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June Cerf Berman

My mother, June Cerf Berman, died on Monday, September 22nd. She was my
hero. June was born in St. Louis Missouri on June 24th, 1922, with a cleft lip
requiring surgery which left her with a scar. As a child, she was kind of a loner
and did not attend school very often. Her father used to yell up the stairs in the
morning “June it is time to get up for school” and June would usually yell back “I
am not going today.” Her parents wisely, did not push her; and they allowed her
ample space to find her own way.

Even on days when June left the house, she would often play hooky. She told
stories of cutting school, and how she would take the city bus by herself to
Sportsman Park in the north side of St. Louis to watch the Cardinals play. She
would usually go on Ladies Day when she could gain free admission. June loved
the Cardinals and the Gashouse Gang of the late 1930s. She especially enjoyed
watching Dizzy Dean and his brother Daffy Dean, on whom she had a crush.

June was always a voracious reader and loved to write. The only class she
attended regularly was an advanced creative writing class taught by Mr. Jennings.
June was extraordinarily proficient at writing. So much so that she often wrote
her sisters’ school papers. Once her younger sister, Audrey, received a paper
back from Mr. Jennings with the grade written in large red ink June: A, Audrey: B.
A turning point occurred for June near the end of high school when one of her
teachers stopped by the house to talk with her parents. The teacher asked her
parents if they knew that June often missed school, which of course they did. Her
teacher then proceeded to tell June’s parents that she thought June was very
bright and should be encouraged to go to college.

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In the Spring of 1940, June graduated from Clayton High School in St. Louis, and
was accepted the following fall at the University of Wisconsin. Initially, June did
not have the necessary academic credentials for admission, but June wrote such
a powerful letter to the Dean that he made an exception for June. Years later,
June would quip that her application letter to the University of Wisconsin was
probably some of her best writing.

At the University of Wisconsin, June initially studied creative writing. During her
freshman year, June began to flourish academically and socially. At one point
during the year, June was called to the Dean’s office and accused of moral
turpitude for drinking alcohol and having parties in her dorm room. June would
later say that she found it very convenient that she could order bottles of
alcohol, and have them delivered directly to her dorm room! At the end of the
school year, June decided to transfer to the University of Michigan., which she felt
offered a more challenging curriculum. It was at the University of Michigan that
June developed an interest in Economics. June would transfer one last time to
the University of Chicago, where she stayed for two years, pursing advanced
courses in Economics. She graduated in 1944 with a B.A in Economics.

After graduation, she kicked around Chicago for a while before returning to her
first love, writing. Before long, she was employed at Sears, Roebuck as a full-time
copywriter. With this job she honed her writing skills, often producing three
newspaper pages of copy per day! She sold everything from ratchets to women’s
lingerie.

Following her experience at Sears, she returned to St. Louis to work in the
advertising department of Stix, Baer and Fuller, a large department store
frequented by her mother.
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It was during this period that many of June’s cosmetic advertisements were
distributed nationally, and with this recognition, June set her sights on a more
lofty ambition of becoming a copywriter on Madison Avenue in New York.

In 1951, with the money she worked hard to save, June took a flat in Manhattan’s
East 50s. One year later, she landed a copywriting job at J.Walter Thompson, a
legendary Madison Avenue advertising firm. In the 1950s, the advertising business
on Madison Avenue was highly competitive and male-dominated , but june,
despite being a woman, was able to succeed by using her creativity and intellect.

June’s copywriting career on Madison Avenue lasted nearly 50 years. She loved
the creative challenge and the glamour. She retired reluctantly in 1996 at 74
years old! June’s impressive resumes includes some of the largest advertising
firms that existed on Madison Avenue.

J.Walter Thompson
Foote Cone & Belting
McCann-Erikson
Lennen & Newell

June wrote advertisements on everything from cosmetics and hair coloring to
airlines, whiskey and razor blades. Her two most successful campaigns were:

Clairiol’s - “You’re not getting older, you’ re getting better.”

and
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L’Oreal’s - “It’s expensive, but you’re worth it”


While working, June raised her two boys in New York City, putting them
through private school, making sure that every summer they went away, either
to summer camp or the beaches of the Hamptons. June put both her sons
through college, and also saved enough money with which to live comfortably in
retirement. June was always fiercely independent and took great pride in the fact
that she could always support herself and, her family, and make all her own
decisions.

Politically, June was FDR liberal. Since the New Deal, there was not a liberal
cause that she did not fully support. One story June used to tell was from 1948,
when she worked at Stix Baer & Fuller. The sales and packaging clerks were on
strike, and there was a picket line in front of the store, Even though June worked
in the advertising department, which was not on strike, she decide to join the
picket line to show her support. One day, while June was marching in front of
the store, her mother, Ruth, walked past her without saying a word. Later that
night Ruth, told June that she was upset with her, not for marching on a picket
line, but for doing it in front of her favorite store.
June enjoyed people, especially people with whom she could converse about the
arts, literature and particularly politics. She had a voracious appetite for reading.
She loved learning about the world and about new innovations. Of late, she was
comfortable discussing the latest Charles James exhibit at the Metropolitan
Museum of Art or discussing 3-D printers technology. In her later years, her sons
often teased her about how she has traveled around the world many of times
through the pages of the New York Times, New Yorker Magazines and the myriad
of books that she read.

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But most importantly, June deeply loved her two sons and her extend family. She
was very proud of being a Cerf. In 2011, one her sons had the opportunity to
move to California for work, and he asked June to come with him. June was 90
years old at the time, and her only question was could she live nearby. When her
son said yes, June responded “Ok, let’s go.”

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