Shaarey Zedek nurs-
ery school. Weissman, whose carpool
arrangements had fallen through, grate-
fully accepted Helen's offer, amazed that
a virtual stranger would make such an
"From that time on, we became sisters:'
said Weissman, who lives in Bloomfield


BASCH, 82, of Livonia,
died Nov. 30, 2011.
Mr. Basch was a
Korean War veteran.
He is survived by his
wife of 54 years, Elaine
Basch; daughters and
sons-in-law, Karen
Rosenberg and R. Lee
Stevens of Huntington
Woods and Paula Levy
and Itzhak Elrom of
West Bloomfield; grand-
children, Marissa

Hills. "If she knew that somebody had
trouble, she'd come and help; but she
didn't want to be a burden to anyone, even
when she had heart surgery. She was the
type of friend that comes along once in a
lifetime. She touched people's lives."
The friendship between the two women
spread to Weissman's extended family and
many of her friends. Weissman introduced
Helen to Etta Lipsky of West Bloomfield,
and the women
enjoyed a long friend-
ship that included
weekly lunches at
Sero's in Southfield
following Saturday
"She enjoyed (shul-
hopping," Lipsky said.
"She was a free spirit
and always wanted
to learn about every-
body's culture."
Born in Montreal,
Helen lived in New
York, Texas and
Helen Gale
California before set-
fling in Michigan. Although she was a
United States citizen, she was proud of
her Canadian background. According to
Ashley Israel, she would often precede a
comment with the phrase, "You know I
am Canadian ... "

Always 'Giving Back'
"She loved life; she wanted to learn
something new every day': said daughter
Stephanie. "She taught me and my chil-
dren the importance of giving back, of
volunteering. She always wanted to make
sure the less advantaged had the same
advantages as those who had more."
Helen was a part-time employee
at Southfield Parks and Recreation
Department, a job that evolved from her
volunteer work at the organization almost
30 years ago.
"She enriched my life," said Shirley
Altman of Farmington Hills, a longtime

Rosenberg, Melissa Levy Hannah
Rosenberg, Yael Elrom and Ilan Elrom.
Interment was held at Adat Shalom
Memorial Park. Contributions may be
made to Holocaust Memorial Center,
28123 Orchard Lake Road, Farmington
Hills, MI 48334, www.holocaustcenter.org;
St. John's Hospice, 37650 Garfield Road,
Clinton Twp, MI 48036, www.stjohn.org/
foundation; American Heart Association,
P.O. Box 15120, Chicago, IL 60693, www.
americanheart.org; or a charity of one's
choice. Arrangements by Ira Kaufman

friend and co-worker. "If she heard about
a lecture or an art exhibit, she would share
it and shlep you along."
Her three granddaughters, Amanda,
Jennifer and Brittany Johnson, were her
pride and joy, and the admiration was
"She wanted the best for us, but not in
an overpowering way; she had a beautiful
spirit': said Amanda, 23."And she dressed
better than we did and
had more friends."
Brittany and Jennifer,
23-year-old twins,
remember how their
grandmother encour-
aged them to fill their
lives with happiness, love,
travel, higher education
and adventure.
"She wanted every day
to be full of excitement;
she was very inspiring':
said Brittany. "We all want
to be like her when we
turn 81."

'Opinionated And Colorful'
Helen enjoyed engaging in lively debates
about a multitude of subjects that includ-
ed politics, art, literature and current
"She was a very colorful character, very
opinionated and very intelligent ... a lot
of fun to be around;' said Ashley Israel.
Kenneth Jones, the Israels' housekeeper,
remembers how Helen used to compli-
ment his matzah ball soup, which was one
of her favorites.
"She was always happy, always really
nice and always a big part of the discus-
sion," said Rachel Israel, 11. "She was the
life of the dinner."
Helen's friends described her as flam-
boyant yet elegant, with eclectic tastes that
included glitzy costume jewelry and tables
set with fine china and linen cloths and
"She dressed like a film star': said

97, of West Bloomfield,
formerly of New York,
died Dec. 1, 2011.
She is survived by
her son and daughter-
in-law, Dr. Jay and
Berman of West
Bloomfield; daughter
and son-in-law, Judith and David Kohn;
grandchildren, Dr. Jeremy Berman and
Daniel Berman.
Mrs. Berman was the beloved wife for
65 years of the late Edward Berman.
Contributions may be made to
Hadassah or Hospice of Michigan.

................. ...

Marcie Israel. "She was as vibrant as the
red lipstick she always wore. She would
call her friends at night to see how they
were and make social plans."
Israel added that Helen had a love and
passion for Jewish tradition and values
although she was not especially observant.
A voracious reader, Helen enjoyed attend-
ing the annual Jewish Book Fair.
"She had a memory like a steel trap':
said Carol Paster, who was with Helen
on the afternoon before her death.
"Everything about Helen was special, even
her outrageous combinations of huge
costume jewelry that no one else could get
away with."
Yossi and and Lisette Benyamin of
Farmington Hills met Helen at the Israels'
home. "I was so surprised when I found
out her age said Yossi. "She was so
vibrant, so much younger. She was a very
tall person in many ways."
At the memorial gathering, Marcie
Israel read a poem she had written about
Helen, and Ashley discussed a passage
from the Talmud about immortality
"The rabbis say there are some who
gain immortality in a lifetime and some
who gain it in an hour': Ashley said. "I
think about the last hour of Helen's life
and how difficult it must have been —
and I believe she handled it with bravery
and dignity and strength, and that she
gained her immortality during that houf
Helen Gale is survived by her daugh-
ters, Stephanie (Jim) Johnson of Holland,
and Nancy Gale of Marina Del Rey, Calif.;
granddaughters Amanda Johnson of
San Francisco, and Jennifer and Brittany
Johnson of Chicago; numerous close
friends, neighbors and co-workers. She
was the wife of the late Robert Gale and
the sister of the late Eleanor Steinfield.
Contributions may be sent to In True
Fashion, a program that aids low-income
students, through its website, tiny.cc/
donateintruefashion. Check the box "In
memory of Helen Gale." Private interment
was by Dorfman Chapel.

Interment took place at Mt. Moriah
Cemetery in Fairview, N.J. Arrangements
by Dorfman Chapel.

Muskegon, died Dec. 1, 2011.
She is survived by her husband, Steven
Ballinger; parents, Helen and Irving
Bernstein of Southfield; son, Jason Fuller;
brother and sister-in-law, Dr. Mark and
Debra Bernstein; sister, Linda Doney;
nephews, a niece and many friends.
Contributions may be made to a char-
ity of one's choice. Interment was held at
Hebrew Memorial Park. Arrangements by
Hebrew Memorial Chapel.


Obituaries on page 62


December 8 2011


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