Stanley Berne, author of 23 books, will have a book signing from 3 to 4 p.m. March 1 at the Kingston Residence of Santa Fe, where he and his wife, Arlene, live. His new book, Body & Soul: How Death is Defeated and the World is Made Better, published by Xlibris, delves into the mysteries of life.
“We all want to know where we are going, and what we are doing here,” Berne said.
Body & Soul is a compilation of theories and revelations that Berne has discovered during his 89 years of living through some very exciting times. He writes, for example, of returning to his home in New York City, after World War II and becoming part of the city’s intelligensia.
The young aspiring writer befriended many well-known literary personalities of that era including Jackson Pollack, Henry Miller, Anaïs Nin and Thornton Wilder.
“The culture of post-war America was very strong. Paris, Vienna and Berlin had their time to captivate the world through art and culture. After World War II, it was time for the U.S. to dominate the world.”
In addition to being immersed in New York’s literary circles, Berne counted many artists as friends, including the renowned abstract impressionist and surrealist artist, Roberto Matta. “I was a member of Peggy Guggenheim’s The Art of this Century gallery salon on W. 57th St. I also used to frequent the family’s storefront gallery that later became the Guggenheim Museum on Fifth Avenue,” Berne said.
Stanley Berne was born in Port Richmond, Staten Island, in 1923. He is one of two sons born to William Berne and Irene Daniels. His father was a merchant and his mother, a housewife.
After graduating from Port Richmond High School, he enrolled at Rutgers University, where he majored in psychology with a minor in English.
“Originally, I wanted to be a psychiatrist, but I didn’t do well when I was tested in mathematics, so I made English my major.
“But life for everyone was interrupted when World War II broke out. The male dormitories at Rutgers were emptied when we were called to duty,” Berne said.
Berne is a decorated war veteran who received the Philippine Liberation Medal for his role in ending the Japanese occupation of that country. He was one of the first Americans on the ground after the atomic bomb was dropped at Hiroshima.
After the war, Berne resumed his education at Rutgers. When he graduated, he went on to get his master’s degree at New York University and that’s when he met his wife, Arlene Zekowski.
The couple, who were married in 1958, never had children. Instead, they devoted their lives to academia. As college professors, the couple taught while pursuing literary aspirations.
Zekowski has published 21 books and the couple co-wrote a book on art and one on nuclear energy. They went to Louisiana State University to work on their doctoral degrees, but made a joint decision not to complete them. “It was going to take another two years to write our theses, which would just end up in some musty library. … And, at that time, we were under contract with the publisher George Wittenborn Inc., and were real busy, so we decided to concentrate on writing,” Berne said.
While they worked as authors, the couple accepted teaching positions as research associate English professors at Eastern New Mexico University in Portales. They spent the next 20 years teaching and writing.
When they retired in 1983, they moved to Santa Fe, bought 10 acres of land, built their dream home and began enjoying all the cultural aspects the city had to offer.
Last year they moved to Kingston, where they could be cared for during their final years. There, the couple has shared their stories with fellow residents and the staff; stories of a revolutionary time in American history, a time during which they were fortunate enough to have participated.
In 1996, Stanley Berne joined the ranks of an elite group listed in the book, Who’s Who in U.S. Writers, Editors & Poets. He said of his new book, “There are 7 billion people on this planet and we all have the same dreams and aspirations. I sure hope that some of them have the opportunity to read my latest book.”
Ana Pacheco’s weekly tribute to our community elders appears every Sunday. She can be reached at 474-2800.