STONE, SARA

Stone, Sara Berenson Sara Berenson Stone died at home on Saturday, February 3, 2018 surrounded by her family. She was 102. Mrs. Stone was born in Bogalusa, Louisiana in 1915 to Eva Singerman and Meyer A. Berenson, both Russian immigrants. Her father settled in Bogalusa, a sawmill town, as a merchant and started numerous businesses. When Mrs. Stone turned sixteen, she left for Duke University, where in her senior year, she was named one of six outstanding students. During the Great Depression, Mrs. Stone began what would become more than eighty years of service to people in need. As a graduate student at the Tulane School of Social Work, she did field work with destitute families in the French Quarter. At age 20, she took an apprenticeship with the Southern Women's Educational Alliance, giving vocational guidance to teachers in poverty-stricken Breathitt County, Kentucky. In 1938 she married Saul Stone, himself a force. They had four children David, Richard, Harvey and Carol and were married 62 years until Saul's death in 2001. In the spirit of her parents' commitment to community service, she joined the boards of organizations such as the New Orleans Community Chest (later the United Way), the Social Welfare Planning Council, the Community Volunteer Service, Kingsley House and the Volunteer Committee at Charity Hospital. But the main focus of Mrs. Stone's life became clearer after the Second World War. In 1946, she joined the board of the New Orleans Section of the National Council of Jewish Women, where she served as president and, for many years, as chair of the Scholarship Committee, and where she remained an Honorary Vice-President. Through the NCJW, in 1949, she joined a volunteer committee that welcomed and helped to resettle Jewish refugees arriving by boat at the Port of New Orleans from Displaced Persons camps in Europe. Galvanized by news of the horrific events during the War, and by the desperate condition of the new arrivals, Mrs. Stone determined to dedicate herself to protecting and supporting Jewish families, especially children. She was elected Honorary Vice-President and served for decades on the scholarship committee of the Jewish Children's Regional Service, which supplies tuition assistance to needy students, and where separate funds and awards have been established in her name. She chaired the Women's Division and the Lifesaver Division of the Jewish Welfare Fund, and worked to raise money for the newly-established State of Israel. Mrs. Stone served on the boards of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans, the JWF and the Anti-Defamation League. She served on the Board of Governors and was a lifetime Honorary Trustee of Isidore Newman School, where a Chair in the Arts bears her name. Among many other honors, she received the Enduring Leadership Award from the National Board of the NCJW, the Hannah Solomon Award and the Harold Salmon Award of the New Orleans Section of the NCJW, the Tzedakah Award from the Jewish Endowment Foundation, the A. I. Botnick Torch of Liberty Award from the ADL and the Roger Bissinger Memorial Award from the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans. Her modesty in accepting these awards was well known. Mrs. Stone was a voracious reader and maintained a massive library of first edition novels and memoirs by various literati, history and art books, travel guides, books of local interest and cookbooks. A balletomane, she attended ballet and theater performances in New York well into her nineties, combing through The New Yorker to see "what looked interesting." Mrs. Stone loved to travel, especially to Italy and France. Both in New Orleans and abroad, she was a connoisseur of good food, achieving legendary patron status with restaurant owners, waiters and staff. People of all ages would flock to pay their respects to the lady in the elegant suit, pearl earrings and the perfectly coiffed silver hair as she sipped her Beefeater martini on the rocks. In Florence, Rome and Venice, she was as famous at the Hassler Hotel and Harry's Bar as she was at Galatoire's and at Antoine's and Manale's, where pictures of her hang on the wall near her regular table. Sara Stone was preceded in death by her parents; her husband of 62 years, Saul Stone; her son David L. Stone; her son-in-law John S. Wright; and her sister Byrde B. Haspel. She is survived by her brother Gerald S. Berenson (Joan); her sons Richard B. Stone and Harvey M. Stone (Danna), her daughter Carol R. Stone (Patrick McNamara); daughter-in-law Sophia H. Stone; 10 grandchildren: Sarah Stone Ehlinger (John), Michael A. Stone (Elizabeth Owen), Evie Stone (Ali Calisal), Rebecca Stone (Seth Berkowitz), Ilana Stone, Aliza Stone Howard (Ben), Meyer B. Stone, Emily B. Stone (Jenn McCarron), Daniel L. Stone (Ellie Carmody) and Laura Wright Leenaars (Erik); 15 great-grandchildren: Allie, Lilly and Jack Ehlinger; Owen and Peter Stone; Julian Calisal; Simon, Sasha and Jacob Berkowitz; Max Howard; Ben, Isaac and Naomi Stone; Luca and Margot Leenaars. The family would like to thank her devoted caregivers Daniel Zamora, Karen Lee, Morrea Hunter, Kim Darby, Ashley Manzur, Rene Brown and a special thanks to Lynda Ernest for 58 years of friendship and support. Funeral services will be held at 12:00 Noon on Monday, February 5, 2018 at Shir Chadash Synagogue, 3737 West Esplanade Avenue, Metairie, with Rabbi Gabriel Greenberg, Congregation Beth Israel officiating. Visitation will begin at 10:00 a.m. Interment will follow at Hebrew Rest Cemetery #3, 2100 Pelopidas Street, New Orleans. The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Sara and Saul Stone Scholarship Fund at the JCRS, P. O. Box 7368, Metairie, LA 70010 https://www.jcrs.org/services/camp-scholarship-aid/; the Sara B. Stone Educational Enrichment Fund at the NCJW, 6221 South Claiborne Ave., Suite 208, New Orleans, LA 70125 http://ncjwneworleans.org/?page=home.php; the Sara Stone Chair in the Arts at Isidore Newman School, 1903 Jefferson Ave., New Orleans, LA 70115 https://www.newmanschool.org/page; or the charity of your choice. Condolences may be expressed online at www.tharpsontheimerfh.com THARP-SONTHEIMER-THARP of Metairie is in charge of arrangements.

Sara Berenson Stone, whose philanthropy and volunteerism in New Orleans spanned eight decades, died Saturday. She was 102.

Stone grew up in Bogalusa, the child of Russian immigrants. Her father had fled the city of Bialystok after a violent pogrom there in which mobs and czarist army troops went from house to house, killing Jews.

“He had to fight his way out of the city and battle to help family and friends who were under assault,” said her son, Harvey Stone.

Sara Stone’s community involvement stemmed from a lifetime of watching her parents help others, her son said: “Her father led every fund drive in Bogalusa and went out of his way to help poor people, whether black or white.”

In an oral history conducted in 2008 for the Jewish Women’s Archive of the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, Sara Stone recalled her father helping some black women pay for their children’s college education. She also remembered how, even as a child, black people were taught to step off the sidewalk to let her pass because she was white. That “really bothered me a lot,” she said.

After graduating from Duke University, she enrolled in the Tulane University School of Social Work for a semester. As a graduate student, she worked with poor families in the French Quarter, then a rundown part of town.

During the oral-history interview, she recalled asking families to make a choice between receiving a blanket or coal to heat their apartment. “To this day, I wake up in the middle of the night wondering which one I would have taken if I had to choose,” she said.

She left Tulane, against the advice of the dean, to take an apprenticeship with the Southern Women’s Educational Alliance in Richmond, Virginia. As part of that apprenticeship, she spent time in poverty-stricken Breathitt County, Kentucky, providing vocational guidance to high school students and working with teachers who had no college experience.

Afterward, she moved back to New Orleans and in the mid-1930s met lawyer Saul Stone, who with John Minor Wisdom had founded Stone and Wisdom, the firm that would become today's Stone Pigman Walther Wittmann. They were married in 1938; he died in 2001.

As a young wife and mother, she served on dozens of boards, including the New Orleans Community Chest (later the United Way); held key positions in a number of Jewish organizations in town; and helped to raise money for the newly established state of Israel. At Isidore Newman School, a chair in the arts bears her name.

But her defining moment came through her work helping to lead the New Orleans section of the National Council of Jewish Women, her son said. After World War II, she threw herself into work for the council, helping to resettle Jewish refugees who had been kept in displaced-person camps in Europe until 1948.

For the next three years, New Orleans — one of three United States ports of entry — received a ship nearly every month, each carrying around 1,200 people.

Up to a quarter of the refugees were Jewish, and Stone’s mission was to help them, taking them first to the Jewish Community Center, where the refugees could eat, shower and get health care before settling in New Orleans or heading by train to a new location. “It really changed the direction of my life,” she said in the 2008 interview.

Known for her love of books, ballet, theater, travel and cuisine, Stone received many awards but also was known as an approachable, quick-witted conversationalist at bars in Italy and New Orleans. Pictures of her hung on the wall at her frequent restaurants — Galatoire’s, Antoine’s and Pascal’s Manale — where every bartender knew her order, a Beefeater martini on the rocks.

She remained active until about a year ago, when she broke her hip. Though her social life then became limited, she never ceased to keep up her end of a conversation. “Her mind was totally alive,” her son Harvey said. “She was always a tremendous reader, even as her eyesight failed. She would use a magnifying glass and shine a bright light on whatever she was reading.”

Stone viewed her own experiences with an equally bright lens. The only true blow she suffered in her life was when her eldest son, David, died of cancer in 2005, she told the interviewer in 2008. “Outside of that, I doubt anybody has had an easier and luckier life than I’ve had,” she said.

She also hoped that her grandchildren wouldn’t see the anti-Semitism and racial and economic inequities she’d witnessed. “Let them live in a world of peace and a world without prejudice,” she said. “Just give them that.”

Survivors include two sons, Richard and Harvey; a daughter, Carol Stone; a brother, Gerald Berenson; 10 grandchildren; and 15 great-grandchildren.

A funeral will be held at noon Monday at Shir Chadash Synagogue, 3737 West Esplanade Ave., inn Metairie. Visitation will begin at 10 a.m. Burial will be in Hebrew Rest Cemetery No. 3. Tharp-Sontheimer-Tharp Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.