Bessie Y. Fishman, 100, Businesswoman

August 04, 2009|By Frederick N. Rasmussen

Bessie Y. Fishman, a retired Baltimore businesswoman who was a longtime active member of Beth Tfiloh Congregation, died in her sleep July 28 at her Stevenson Village home. She had celebrated her 100th birthday last month.

Bessie Yaniger, the daughter of Russian immigrant parents, was born and raised in East Baltimore near Patterson Park, above her family's grocery store.

After graduating from Eastern High School in 1926, she worked as a bookkeeper at Gelfand Mayonnaise Co.

In 1932, she married Albert H. Fishman, owner of L. Fishman and Son. The business, which had been established in 1919, supplied buttons and thread - including the thread used on McCormick & Co. tea bags - to Baltimore's then-burgeoning garment industry.

Mrs. Fishman worked with her husband to expand the business. During World War II, she and her husband founded the Yarn Center in the 400 block of W. Baltimore St.

"During World War II, with cloth rationed and clothes hard to buy, they opened the Yarn Center near the Hippodrome Theater," said a son, David H. Fishman of Mount Washington. "They sold yarn and lessons were available for people who wanted to knit socks, sweaters and dresses."

Mr. Fishman died in 1977.

The former Ashburton resident was one of the oldest members of the Beth Tfiloh Congregation, where she had been president of the Beth Tfiloh PTA, Beth Tfiloh Sisterhood and Club Jubilee. She was a life member of Hadassah.

She also served as a the congregation's archivist and had co-edited "Chronicles of Beth Tfiloh" with Eric Levi.

Mrs. Fishman had been a member of Beth Tfiloh's board for more than 50 years and was a prolific contributor of articles to the Beth Tfiloh Bulletin.

She also presented a 9-foot-tall menorah that stands on the grounds of the Old Court Road synagogue, and endowed a Beth Tfiloh High School award.

In 1983, she married Samuel Savitz, who had been president of the Beth Jacob Congregation. He died in 1989.

According to family members, Mrs. Fishman attained centenarian status without the benefit of a particular regimen.

"She gave up smoking many years ago and didn't drink much except for an occasional glass of wine," Mr. Fishman said.

"My mother never jogged or exercised but had bowled. She never followed any special diet," Mr. Fishman said. "She was just a survivor and always active. She was motivated and always had a project."

Services were Thursday.

Also surviving are another son, Nelson I. Fishman of Mount Washington; a daughter, Eleanor S. Ochfeld of Pikesville; six grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

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