Funeral Details

Bernice Weissbourd

January 25, 1923 - October 12, 2022

The services and interment are private

** If you are interested in attending the virtual service on Thursday, October 20 at 7:30PM, and have not already been contacted, please contact Liz Barretta at


Shiva is Private


Bernice Weissbourd, 99, a researcher and advocate who built on her experience as a Head Start teacher to become a national leader in promoting the critical role of families in their children’s early childhood development, died October 12 at her home in Evanston IL. She was in the forefront of developing public understanding of what has become common knowledge: that the first three years of life are critical to a child’s development and have lifelong impact. Weissbourd went on to pioneer the idea that providing support and education for families when children are very young can make a big difference in realizing each child’s potential.

Bernice Weissbourd was born on Chicago’s south side in 1923. As a young woman, she studied classical piano at the Julliard School, and music remained a joyous part of her life.

On October 31, 1946, she married Bernard Weissbourd, a scientist, lawyer, pre-eminent real estate developer and civic leader. Lifelong loving companions, they were devoted to family, community and progressive action. They had four children and moved from Chicago’s south side to Evanston in 1959.
When her youngest child started school in 1962, Bernice began her early childhood career in earnest, becoming an early childhood teacher and program director for many years before becoming a national leader in the early child development and family support movement.

In 1976, Bernice co-founded Family Focus, a Chicago area non-profit providing community-based support for families with young children that grew to seven neighborhood service centers. Family Focus was a model for more than 20,000 programs operating today, in schools and neighborhoods around the Unites States.

In 1981, Bernice was the impetus for organizing a national meeting of state and local advocates for family support, professional and academic leaders and families themselves to share their ideas and experiences. The Family Resource Coalition (later named Family Support America) emerged from this meeting to become the national voice for family support, with Bernice serving as its President. A few years later, she was instrumental in the founding of Chicago’s Ounce of Prevention Fund, which utilized the principles of family support in its programs for teen parents.

Bernice’s national public and civic service included serving as President of the American Orthopsychiatric Association and Vice-President of the National Association for the Education of Young Children. She served as a Congressional appointee to the National Commission on Children and on the Administration for Children’s and Families’ Advisory Committee on Services for Families with Infants and Toddlers, which established Early Head Start.

She was also a prolific writer. She wrote a column on two-year olds for Parents magazine for more than 15 years and co-authored two books: America’s Family Support Programs (1987) and Putting Families First: America’s Family Support Movement and the Challenge of Change (1994). She was a lecturer at the University of Chicago, School of Service Administration from 1994 to 1999.
Family and community were not only professional preoccupations. Bernice was devoted to her family and to her extraordinary community of friends of all ages. She was known by all who knew her for her warmth and generosity, and she delighted in gathering friends and family in her home.

Coming of age during years of extraordinary economic and political turmoil, she developed a keen interest in the possibilities for progressive change which guided her many political and philanthropic engagements and stayed with her until the end of her days. Throughout her life she was committed to racial and economic justice. She left the world a little better than she found it.

She is survived by her children, Burt (Dorothy), Ruth Grant (Steve), Robert (Marie), Richard (Avery), 11 grandchildren and 7 great-grandchildren. Arrangements by Chicago Jewish Funerals - Skokie Chapel, 847.229.8822


We encourage you to share your personal condolences and stories of Bernice Weissbourd below and we will share them with the family.
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Dear Ruth and Weissbourd Family,

I am so sorry to hear of Bernice's passing, even at her advanced age. It is never easy to have a loved one's life end. I am honored to have known Bernice even a little bit. She was unfailingly kind to me and Monica and Lisa. She welcomed us when we visited and always wanted to know how "the girls" were after they were grown. What a remarkable life she led and influenced so many, professionally and personally.

To paraphrase Winnie the Pooh, how lucky I am to have someone in my life who makes saying goodbye so hard.

Thinking of you all with love. May time ease the pain of your loss.


Peggy Serrano
October 16, 2022
When I was a kid, I knew Bernice in Kenwood. As an adult, I got to reconnect through our professional lives. She was the best! It was a privilege to know her and support the amazing work of Family Focus. May she Rest In Peace and power.

Nikki Will Stein
October 16, 2022
I am so sorry to hear of her passing. She was a genuinely remarkable women and I still think of her often, as recently as last week and wondered how she was doing. I worked for her husband, Barney, for many years at the beginning of my real estate career and was fortunate to get to know her then. I valued and still value the advice I got from both of them. The last time I saw her was at Ruth Rothstein’s funeral. I still remember the charming and witty eulogy she gave about her dear friend Ruth. Please accept my deepest sympathies on your loss.

Michael Tobin.

Michael Tobin
October 16, 2022
I had the great good fortune to meet Bernice socially and professionally, and interact with her occasionally. She inspired me, starting out as a pre-school teacher, to pursue a master’s degree at SSA, and keep my focus on early intervention with families with young children, Although we were never professional colleagues, Bernice’s intelligence, energy, and spirit set an example of a multi-faceted life well lived. I am grateful for those life lessons.
Please accept my heartfelt condolences.

Roberta Siegel
October 16, 2022
I am unable to attend the online service this week but want to share how truly special Bernice was. Although my parents, Alice and Aaron Adler, and Bernice had been in the same political circles for years, they became friends later in life. She was a constant source of friendship and support to both my mom and dad, sharing a love of political discussions, arguments, theater, music and more. After my mom passed away, Bernice was a great source of support for my dad. She never forgot to include him whether it was to attend a meeting, a concert, or simply to join her and friends for dinner. She was always genuine and friend, a stellar human being who always took the time to care and support others.

Thinking of you all and sending my condolences.


October 17, 2022
Your Mom was an integral part of my life since 2011. We celebrated birthdays together, Family Focus milestones, gossip, giggles and meaningful work. She knew I felt responsible to protect and grow Family Focus and her legacy. Our relationship was based on mutual respect and love. Her legacy will live on at FamilyFocus and with my family because of the role model she was for me.
Very warm regards, Merri Ex

Merri Ex
October 17, 2022
I am sorry to learn of Bernice's death but happy to learn that she lived for so many years. I worked with Bernice at the Child Care Center in Evanston Il. in the 60's and moved out of state for the rest of my life. I greatly appreciated her: warm support of co-workers, vision, enthusiastic activism and true grit. She truly was a "go getter" who got things done!

Sharon Pitts
October 18, 2022
Berenice Weissbourd gave so much to the movement for early childhood education. She's a great leader and will be missed. We send love and healing to your family.

Anne Evens
October 18, 2022

Margarita A shubShubart
October 18, 2022
I did not have the pleasure of meeting Ms Weissbourd, but I heard and read about her passionate dedication to young children and their families. She is an excellent example of a life well lived.

Desney Avery
October 18, 2022
In 1979 I left a position in early intervention for a position at Family Focus in Evanston. I read about this unique place for parents of young children and was drawn to the idea of supporting families new to the city, new to parenting-single and teen parents ... I was in awe at how resourceful, warm and caring staff were. I was proud and grateful to be a part of this team. I met and had conversationso with Bernice many times and took to heart her knowledge and advice. She recommended I pursue a masters in early childhood education and of course -I did! What great advice! I also remember going to her staff holiday party at her home- that was the warm and wonderful person she was. I was her gift buddy- I gave her a book and she gave me a pair of earrings. I still have them!
My career in early childhood was more than fulfilling- it was my life! I totally give credit to this woman who took an interest in me, saw some potential and pointed me in the right direction to learn with the best of the best - the Erikson Institute. I was at Family Focus for a brief tenure but it was most impactful and memorable and Bernice was a huge part of that experience. I know she has touched millions of lives. I met with her occasionally at events and conferences in the field and it was always a delight.
I am saddened by this loss to all of us but what a legacy she has left and I feel extremely privileged to have known her.

Susan Markko
October 18, 2022
To the family of Ms. Weissbourd my deepest thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. Your mom was a great inspiration to me and the communities throughout her life her smile was always uplifting. In knowing love for families was guidance for future goals of the organization she build to make families feel uplifting and wanted to enroll in a program that honored family values. I will truly miss her.

Beverly Jones
October 19, 2022
Dear Family,
I send warmth, strength and Light to you as you mourn the Transition of the early childhood champion Bernice Weissbourd. As a teacher and artist, I worked with Ounce of Prevention, several of the Family Focus centers, and am a longstanding member of NAEYC. Ms. Weissbourd was such a hero to families with young children, and I am inspired deeply by her hard work as well as her gifts of new ways to understand young children in the context of families.

Best wishes and much peace to your family during this loss. Her mark on this earth will always be visible in the smiles of many young children. Be Well. Peace and Blessings.

Mars April Caulton
October 24, 2022
My condolences to the Weissbourd family. I did not know Bernice, but I am her son Robert’s colleague. I also am aware how her work advocated for the need of quality education for your children and her zeal to professionalize the early care and education industry. Through Robert and her work, I can infer her dedication to advance society and families. She sounds like an amazing women who will be deeply missed.
Nedra Sims Fears

Nedra Fears
October 26, 2022