School 14

William L. Berenson

March 29, 1942 ~ April 13, 2020 (age 78)


William L. Berenson, 78, of Shelburne, died Monday, April 13, at home from non-Hodgkins lymphoma.  

The son of George and Miriam Berenson, he grew up in The Bronx, New York and graduated from City College of New York.  He earned master’s degrees from Johns Hopkins University and the University of Kansas and a doctoral degree from the University of Kansas.

He met his wife Kay at the University of Kansas where they were both graduate students.  After their marriage in 1969, they moved to a small farm near Lindsborg, KS, where he was a college English professor. 

Although a city boy, he embraced farm life and learned to drive a tractor, keep bees and raise vegetables, fruit and assorted livestock.

After a long career as a college English professor at Bethany College in Lindsborg, he moved to Shelburne when his wife accepted a newspaper job in Greenfield.  In Massachusetts, he  launched new careers as a rare book dealer and middle school English teacher.  He discovered that he loved the challenge of teaching that age group, and that they loved his wacky sense of humor and his dedication to his students’ welfare.

He was passionate about summer hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park and photographing nature.  He learned to play the guitar growing up in New York during the height of folk music there and continued to sing and play throughout his life, including singing in various oratorio groups and church choirs.  He was interested in all things artistic and cultural and a collector of many things, including antiquarian books, signed literary works, and stamps. He passed along his love of hiking, books, music, art, photography and collecting to his children and grandchildren.

A lover of nature and all living things, he was known for his devotion to keeping bird feeders filled and he tracked the annual arrival of the Rose Breasted Grosbeaks at his feeder.   During his life, he kept all manner of pets, including the occasional wild snake and domestic goats, as well as parrots, cockatiels, dogs and cats.  His enthusiasm for firewood cutting, stacking and burning was legendary in his family.

He was a regular and enthusiastic exerciser at the YMCA in Greenfield until his final illness prevented that. He was an active member of Grace Episcopal Church, Amherst.  

He will be remembered for his lifelong passion for learning and physical fitness and his  compassionate approach to life and his fellow human beings. He was a gifted teacher and a loving and devoted husband, father and grandfather. 

He will be mourned by his wife Kay, sister Irene Bessette and her husband Larry of Ava, MO, daughter Karina and son-in-law Michael Bird of Northfield, son Benjamin and daughter-in-law Lisa of London, UK, and grandchildren, Fiona and Genevieve Bird of Northfield and William and Alexander Berenson of London.  He will also be missed by his entire extended family and by his many friends and former students. 

To honor his memory, all are encouraged to buy a book and support local bookstores.  Memorial donations can also be made to the YMCA in Greenfield, Grace Episcopal Church (especially the Haiti School Fund) or to the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls.  

A celebration of his life will be held at a later date. May he rest in peace and light perpetual shine upon him.

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of William L. Berenson, please visit our floral store.


Services at a later date

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