Alden “Elie” Hammerling was born in New York City on October 1, 1940 to Sol and Gertrude (Bernstein) Hammerling. Elie was a kind and compassionate man, deeply committed to his family and his community. He genuinely loved people and found it easy to start a conversation with just about anyone. This openness to engage total strangers embarrassed his kids, but Elie was a natural people person who treated everyone as you would an old friend. Getting someone to smile made his day, which explains why Elie has such an extensive circle of friends.
Elie met Myrna (Galler) Hammerling in 1957 while attending Wingate High School. Myrna was distributing band folders while Elie was playing trombone. Myrna began noticing that Elie had a big smile whenever she came around. That attraction lasted their entire lives. The two dated through high school, were together at Brooklyn College, and married on April 4, 1963. Elie and Myrna have been at each other’s side, laughing, loving and learning together for 62 years, recently celebrating their 57th wedding anniversary.
Elie earned his B.A. in 1962 from Brooklyn College and his M.S. in Administrative Medicine at Columbia University in 1970. From 1970-1976 he served as vice president, ambulatory care services, at Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan. Elie’s career path was borne out of his passion to help make a difference within his community. Elie’s strength lay in his ability to work with people to create collaborative solutions that affected real change in health care delivery.
Also during his college years, Elie loved sports and was quite athletic. Standing 6’2”, he was known as a graceful left-hander who later earned the title of Collegiate Doubles Handball Champion of New York with his partner (now Hollywood director) Joel Zwick. In addition, Elie enjoyed being a sportswriter for the school newspaper, the Olympian.
Then in 1976, Elie, Myrna and their two young children relocated from Brooklyn to Pittsfield to start a new job and a new life in the Berkshires. Elie was vice president of planning and administrative services at Berkshire Medical Center for a decade, where he helped with the transition to Berkshire Health Systems. In 1986, Elie became the associate director of administrative services at Berkshire Farm Center and Services for Youth, a residential treatment center for boys. He both provided oversight for the residential health care programs and developed and directed the James Bell Training Institute to provide continuing education for mental health professionals.
From 1998-2004, Elie founded and led Blue Moon Seminars, a company dedicated to delivering educational seminars and conferences nationally for mental health professionals, educators, and parents. After retirement, Elie continued to spend his time and energy volunteering to promote the town of Pittsfield, foster local arts and music, as well as support local Jewish education.
One of Elie’s many passions was supporting local arts and cultural events in the Berkshires. His efforts to promote a rich and vibrant creative scene were realized through his volunteering with the Pittsfield Downtown Cultural Center. In 2016, Elie conceptualized and later founded Berkshire Lightscapes. His idea was realized with the installation of permanent, artistic lighting that continue to bring life and light to the downtown Pittsfield area. His partners in the project, Steve Oakes and Peter Lafayette, are continuing his legacy. In 2018, the town of Pittsfield awarded Elie with the Robert K. Quattrochi “Downtown Person of the Year.”
Elie's love of music was in no way limited to any one genre. Whether there was jazz, classical, Motown, reggae, or funk on the radio, Elie could always find the beat. He put this passion into action for the community’s benefit serving as the chair of the board of MusicWorks, which brought Boston Symphony Orchestra artists to the Berkshires to perform in the off-season.
Elie also served as the chairman of the board of Sinai Academy, a Jewish day school in Pittsfield. In 2009, Elie was awarded the Hannah Senesh Award to recognize his passion for Jewish education and volunteer leadership. From 2012-2016, Elie chaired the board of “Rimon: Resource Center for Jewish Spirituality” led by Rabba Kaya Stern-Kaufman offering progressive programs serving unaffiliated Jews and non-Jews.
Elie is survived by Myrna his beloved spouse and best friend, their son, Eric Hammerling (wife Andrea) and daughter, Jaimie Hammerling Bern (husband Rick). Eric’s son Mateo (20), and Jaimie’s sons Zachary (12) and Ari (9) were all fortunate to enjoy many years of unbridled love and joy with their grandfather whom they called “Saba.” Elie is also survived by his sister and brother-in-law, Joyce and Steve Laitman, their sons, Michael and Jim Laitman, and his sister-in-law Lynda Galler.
The family would like to express appreciation to the dedicated support and care at BMC Cancer Center and Berkshire HospiceCare. Donations can be sent to the “Hammerling Fund” at Knesset Israel, 16 Colt Road, Pittsfield MA 01201, or to your favorite cause. An announcement will be made about a gathering to celebrate Elie’s life with his family and community during a safer time. To add to the Book of Memories, please visit www.flynndagnolifuneralhomes.com.