Winthrop residents filled two rooms to capacity at the Caggiano and Son – O’Maley Funeral Home Monday afternoon to pay their final respects to Belle Liberman, who died on December 2 at the age of 91 after a brief illness.
Mrs. Liberman was the proprietor of Belle’s Little Shop and Belle’s Feminine Fashions in Winthrop Center for 45 years. She was active in the Winthrop Chamber of Commerce and Winthrop Rotary Club and a member of the congregation at Temple Tifereth Abraham.
Pastor Bruce Smith officiated at the service that was attended by local dignitaries including incoming Town Council President Peter Gill and his wife Maureen, Superintendent of Schools John Macero and his wife Trudy, former Selectman and Planning Board chairman Richard Dimes, longtime Winthrop official Attorney Jerome Falbo, and Town Councilors Philip Boncore, Russell Sanford, and Jeanne Maggio.
Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Eric Gaynor, President Bernice MacIntyre and Past President Paul Leavy were in attendance while Jim Marr, Al Smith, and Dr. Victor Saldanha were among the Rotary delegation. Dottie D’Onofrio, a leader of the Ladies Lodge of Winthrop, also paid tribute.
Ernie Caggiano, owner of the funeral home and a close friend of Mrs. Liberman, recited the Mourner’s Kaddish, a Jewish prayer, at the service.
Pastor Smith said, “It’s been a privilege of mine to get to know Belle through Linda, her daughter, and Donald [her son], to spend some precious time with Belle. Everybody loved Belle because she always made you feel so good about yourself and I believe that’s why this funeral home is so overflowing with people today.”
Mrs. Liberman’s daughter, Linda Durant, said her mother grew up in Winthrop and lived in the town for 80 years. She started doing home shows and selling jewelry at a store, The Little Shop, operated by Evangeline Lippencott.
Mrs. Liberman and her husband, Al, purchased The Little Shop from Lippencott, and moved the business to Winthrop Center. The new clothing store, known as Belle’s Little Shop, later became known as Belle’s Feminine Fashions.
Linda Durant worked side-by-side with her mother at the store for the last twelve years of its existence prior to Mrs. Liberman’s retirement in the mid-1980s.
“My mother loved Winthrop,” said Linda Durant. “She traveled the world but she always came home to Winthrop. She invested herself totally in the community. She loved the people. Her customers were friends and they loved her. I had an opportunity to witness that for 12 years when I came back to work her in the store.”
Gaynor, whose organization conducted a beautiful farewell party when Mrs. Liberman moved from Winthrop, said, “You couldn’t find someone more aptly named than Belle – she brought beauty to everything. Belle lived all 91 years of her life to the fullest. She was enormously involved in the community – I know that the Chamber won’t be the same without her. She was the ‘grande dame of Winthrop. There will never be anyone like Belle Liberman. I will miss her terribly.”
Marr, who would frequently transport Mrs. Liberman to local events and was a friend since 1969, said, “She was quite a gal. She had a bigger-than-life personality. The town has a big void than won’t be filled.”
Trucy Macero, owner of the Winthrop School for Performing Arts, said, “I think my tears are because I’ll miss her. I’m not sad, because she had a wonderful life. I’m said because I’ll never see her again. She is a role model for all of us – how to live life.”
“Belle was a wonderful person and really was the matriarch of the Chamber – that’s how I would best describe her – we’re really going to miss her,” said Leavy, owner of Woodside Hardware.