Cover photo for Gustel (Scharlack) Kaiser Berkowitz's Obituary
Gustel (Scharlack) Kaiser Berkowitz Profile Photo

Gustel (Scharlack) Kaiser Berkowitz

d. August 13, 2023

Seattle, WA & formerly of Battle Creek, MI

Gustel (Scharlack) Kaiser Berkowitz

Gustel (Scharlack) Kaiser-Berkowitz, 102, of Seattle, Washington and formerly of Battle Creek, MI, died Sunday, August 13, 2023.

Gustel Scharlack Kaiser Berkowitz was born in Frankfurt am Main, Germany in 1920, firstborn child of Max and Recha Scharlack. Gustel and her sisters, Ruth, Margot, and Edith, were raised in an Orthodox household, with the daughters attending Samson Raphael Hirsch-Schule and  being exposed to the highest level of classical musical performances. Gustel, like her mother Recha, was educated in piano, Jewish studies, and French, Spanish, and English. She excelled in all of those, fostering a life enriched by music, languages, and an appreciation of art. Her dedication to Judaism was steadfast, life-long, and fulfilling.

Max and Recha Scharlack and their daughters escaped from Germany in 1937. They traveled on the Queen Mary to Ellis Island and then joined family in  San Antonio, Texas. Those who remained in Germany were killed, and Gustel remembered them forever. 

Gustel met Maynard Kaiser, an army soldier from Chicago, while volunteering as a Liberty Belle at a Jewish USO dance. They married in the early 40s, and after the war they moved to Battle Creek, Michigan. Maynard was a painting contractor with Gustel as the business accountant. She taught piano while they raised their 3 children: Sarah (Marsha), Larry, and Holly. Gustel was a founding member of Temple Beth-El, where she taught Sunday School, Hebrew, and Music. She was always an active part of the synagogue, the Temple Sisterhood and choir, and assisted the Youth Group. She also was a member of Morning Musical Club, an association of piano teachers in Battle Creek. Maynard and Gustel loved ballroom dancing, especially jitterbug. Trophies were won!

Gustel and Maynard loved to winter in Florida, and after retirement they moved to Aventura. There they were active in Hineni, a Jewish heritage organization. Their family now included son-in-laws Walter and Vasco, and daughter-in-law, Cindy. Gustel delighted in teaching Jewish customs, music, and dancing to her grandchildren Talia, Daven, Vasco, Joel, Rachel, and Jeremy, while Maynard loved teaching them swimming, fishing, and silly songs. Tragically, in the early 90s, Maynard was killed by a drunk driver. Gustel remained living in Florida. A couple years later she married Henry Berkowitz and they enjoyed taking cruises all over the world. Her remarkable talent as a pianist continued to develop as she started performing "Sing-a-long with Gussie" events. After Henry's death, Gustel moved to Mary Schwartz Summit, in Seattle and took up the nickname Gussie. Gussie's world expanded again as she embraced her grandchildren's spouses Justin, Elena, and Mitchell. And then once more as great-grandchildren Johann, Recha, and Viana were born. Delight!  

At Summit, Gussie continued to play piano for everyone. Though in her late 90s, she  participated in every activity from virtual boxing, to drum circle, to chair yoga, to bowling without balls. She continued her lifelong study of languages; she attended Yiddish language classes and preferred Spanish Bingo. She loved to tell her family in detail about her full schedule at The Summit, never missing an exercise class and taking field trips to see shows or, once, to investigate a funny-sounding "k'nahbis" shop.

On the piano, she regularly gave scheduled concerts, entertaining her fellow residents by playing almost anything they requested and in just about any key. Gussie has numerous grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces and nephews who live in Seattle, so she was able to attend recitals, birthday parties, Thanksgivings, seders, and parties. This suited Gussie's love of family. And if a piano was available, then you could not stop her from adding music to liven up the occasion. Like her father, Gussie delighted in crafting witty original poems to mark special occasions. Her surviving family will strive to pass on her ability to elicit smiles. She will be greatly missed by all who knew her and by her Summit family of staff and residents.

Gussie made living 102 years look like fun. She credited her longevity to moderation in diet, regular exercise, and adding the joy of Jewish tradition to every day. She was also an advocate of using up all your left-overs. Her family wants to thank Dr. Carrie Rubenstein, Rabbi Zaiman and the staff of Mary Schwartz Summit for all the extra care they extended in her final days.  

Gustel Berkowitz passed away on Aug 13, 2023 surrounded by her loving family after a very brief illness. She was laid to rest in Memorial Park in Battle Creek next to her beloved husband Maynard Kaiser and her cherished son, Larry Kaiser.

Gustel was generous in her support for Jewish charities. If you would like to make a donation in her name, may we suggest:  the Seattle Holocaust Center for Humanity ( holocaustcenterseattle.org) or the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle ( jewishinseattle.org/donate) or  the Kline-Galland Fund for compassionate care ( klinegalland.org)

A graveside service will be officiated by Rabbi Simone Schieker 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, August 16, 2023 at Memorial Park Cemetery in Battle Creek, MI.  The service was recorded and may be viewed at https://vimeo.com/856066576

Past Services

Graveside Service

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Starts at 10:30 am (Eastern time)

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