Edith Kessler Kassel was born on March 15, 1897, in Manhattan, New York, to Bertha Chariper, age 32, and Samuel Kessler, age 32.
She had 2 older brothers, Lipman and Abe. Lipman was born in Galicia around 1887, while Abe was born in New York City in 1896.
When Edith was born, the family lived on the Lower East Side of Manhattan at 167 Allen Street.
From the years 1899 – 1902, her mother gave birth to 3 sons who did not survive past age two.
Her brother, Morris Bernhart, was born on February 18, 1905, in Brooklyn, New York, when she was 7 years old.
Her oldest brother, Lipman, died tragically on May 24, 1908, in Brooklyn, New York, in a murder/suicide when Edith was 11 years old.
Edith grew up in the family home at 1107 Herkimer Street in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, New York. We have no idea what the death of so many siblings did to her psyche, but we do know that throughout her life at various times, she did suffer from depression.
In the 1915 Census, Edith is listed as Ida.
Edith Kassel married Morris Kassel in New York City, New York, on February 10, 1919, when she was 21 years old. Her husband was a doctor and she was a nurse. Morris practiced family medicine and graduated from Columbia University Collee of Physicians and Surgeons. They had the following children:
- Victor –born in 1920
- Adele born in 1923
- Helen born in 1925
- Norman born in 1928
In the 1920’s and 30’s, her husband was a doctor to the mafia.
In the 1930 Census, she was living at 1050 Herkimer Street in Brooklyn, just down the street from her parents who lived at 1037 Herkimer Street. In 1934, she went on a West Indian Cruise aboard the SS. Statendam with 2 of her children: Victor and Adele. They sailed from NYC on December 22, 1934, and arrived back in New York on January 2, 1935.
In the 1940 Census she lived at 687 Lefferts Avenue in Brooklyn.
Her father, Samuel, passed away on February 27, 1932, in Brooklyn, New York, at the age of 67.
Her husband Morris passed away on June 10, 1943, in Brooklyn, New York, at the age of 48. They had been married 24 years.
Her mother, Bertha, passed away on September 9, 1956, in New York, New York, at the age of 91.
Edith remained closer to her brother Morris, more so than her brother, Abe. At first Edith was good friends with Morris’ wife, Fanny. However, when Edith once was replacing things in her home, she promised Fanny to give her the old toaster and some other items that Fanny wanted. When Fanny went to pick her the items, they were no longer there. Edith said she found a second-hand dealer who bought the items for $25. Fanny felt insulted since Edith was well-off and did not need the money, and decided that if their friendship was only worth $25, she did not need Edith for a friend anymore. After that, the two families had a strained relationship. However, Edith’s daughter, Deli (Adele) remained close to her Aunt and even baby-sat for her children.
Describing his grandmother, Edith, one grandson said she was a cross between Heimlich Himmler and the Boston Strangler. She was also described as soft-spoken and eccentric. She used her money as a weapon against her children and grandchildren. For one thing, she offered each of her children, then $100,000 (a LOT of money back in the 50’s) to build a house so she could live with them. They all turned her down.
One of her nephews also recalls how she used money as a weapon. His Aunt Edith had left her youngest son, Norman, who was then a chubby child, with his mother, her sister-in-law, for a few weeks. Edith promised her sister-in-law a few dollars for every pound Norman would lose. His mother, although struggling financially through the depression era, refused the offer as she did not want to “starve” Norman and have him dislike her forever. There were also other incidents between Edith and his mother, leading to a parting of their ways.
Edith died on January 27, 1960, in New York, New York, at age 62.