A life abroad
Howard Cubberly Berckman and Jean Elizabeth Kemble met in Ann Arbor, Michigan as students at the university. After they married, Howard’s work with the Army took them to Japan. Three of their children were born while the couple were stationed there.
Howard and Jean moved back to Northern Virginia, where their youngest child, Alice, was born. When she was about two, the family moved to Okinawa. The Berckmans stayed for five years.
They then returned to the states and eventually settling in Orange. Howard's career had spanned 25 years.
A life in the church
Howard and Jean decided to participate in the Orange Presbyterian Church. Jean said it was important for her to sing in a good choir and she liked our choir director. Jean joined OPC in July of 1978.
Orange Presbyterian Weekday School
In May of that same year, the Session and Deacons approved plans for a nursery school for the county. The plan was developed by Elinor Vasquez and Jean Berkman, and the school would be housed at OPC.
Elinor and Jean worked hard that summer, and the school opened on September 12th. “We worked together so well,” Jean stated in 2018 oral history interview. She served the school well, retiring after 11 years of service.
The Food Closet
In 1981, the Christian Emergency Council, with the Methodist Minister Forest Porter in charge, set up a Food Closet for needy families. Jean volunteered and so did Elinor and Bob Vasquez. “Elinor was my buddy,” explained Jean.
Howard and Jean would drive to Charlottesville and pick up food for the Food Closet. Jean also worked with the people who came to ensure they had what they needed.
Jean said, “volunteering at the Food Closet gave us a real sense of mission because of the down and out people we could help. All of the churches in Orange were involved, but the Methodists started it.”
Jean Berckman managed the Food Closet for years. That ministry continues to this day, and is now known as the Love Outreach Food Pantry. It continues to provide food for Orange County residents in need.
The Christian Emergency Council
Jean was also involved with The Christian Emergency Council. She talked about how in the beginning, it was mostly dealing with people not being able to pay their light bill. It has grown to be so much more than that today.
Service to OPC
Jean was a member of the Women of the Church. She also served as a Deacon until she was ordained and installed as an Elder in 1985. Jean supported OPC’s Holiday Bazaar with her baked goods.
In 1995, some of the women of OPC made a quilt to commemorate the Church’s sesquicentennial (150th) anniversary. Jean took part in that as well.
She enjoyed conducting workshops at the President Madison Inn helping the residents create Christmas decorations. She was also a member of the Rapid Ann Garden Club.
Howard was superintendent of church school classes at OPC for many years. Besides supporting the local Food Closet, he helped at the Friends of the Library and the Orange County Public School Libraries. From Howard’s many years with the Army, he was fluent in Japanese, Chinese and Korean.
Retirement to Charlottesville
In 2013, Jean transferred her membership to Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Charlottesville, Va. As active as Howard was at OPC, he never joined the church. His parents had been Methodist missionaries to China. He remained a Methodist to honor their memory.
Howard passed away in July of 2015 and Jean followed in February of 2019. They are survived by three daughters: Julianne Berckman, Susan Cresap and husband Larry, Alice Crane, and one son, Jim Berckman and wife Belinda. Also, son-in-law Warren Crane, two granddaughters and one great grandchild.
Howard and Jean Berckman did everything with a good heart and expected nothing in return.
- Jennie Hill Robinson
OPC History Team