Libby and Bernie Weiner: Not sitting on the sidelines

In the mid-1960s Libby and Bernie Weiner would escape the winter weather in Kankakee, a small town a few hours from Chicago where Bernie headed a successful insurance agency, to soak up the sunshine here in the Valley.

When and why did the couple make the move permanent? Bernie recalls, “In the early ‘80s recession, major companies were relocating from our area. I came home one day and said to Libby, either I retire – or we move to Chicago.”

Libby picks up the story: “No retirement! I suggested we moved here to Phoenix because we had vacationed here for several years and liked it. Our daughter had gone to school here. We already owned a condo here – and if we weren’t happy, we could always go back to Illinois!”

It turned out to be a very good move on many levels. Their son, David (presently serving as co-chair of the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix board of directors) previously had made the move. Also in the insurance trade, he says his father already had sold insurance to everyone in Kankakee, “so there was no one left!”

The couple have two other children: a son, who is an attorney in Chicago and a daughter, the mother of their two grandchildren, lives in Denver.

Once the Weiners settled in, Bernie and David joined forces to form Weiner Insurance.

“David had broken ground, Bernie recalls, “but it was a challenge. We were good prospectors, though, even knocking on doors, and little by little we grew.” He adds with parental pride, “We’ve never had one argument!” and, he adds, “David has taken Jewish involvement so much further than we ever have!”

Although David now holds the title of president, Bernie, at age 85, still is active in the company and maintains and services clients “doing whatever needs to be done” in the Chicago area. “I still love to work,” he says. “It keeps me on my toes.”

From the outset, the Weiners did connect with the local Jewish community. “Both of our families were involved in our hometowns, so it was natural for us to follow in their footsteps,” Libby says. Federation and Brandeis were among the beneficiaries of their support, along with memberships in Temple Solel and Temple Chai. And Libby says her late and beloved dog, Miss Ellie, “as human a dog as ever lived,” helped to make friends wherever they went. Not as physically active as once they were (golf and tennis for both of them and marathon running for Bernie), they now enjoy the Phoenix Symphony and performances at Scottsdale Center for The Arts, where this year they are sponsoring a performance by a Korean pianist. And they always are on the hunt, they say, for great restaurants.

They have lived for the past three years in an art-filled casita at Sagewood, the popular adult community with easy access to the Musical Instrument Museum.

Now celebrating 60 years of marriage, Libby says with a laugh, “We have fun together. It wasn’t love at first sight,” she laughs, “but we grew on each other!” Mutual student friends at the University of Illinois had fixed them up, and Libby remembers hearing that Bernie, a Korean War vet, had a new coral and white Ford, a gift from his family. So she dressed for their “Coke date” in a color to match the car. They married a year and a half later.

Son David observes, “My parents are growing older in a fun way. They aren’t sitting on the sidelines. They embrace where they are in life, and they take care of each other. They are aging well!”

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