Robert Berkin, of Bellerose Village, worked his way up from...

Robert Berkin, of Bellerose Village, worked his way up from messenger to board member at The Roosevelt Savings Bank. He was 96 when he died. Credit: Handout

Robert Berkin, a career banker and former Bellerose Village official, has died at age 96 in a nursing home in Manhattan.

His death Dec. 29 followed a short illness, said his son, Michael, of Oxford, Md.

Berkin worked his way up from messenger to senior management and director on the board of Roosevelt Savings Bank, which was independent when he joined and now is a unit of New York Community Bank, based in Westbury.

Born and raised in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, Berkin joined Roosevelt, then headquartered in Brooklyn, after graduating from high school in 1932, his son said. He stayed with the bank for 62 years, with a brief interruption for military service during World War II.

Drafted as a private, Berkin was discharged as a captain, his son said. Assigned to the quartermaster corps at Camp Lee, Va., he was involved in the development of the C ration, a canned meal, said his son. Berkin's name is mentioned in an April 22, 1944, Saturday Evening Post article about a group of soldiers who did a study to improve the Army's mess-hall management and then "made history" by conducting a lecture on it to several four-star generals.

As Berkin rose through the ranks at Roosevelt, he earned bachelor's and master's degrees in business at Long Island University's C.W. Post Campus, his son said.

At Roosevelt, it became Berkin's job to expand, opening new branches from the single location on Gates Avenue, choosing communities based on population and other factors. "I remember, as a kid, he would have all this demographic data spread in the living room on the floor," said Michael Berkin. Branches were opened in Brooklyn, Queens and on Long Island. The home office was later relocated to Garden City.

Berkin was active with the Salvation Army in Brooklyn and in his home community of Bellerose Village, where he served as a volunteer fireman and also treasurer and tax collector for more than 20 years beginning in the mid-1950s. "He was very proud of the fact that he never failed to collect the taxes," said his son. "He would always work with people, and he was very proud that he never had to take action against anybody."

Berkin was married twice. His first wife, the former Audrey Metcalf, died in 1999; his second wife, the former Mimi Lepper of Atlantic Beach, predeceased him by 10 days at the same nursing home.

Survivors besides his son Michael include half brother William Hesselbach Jr. of Tucson, Ariz., and Denver; son Jeffrey of the Bronx; daughter Pamela Antil of Manhattan, Southampton and Dallas; two grandsons and three great-grandchildren.

Berkin was cremated in Manhattan, his son said.

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