Daily News from New York, New York on August 14, 1977 · 282
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Daily News from New York, New York · 282

New York, New York
Issue Date:
Sunday, August 14, 1977
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TSAILY .NEWS; StTNDAYV.ACGtTSTVH, 1977 73 Scncjco off Sam As go fleem. Doe uFofte ? CsaDDSirasj ' ' Continued from page 5) a six-story building. Two stitches closed the bloody head wound, but people around Stratford Ave. remembered it. When David was 5, in 1958, the Goldsteins moved to the city's Castle Hill development, but they couldn't take Lucky, a mutt they had found in the snow of a vacant lot six months before. They gave him to the Berkowitz family, but that lasted only six more months; the dog would continually scratch and whine at the door, hoping that the Goldsteins would come back. David never won his love. Some people along Straford Ave. remember David as a superb baseball player and power hitter, given to passions to which he would devote incredible energy. He entered Public School 77, at Ward Ave. and E. 172d St. in Septem ber of 1958, and in 1965 went on to Junior High School 123 at 1025 Morrison Ave. The following year, in a synagogue at 169th St. and Grand Concourse, he had his bar mitzvah. From his earliest days, the lad wanted to be a fireman, and he spent hours reading a fireman's manual. But he had other interests as well. One year all he talked about was mountain climbing. And he spent a lot of time lifting weights. They almost got him into trouble. One New Year's Eve, some of his friends stopped by for a party. A woman downstairs complained of the noise, and the boy answered her by dropping a barbell on the floor. By the time she got upstairs to pound on the Berkowitz' door, the kids were making a hasty escape six flights down the fire escape. David was especially close to his CUoJiAt . - 1- A .its' A . 1 I 00 s vrv WM. - " 1 t r .r:: i i r . . (i vlAl n "vorv Drim trlrx Atnmir war anrl the extinction of nun Are RfrlrowI-rr' , concern in a long and rambling letter to his close friend. He wrote it in late 1 97 1 , while training at Ft. Polk in Louisiana. News choto by Charles Rupomann mother, seemingly the disciplinarian in the family. It was a love he lost young. Mrs. Berkowitz fought a long battle with cancer, and in separate operations several years apart her breasts were removed. But she kept going, and on June 9. 19G6. in an effort to get out of a changing neighborhood, and the one-bedroom apartment the family had occupied for 19 years, she sent a letter of application to Co-op City, then under construction. "We are most anxious to move into Co-op City," she wrote. Berkowitz' income was listed as "under $16,000." In September 1967, David entered Columbus High School, and on Oct. 5, his mother, losing her battle with can cer, died. She was 52. "She was a very popular woman, the friend of everyone in the West Bronx, just a fantastic person." recalls one of Davids childhood buddies. The boy was badly shaken by his mother's death. "He was really crying at the funeral," said his old friend. On June 30. 1969. David and his father moved into a two-bedroom apartment. No. 17B. at 170 Dreiser Loop in Co-op Citv. Berkowitz had paid down $2,025. Hardware was his business. He had owned a store on Gun Hill Road between Webster and Jerome Aves. The building is boarded up now. a victim of the times, and scheduled for razing, but while his business was thriving. Berkowitz would buy his stock with a friend. Nathan Vogel. who had a similar store on White Plains Road between 213th and 214th Sts. "I had liquidated my stock on White Plains Road, and he wasn't doing too well on Gun Hill Road, and I suggested we become partners." said Vogel last week. When they opened the store on Melrose Ave. and 158th St.. the neighborhood was prospering, filled with Italian, Jewish and German families. But by 1972 it had begun changing, and fires had started. Customers had dropped off. One day Nat Berkowitz was robbed. It wasn't just the robbery that caused him to retire, but age; he's 67 now, born May 2, 1910, and, said Vogel. "the business was getting to him." and be had become diabetic. In December 1975. Berkowitz left the business, and he left Co-op City, heading for Florida with his second wife. Julia, whom he had married in 1971 much to his son's displeasure. Julia was younger than Pearl, about 10 years younger than Nat. He met her at a singles' club in Co-op City, a place where middleaged parents without partners socialize. Before the two married. Nat talked with his friend Vogel about it. "I told him." said Vogel. "listen, when Pearl was alive, you did everything you could to help her. She's dead now. It wasn't like you had another woman on the side. You shouldn't feel guilty." So the two were married and the event was dutifully reported in the Co-op City Times. David was angry that his father would do such a thing. Julia bought all new furniture, and the boy thought she had married Nat for his money. But Julia was pleasant with David and he continued to live in the apartment for nearly four years until Nat and Julia moved to Florida. There are others who remember David's early years at Co-op City, the years before Julia. "I remember him in a few of my classes," said Kenneth Ratner. ""I think in two gym classes, and I'm almost positive in a hygiene class. "He was like a child. He wasn't retarded, just very immature, the kind of guy who would sneak into a locker room or steal a ball from you and dribble. You'd have to ask him to get it back. He was the kind of guy who would push you when you were jumping to shoot. He was very physically strong. He would constantly, with two or three other guys, be lifting weights. But he was about 5 feet 8 or 5 feet 9 then. He stopped growing." David, said Ratner, "would somehow f 1 J -Jr- : i The accuseci .44-caliber killer as a third-grader at PS 77 in trie Bron. He wanted to be a fireman. pick friends who were yountr. smaller. Joe (Ice) Phillip knew him e'.en earlier, in the third grade when David lived cn Stratford Ave., and other kids would teae him and call him a iat Jewboy." "He kept it inside, but I couid te!l li got to him." said Phillip. V.'e ot a little friendly because I was sm.ill z- skinny and other kids would teafe me. too." Slowly, the stran.se personality emerged within David Berkowitz. Seme-times he would break into uncontrolla-be laughter. Other times, after he was older, he would disappear for three, four days at a time. Nobody seemed to miss him. and when one of his few pa's would ask him what happened, he would answer: "1 took a walk, that's all." "It was strange, and we all realized it," said one friend. For a time, he even had one steady girl friend, but he went out infrequently on dates. He would just hang around the Co-op City shopping center w;th half a dozen close friends the sort ol kid people don't bother looking at twice. 00 E RODE the elevators without acknowledging the presence of others. He never smiled, or showed emotion, and people passed him without even noticing that he was there. "His lather was such a devoted father." said a seventh-flocr neighbor. Mrs. Ephraim Windman. "He wanted David to become something, but be didn't seem to want to." "It was just assumed he w;,s z loner." said one acquaintance. But there always was the secret desire to be a fireman, and he some'umes exercised it in unusual ways, like the time he knocked a hole in the wail of Apartment 17D because he thoucht the place was on fire. Shirley Schilkraut. the neighbor whose wall it was. was less than pleased. "It was about seven years ago."' s!ie recalls. "I left a pot cooking and went across the street to my sister's house. It was Heinz baked beans and I guess David must have smelled them burnins. When I came back I found the wall already broken. He did it with a hammer and stuff so he could put his fist through to open the knob. I said. 'You should have called the Fire Department. You didn't have a ri-ht to heak my wall.' But he said he was sorry.' Mrs. Schilkraut recalls David htlpir.c the handyman and the porter. Anti -ie recalls other things, like the fact that he never would look you straight in the face, that he kept his head down. She remembers how quiet he was. and how he kept to himself, how his room was a little sloppy, "like a boy keep h.s room." although Julia kept the rest of the apartment spotless. And she recalls hr feelincs about this strange, shy boy thoe days a: Coop City. "I wouldn't." she said qu c'.Jy. "want to be alone with him " (Next: Korea and the acid i

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