Bernard ``Ben'' Berman, 72, real estate developer

September 15, 1996|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

Bernard "Ben" Berman, a Baltimore real estate developer who was internationally known for his efforts to fight blindness, died Friday in a Pikesville automobile accident. He was 72.

Mr. Berman founded the Retinitis Pigmentosa Foundation -- an organization dedicated to curing the disease that damaged two of his three daughters' vision. It was renamed The Foundation Fighting Blindness last year and is based in Hunt Valley.

Told in 1971 that daughters Mindy and Joanne had the degenerative disease of the retina and that there was minimal information about it, Mr. Berman embarked on his own mission to conduct research and find a cure.

"Because he was an innovator and a visionary he devised a plan to create a solution," said Dan Freedman, who helped start the foundation and is now its vice president.

He solicited help from friends Jerome and Shoshana Cardin, who had experience with foundations. "We knew nothing about the disease at the time," Mrs. Cardin said yesterday. "It seemed to be a hidden problem. He devoted his time, his energy to see to it that it became a public issue.

"There were many people who came forward and said they had the disease. People had hope for the first time."

In 1976, Mr. Berman established the International Retinitis Pigmentosa Association. In 1983 he began four years of service on the National Eye Council of the National Institutes of Health.

Born in Baltimore, Mr. Berman was a 1941 graduate of City College. In studies interrupted by Navy service in World War II, he graduated from the University of Maryland in 1947.

He pursued a master's degree in parasitology, but left school after his father's death to take over his family's South Baltimore real estate business in 1949. Through the real estate business, he built the Denmore Gardens and Rolling Park apartments.

He received numerous awards for his crusade against blindness and retinitis pigmentosa. The foundation, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last month, has 60 chapters nationwide and has helped establish more than 23 research facilities worldwide.

"He was a very special man, special in a lot of ways," said his wife of 43 years, the former Beverly Lerner. "He just rallied people around him."

Also surviving are his three daughters, Joanne Berman Forrest of Arlington, Va., and Mindy Caplan and Gail Weingram, both of Pikesville; a brother, Harry Berman, of Baltimore; a sister, Marsonia Weinberg of Rancho Mirage, Calif.; and six grandsons.

Services will be held 2 p.m. tomorrow at Sol Levinson and Bros., 8900 Reisterstown Road in Pikesville.

The family suggested donations to the Foundation Fighting Blindness, Executive Plaza, 11350 McCormick Road, Suite 800, Hunt Valley 21031-1014.

Pub Date: 9/15/96

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