Oscar Berland

Date of Death: March 21, 2023
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Oscar Berland passed away on March 21, 2023, at his home in El Cerrito, CA, after a short illness. He is survived by his partner, Paulette Comeau, and cousins in Pennsylvania. Berland was born in New York City in 1927. He grew up in the United Workers Cooperative Colony, famously known as the “Coops,” andContinue Reading

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Jim and Libby Branson left a message on April 30, 2023:
In loving memory of Oscar Berland, from Jim and Libby Branson
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Pat Soberanis left a message on April 28, 2023:
I knew Oscar through his beloved partner, Paulette, who took wonderful care of him in his later years. We had memorable meals together whenever I could make it to El Cerrito, and they were very gracious hosts, Oscar always greeting me with a big smile and a hug. Oscar made several trademark dishes including eggplant dip, sorrel soup, and tuna sandwiches. I would sometimes cook "Soberanis Special," nothing more than Trader Joe's frozen Asian vegetables with a sweet sauce. We always had cut apples or fruit for dessert, sometimes with ice cream, and Oscar and I would each have a couple of his favorite dark chocolate Hershey's kisses. Oscar gardened every morning and read history and other academic books every day. Reading through these memories made me want to read some of his own academic research and writings. I was also reminded of the time we all watched together the documentary made about The Coops in the Bronx, where Oscar grew up, called At Home in Utopia. I feel honored that he gave me his small booklet of poems from back in the day; I will treasure it always. Rest in peace, Oscar, we will miss you. - Pat Soberanis
sunsetviewobits left a message on April 22, 2023:
With a twinkle in his eye, Oscar Berland told Harvey Schwartz and I about growing up in the New York Coops. Here at the beginning of the Great Depression, every morning he and the other kids would line up in the cooperatives meeting hall in their blue shorts and red shirts. There asked, “Are you ready?” They raised their fists in the air and answered, “ALWAYS READY!” In this case, I’d like to think that over his lifetime, that forceful challenge prepared him for just about anything. At some point, Oscar learned the machinist’s trade and used it off and on to make a living. He joined the Communist Party for nearly a decade, but left in 1956 after Krushchev denounced Stalin’s crimes. Correspondence with labor historian Ira Cross drew him to California and back to higher education in the earl ‘60s. His interest and research focused on the Kaweah Co-operative in Sequoia National Park and later the International Workmen’s Association of San Francisco. Was his interest in those organizations a way of understanding such failures on a small scale? One local historian thought that Oscar and gotten “carried away ‘by his own socialistic-communistic convictions which ended in disillusionment ….’” I wonder, however, whether or not those so-called “socialistic-communistic convictions” might, if given the chance, led Oscar toward some unusual non-capitalist interpretations of the colony’s failure or that of the International Workmen’s Association of San Francisco (1877-1886) as a way of understanding on a smaller scale something of communist Russia’s failure under Stalin’s bloody dictatorship. For a number of years, Oscar used to come to Davis to play his mandolin with a musical group. Usually afterwards, he’d stop by our house to talk. He sent me a copy of most of “Aborted Revolution” for a manuscript I was working on. I asked about the Kaweah Colony, but it was old business by then. He said, “It’s just another box in the closet.” We all know about those. When they’re not our own, we also hope for a resurrection at some point to bring those boxes back into the light. Jim Snyder 4/22/2023
Sherry Weise left a message on April 19, 2023:
Hi Paulette, please let us know when the memorial is if you decide to have one. The obituary you wrote was wonderful. I am going to look up some of his writings. I used to have a copy of his dissertation but now I can’t find it. We was a wonderful person. He was lucky to find you, and you he. Thank you for letting us know. I am sending your letter on to Sean and to Steve Mendolsohn, one of the people he used to play music with. We are well. I hope your are too. Sherry
Anne MacKinnon left a message on April 16, 2023:
I knew Oscar only a little, through my brother Steve MacKinnon. But what a fine man and an inspiration, in the way he thought and spoke and the way he lived.
Peace of mind is a call away. We’re here when you need us most.
Rebecca MacKinnon left a message on April 16, 2023:
Oscar introduced my parents to each other. It is thanks to him that I exist. I will always cherish childhood memories of his mandolin playing. I was lucky to have been able to visit him and Collette a few times in the past few years. We had wonderful, wide ranging conversations. He was so content and happy. I miss him.
Harvey Schwartz left a message on April 15, 2023:
I met Oscar in graduate school during the 1960s. He was keenly interested in history--and in nearly everything else. We had many long discussions about history, politics, and US labor issues. Oscar always offered unique insights that came from his upbringing in New York and from his rich life experience. He was a true intellectual.Over time I became good friends with Oscar and Paulette, his partner of many years. I'd sometimes drop by their house to visit. Oscar was always supportive of and interest in what was happening in my life. His questioning of what was going on in the wider world, too, never slackened.Much time went by before I realized how serious and committed Oscar had been in traveling to the American South to work for labor and civil rights. His New York background and his youthful politics motivated him to persevere courageously with his social justice activism in the face of a hostile environment. And this was in the early 1950s! Oscar was truly a pioneer of what became the civil rights movement of the 1960s.Oscar was also a warm and outgoing person, Laughter came easily to him. He was my friend of many years. There are not many like him. He was one of the good ones.
Sunset View Mortuary left a message:
Please accept our deepest condolences for your family's loss.
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