William “Bill” Abrams

by | Sep 30, 2013 | Obituaries

Portsmouth—William “Bill” Abrams 101¾ passed away Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013 at Beth Sholom Home in Virginia Beach where he resided during the last four years.

Born in Bayonne, N. J. on January 19, 1912, to Rose Leventhal Abrams and Nathan Abrams. Bill went on to live a long and extraordinarily vital life. His magnetic personality, infectious smile, sense of humor, his strength and his zest for life endeared him to all who knew him.

At the age of nine, Bill moved to Norfolk with his family, who, in addition to his parents, consisted of his two older brothers Harry and Benjamin, his older sister Sophie, and his younger sister Zelda. At the age of 14, Bill lost his father and two brothers making him the “man of the family.” In addition to saying kaddish every day for two years, he worked several part time jobs, and continued his studies at Maury High School. In his senior year, Bill was finally able to realize his dream of participating in team sports. He played football and baseball for his school and that year was honored as “Batter of the Year” at Maury High.

After graduation in 1930, Bill attended the newly established Norfolk Division of the College of William and Mary (ODU), where he became a star running back on the School’s first football team. He also played on the college’s first baseball team and went on to play first base and outfield for the Norfolk Tars; the farm team of the New York Yankees.

In 1937, after a whirlwind courtship, which included daily rides in Bill’s hupmobile, he and Esther Lipman were married. They settled in Portsmouth where they worked side by side as proprietors of various grocery businesses. They raised three children in a loving home which was the center of all extended family gatherings. They participated in numerous community activities, including those of the Synagogue. Bill was a 32nd Degree Mason and a Shriner.

He took great pride in and enjoyed his growing family, by whom he was affectionately known as “Daddy Bill.”

Bill loved to travel and after years of hard work, took the opportunity to see the world with Esther. Retirement also provided the time to serve the Shul, Gomley Chessed, by attending the rabbi’s classes, assisting with Synagogue programs and rarely missing a minyan, Friday night or Saturday Shabbat Service. Bill played an integral role in the services as a Gabbai for many years and as a board member.

In his mid-80’s, Bill became an active participant in the Be A Reader (BEAR) program sponsored by the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater.

In March 2009, at age 97, Bill followed Esther, whose health was declining, into Beth Sholom. They were able to celebrate Esther’s 92nd birthday and their 72nd wedding anniversary together before she passed away that July. A consummate survivor, Bill went on to forge a new life for himself at Beth Sholom where he became one of its most popular and well known residents. Articles celebrating his illustrious sports career and longevity have appeared in four supplements to The Virginian-Pilot; the Compass, the Currents, the Sun, and the Beacon and he is referenced and photographed in two recently published books: Before They Were Monarchs and The Legacy Renewed about the early days of sports at ODU.

In May of 2011, Maury High School celebrated its 100th Anniversary. As the school’s oldest known living graduate, Bill was honored by being asked to perform the ribbon cutting at the dedication ceremony along with the Mayor and other dignitaries.

Bill was nominated by the Berger- Goldrich Home as its resident of the year in a statewide competition, sponsored by the Virginia Health Care Association. Entries were judged on remarkable life stories, the ability to inspire others to meet challenges, and on community impact. Bill won a place in the 2012 Calendar of Who’s Who in Virginia Long Term Care Facilities.

In January 2013, Bill was honored as the Blue Yarmulke “Man of the Year” from Gomley Chesed Congregation for his service through the years.

In addition to his parents Nathan and Rose Abrams, his siblings Harry and Benjamin Abrams, Sophie Safian and Zelda Asher and his dear wife Esther, Bill was predeceased by his son, Howard Martin (Marty) Abrams who died tragically in 1948 at the age of two, and two infant grandsons Richard and Kevin Alperin.

Bill is survived by his devoted daughters Paula Alperin of Virginia Beach, Norma Butler of Norfolk, his son Robert Abrams and wife Joan Glick of San Francisco, Calif., grandchildren Karen and Dr. Martin Goldberg of Norfolk, Wendy and Rick Rubin of Charleston, W. Va., Jeffrey and Faith Alperin of Norfolk, Rick and Dru Abrams of Charlotte, N.C., Kimberly Butler of Williamsburg, Va., and Brad Butler of Norfolk; Great grandchildren David and Lauren Goldberg, Ali and Ryan Rubin, Mitch, Tim, Grant (Chip), and Will Abrams, Marissa Gibbons, Meghan Martin, Thomas and Tyler Baird, and Great Great Granddaughter Adalee Collazo. He is also survived by his sister-in-law Blanche Lipman of Portsmouth, and numerous nephews, nieces, and cousins.

The family would like to thank the entire staff of Beth Sholom for the tireless dedication and loving care they gave to Bill.

A graveside service wase conducted at the Gomley Chesed Cemetery by Rabbi David Goldstein and Cantor Elihu Flax.

Memorial donations to Beth Sholom Home or to Gomley Chesed Congregation. Sturtevant Funeral Home.