Barney Bernstein, 95, businessman

Barney Bernstein
Barney Bernstein
Posted: July 02, 2014

Barney Bernstein, 95, of Lafayette Hill, an Army veteran and former business owner, died Sunday, June 22, at home from complications from a stroke.

Mr. Bernstein started Sim-Kar Lighting Fixtures Co. with a partner in 1952 in a three-story rowhouse in Northeast Philadelphia, from which it grew to employ more than 700 people in Juniata Park in 1986. The company is now Simkar Corp.

Mr. Bernstein was born in Camden but grew up in Philadelphia and lived above his father's tailor shop on Kensington Avenue until he was 10. He attended Philadelphia public schools and graduated from Olney High School in June 1935.

He graduated from Temple University's College of Education in June 1940.

After college, Mr. Bernstein investigated complaints of employers not paying their workers minimum wage for the U.S. Department of Labor. In 1942, he married his wife of 68 years, Pauline, and joined the Army.

After training at Harvard Business School, he helped ensure that the Army had enough quality aircraft engine parts as a statistical control officer. He was discharged from the Army Air Corps in April 1946 as a captain.

Mr. Bernstein and Charles A. Trowbridge started their lighting fixture company in 1952. Mr. Bernstein often worked 10-hour days six days a week to build the company, said his son, Richard. He was a natural "people person" who liked working with customers, Richard said.

"It wasn't work. It was what he liked to do," said Richard, who grew up working at the shop with his father.

Mr. Bernstein kept an album full of photos he collected of his employees and his company, which he and his business partner sold in 1986. One photo shows a party Mr. Bernstein threw for an employee's 25-year anniversary with the company.

It was only after he retired that he had time to relax and pick up his main hobby: golf.

Mr. Bernstein also followed the Phillies and went to a World Series game in 1980 to see them get a victory over the Kansas City Royals.

Another favorite pastime was seeing musical comedies, such as My Fair Lady and The Unsinkable Molly Brown, with his wife, who died in 2010.

Richard Bernstein said he would miss his long talks with his father about current events and the goings-on of the city. Even in his father's last weeks, "we could still have good conversations about almost anything," Richard said.

Mr. Bernstein is also survived by a grandson.

Funeral services were private. Contributions may be made to Zionist Organization of America, 1 Belmont Ave., Suite 601, Bala Cynwyd, Pa. 19004.


mbond@philly.com

610-313-8207 @MichaelleBond

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