Morris Bernhart Kessler was the youngest brother of my grandfather, Abe. Morris Bernhart Kessler was born on February 18, 1905, in Brooklyn, New York, to Bertha Chariper Kessler, age 40, and Samuel Kessler, age 40.
When Morris was born, his family lived at 22 Hicks Avenue in Brooklyn, NY. When he was about two years old, his parents purchased a cold-water row house at 1037 Herkimer Street in Brooklyn. It was here that Morris grew up with his older siblings, Abe and Edith. Herkimer Street was always considered a poor neighborhood. It was in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. Because he was the youngest, his life was not as hard as it had been for his older siblings who described themselves as being very poor.
However, before he was born, his mother gave birth to 3 other boys who did not survive past age two. He also had an older sibling, Lippman, but when Morris was three years old, Lippman, died tragically in a murder/suicide. Because he was so young when this occurred, he probably had minimal, if any, memories of this event. In the 1905 Census, he is listed as Burnett.
After he graduated from Boys’ High School in Brooklyn, NY, Morris went straight to law school. He studied law at night at St. John’s Law School. His mother never knew he was doing this and found out only when he invited her to attend his graduation. She declined to go, though.
One day before classes, he saw one of his classmates, Ella Feinberg, talking to a very pretty girl. He asked her who that was. It was his sister and Ella arranged a double-date her boyfriend and with Morris and her sister. Ella’s sister, Fanny, eventually became Morris’ wife.
Because he did not go to college, before he could practice on his own, he had to work under another lawyer for three years.
In the 1930 Census, Morris was 25 years old and was living with his parents in their home at 1037 Herkimer Street Brooklyn, NY. He was working as a stenographer in a lawyer’s office.
His father Samuel passed away on February 27, 1932, in Kings, New York, at the age of 67.
After his father died, Morris Bernhart Kessler served in the military. He was inducted on March 28, 1932, in Brooklyn, New York, when he was 27 years old. He served in the National Guard with the 104th Hospital Company 102nd Med Regiment.
About a year later, Morris Bernhart Kessler married Fannie Feinberg in New York City, New York, on February 23, 1933, when he was 28 years old. Their first son was born in 1936, and their second son, in 1939.
In the 1940 Census, Morris was 33 years old and was living with his wife and two sons in a rented house at 1810 Cortelyon Road in Brooklyn, NY. He was self-employed attorney.
His 1940 Draft Card describes him as 5’ 7” tall with a ruddy complexion and brown hair and eyes. He weighed 150 lbs. His family was now living at 3614 Ave. K in Brooklyn. However, that address is crossed out and 452 Empire Boulevard is written in.
In 1949, he is living at 452 Empire Bl. Brooklyn. His phone number was PR esdnt 4 – 4632. His office was located at 276 5th Avenue and there his phone number was MU rryhil 4 – 2588.
Morris’ younger son remembers that whenever they visited his grandmother (Morris’ mother), Morris would refrain from eating there and would settle for peeling an orange. Morris lived to 98 and always used his good, hygienic sense when eating! There was some question as to how clean Morris’ mother kept her home. However, Morris’ sons always looked forward to going there and playing in the basement.
When his children were growing up, Morris belonged to 2 synagogues, one was Orthodox and one was on Kingston Ave. There was also a big Jewish Center on Eastern Parkway, where his sons would play handball and go to the sauna. They also took boxing lessons there and remember that the all-stars would play basketball there. In addition, Richard Tucker, the operatic tenor, was the cantor there before he became famous.
Morris always looked after his mother, but after a bad fall, he had to move her into a nursing home. His mother Bertha passed away on September 9, 1956, in New York, New York, at the age of 91.
His sister Edith died on January 27, 1960, in New York, New York, when Morris was 54 years old. Fanny did not get along well with her sister-in-law, Edith, causing a rift between Morris and his sister, even though they had been close growing up.
Morris was very formal and always dressed up in a suit and a tie. On Sunday dinners, he would say to the grandkids “you are having dinner with a king so I might as well look like one”
Morris was very active, and even at 90 he could do headstands and still ice skated.
Morris had a great memory and could recite back pages of information that he read. He enjoyed reading the dictionary.
When Morris was aging, he asked whom he should leave his Brooklyn Heights apartment to. At that time, his granddaughter was a young mother and couldn’t see a need for it, so he left it to his younger son, George.
His brother, Abraham, died on February 11, 1991, when Morris was 85 years old.
In 2000, his wife, Fannie, passed away.
Morris Bernhart Kessler died on January 24, 2003, in Brooklyn, New York, when he was 97 years old. He is buried in Mount Lebanon in Queens, New York, next to his wife. His grave address is A-4-1-22 in the Ohab Zedek Society Section.
In reminiscing about their father, his sons both said they had the BEST set of parents in the world.