Ferne Beverly Hyman was a pioneer resident volunteer at The Brookwood Community, a wife of 65 years, mother of three, grandmother of nine, and reference librarian at Rice University for 35 years. She lived a full and rich life and died on June 26, 2011, surrounded by her beloved family, at her home in the community of the special citizens she adored.
Ferne was born in August 1926 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the oldest daughter of William J. and Lillian Handelsman and sister of Lucille. She graduated from high school in Los Angeles and began college at the University of California at Los Angeles where, in 1945, she met Harold M. Hyman, a Marine returning from the Pacific theater. Their courtship was strongly supported by her parents' love for Harold and her mother's determination to feed him (and every other Jewish soldier returning from the war). Ferne and Harold married in 1946 and continued their education. Ferne interrupted her schooling so that Harold could obtain his doctorate at Columbia University, and they began their academic lives together. She obtained her degree at UCLA and a master's degree in history at Loyola University in Los Angeles while Harold was on the UCLA faculty. She obtained her master's degree in library science at the University of Illinois while he was on the faculty there and began her career as a university reference librarian. She did all this while having and raising their three children, Lee, Ann, and Bill.
After teaching and working at different universities around the country during summers and academic visits, the family came to Houston in 1968. Ferne became the reference librarian at Rice University. She retired from Rice after three decades of service to the Fondren Library. Ferne made the Hyman home a welcoming place for undergraduate and graduate students at every college and university where she and Harold worked. Her colleagues at Rice knew her as devoted and highly professional, generous and hard-working in serving the students, faculty, and members of the public who sought her help. She was the face of Fondren Library to many students and faculty. Ferne was active in national professional organizations and a recognized contributor to the field of library science.
Ferne adored her children and grandchildren and was close to each of them. She kept up with the details of their daily lives and accomplishments and gave them sympathy and support when they needed it most. She did everything she could to help her children when they had children. And when her granddaughter Rebecca's special needs became clear, Ferne reoriented her life to make Rebecca's needs her own. Rebecca renamed her grandmother with the word her grandmother called her. Ferne became not only "Grandma" but "Sweetheart." In 2007, after Rebecca had become a citizen of The Brookwood Community for adults with functional disabilities, Ferne and Harold left their retirement in Houston to become resident volunteers on the beautiful campus in Brookshire. For the past four years, they have served Brookwood as the Community's "Grandma" and "Grandpa." Ferne worked in the café, in the office, and with visitors and touring groups. She did not talk about service. She simply served.
Ferne is survived by her husband, Harold; her daughter, Judge Lee Rosenthal, and her husband, Gary, in Houston; her daughter, Ann Root, and her husband, Dr. Jim Root, in Austin; her son, Dr. William J. Hyman, in Tyler; and her grandchildren, Joshua Root and his wife, Brittany, Eric Root, Rebecca Rosenthal, 2nd Lt. Hannah Rosenthal, Jessica Rosenthal, Rachel Rosenthal, Daniel Hyman, Sarah Hyman, and Andrea Hyman.
There will be a memorial service at The Brookwood Community on August 21, 2011, at 2:00 p.m. In lieu of flowers or customary remembrances, the family requests donations in Ferne's name to The Brookwood Community, 1752 FM 1489, Brookshire, Tx 77423.
Published in Houston Chronicle from Jul. 3 to Jul. 6, 2011.