The CARIE family has a heavy heart as we mourn the loss of our founding director, Bernice Soffer (August 29, 1926 – June 29, 2018). CARIE is a living tribute to Bernice, a pioneer in elder advocacy.
I first met Bernice in early 1989 I when she hired me to work at CARIE. Little did I know when met this petite woman that she was a force of nature and she was tenacious in fighting the terrible affronts on human dignity older adults routinely encounter. She could command a room with her persuasive arguments as she fought for social change – she never gave up. It was inspiring and delightful to watch her in action. As my colleague David Fair said upon learning of her passing, “Bernice Soffer was one of those early visionaries and innovators who stood up for the rights of older people in all walks of life long before senior citizenship became an industry.”
Bernice liked to tell the story of how she started at CARIE as a Vista Volunteer with a few dedicated “Vistas” as she called them, and only $100 in the bank. She wrote a check for $50 to incorporate the organization and spent most of the rest on ledgers to keep track of the money she was about to raise. Today, CARIE has 24 staff, nearly 100 volunteers, and a budget of nearly two million. More importantly, CARIE continues to advocate to promote the well-being, rights, and autonomy of older adults, just as Bernice envisioned in 1979. Her spirit lives on in all of our advocates and her legacy will continue. Many older adults have had and will have better lives because of Bernice. I feel honored that Bernice trusted me to succeed her in leading the organization.
So, I say farewell to this remarkable woman, my dear friend and mentor, with admiration, love, and appreciation for a life well-lived.
Bernice’s family asked that memorial donations be made to the Bernice Soffer Endowment Fund.