Hugh Malcolm Berger, 88, of Atlanta, passed away Sept. 6, 2020, due to complications from COVID-19, bravely battling against it in the last several weeks. Hugh was born in Mobile, Ala., on Sept. 26, 1931, to Hyman and Sally Gerhardt Berger, of blessed memory. When Hugh was born, he arrived 2 ½ months early and weighing less than 2 pounds. The first few weeks of his life were spent confined in a small chicken coop-like box illuminated by a light bulb. His fierce inner strength and determination to survive then served him well throughout his life.
When he was barely a year old, his older brother Gerry bestowed upon him the nickname “Cutie,” which he proudly answered to throughout his life. After graduating from Murphy High School, Hugh enrolled at the University of Alabama and he soon realized scholarly pursuits were best served by others.
He proudly enlisted and served in the U.S. Army in the early 1950s, recalling fondly that, luckily, he was stationed in Germany during the Korean War conflict. Upon his return to Mobile from serving his country, he joined the family pawn shop business. In the late 1950s, he had the good fortune that two of his childhood friends, the Roth sisters Sandra and Lois, had moved to Atlanta and set him up on a blind date with Rachiel Alhadeff. On Sept. 13, 1959, Hugh and Rachiel became husband and wife and shared over 60 wonderful years of marital bliss, raising their young family in Mobile until 1972. Then they relocated to Atlanta, where their daughter Nanci could seek the medical care she needed that was only offered by Scottish Rite Hospital at the time.
While his work life involved him working tirelessly in the retail jewelry industry, Hugh always found time to pursue and excel in the things he loved. He was an exceptional dancer, an exquisite baker, storied joke teller and always loved spending time with family and friends. Hugh loved to travel, especially on cruise ships, and one of his traveling highlights was becoming a bar mitzvah at the age of 81 on a trip to Israel several years ago.
If you were fortunate enough to have attended one of the annual open house celebrations at the Atlanta Group Home, where Nanci has resided since 1984, you were treated to an untold amount and variety of desserts and delicacies that were single- handedly prepared by Hugh in his spare time with his loving hands and heart. He was a kind, sweet, considerate, humble, proud, devoted and loyal son, brother, husband, father, grandfather, uncle, cousin and friend to many.
Nothing was more important to him than being with family and friends. Much like his wife’s mother Rebecca Alhadeff, of blessed memory (who was “Mama” to him) there was no distinguishing between lineal family members or in-laws, a term that easily fell out of the family’s vocabulary. In addition to his loving wife Rachiel and his daughter Nanci, he leaves behind many adoring family members and friends, including his sons and daughters Harold and Sally Berger and Mark and Lori Berger; grandchildren Terry, Julius and Nathan; brother and sister Gerry and Joan Berger; sisters and brothers Linda and Josh Brener and Stella and Stanford Firestone; sister Jeanette Arogeti (predeceased by his brother Jimmy, z’l); many nieces and nephews and other extended family and countless friends.
Two very special angels who came into the latter part of his life Pansey Burke and Carol Malcom have provided countless hours of devotion, care, comfort and happiness for the last few years.
Due to COVID-19, a private family burial was held Sept. 8, 2020. A celebration and remembrance of Hugh’s life will be conducted in the near future when it will be safe and appropriate to do so.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations to honor Hugh’s life may be made to the Atlanta Group Home Foundation, Inc. 3095 Margaret Mitchell Court, NW, Atlanta, Ga. 30327 or the charity of one’s choice. Funeral arrangement made by Dressler’s Jewish Funeral Care, 770-451-4999.