Greenwood Heights

Leonard Bernstein honored at Green-Wood gala, kin given DeWitt Clinton Award

September 14, 2018 By Paul Frangipane Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Alexander Bernstein and Nina Bernstein Simmons accept the DeWitt Clinton Award for Excellence. Eagle photos by Paul Frangipane

Green-Wood Cemetery honored the late famed composer and permanent Green-Wood resident Leonard Bernstein at its annual fundraising gala Wednesday night, while honoring the composer’s children with the DeWitt Clinton Award for Excellence.

In its 180th year, the 478-acre burial ground celebrated Bernstein’s 100th birthday, capping the night by presenting the DeWitt Clinton Award to Nina Bernstein Simmons and Alexander and Jaime Bernstein.

“All my life, my dad was working as hard as he could to make the world a better place,” Jaime Bernstein said over a video presentation.

The Tony-award-winning composer and music director of the New York Philharmonic has one of the most visited gravesites at the cemetery, but it was after both he and his wife died that the family allowed his manager to decide where he should rest.

“My parents weren’t terribly proactive about their final resting places,” Bernstein Simmons told the crowd of over 300 people. “It just never occurred to them to think about it … so this place happened to us, but what a wonderful happening that was.”

Also at the celebration, trustees Allie Sweeney and Scot Medbury, who serves as president of Brooklyn Botanic Garden, unveiled the new planned Education and Welcome Center that incorporates the recently restored Weir Greenhouse. To applause, they showed a rendering of a renovated entranceway at the Fifth Avenue entrance.

“Our vision is to transform Green-Wood into one of New York City’s major cultural institutions within the next 10 years,” Sweeney said. “Our next step towards that goal is our plan to build an education and welcome center.”

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After Green-Wood’s chairman of the board of trustees Payson Coleman presented the DeWitt Clinton Award to the Bernstein children, Bernstein Simmons shared a childhood story of visiting the graves of composers Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Fyodor Dostoevsky with her father, a trip that left them laughing, crying and discussing art and life.

She directed her speech to the crowd saying, “I hope that someday you’ll bring your children, your parents, your aunt and uncle, your grandkids, whoever, and sit on Leonard Bernstein’s grave and talk about life and art, have a laugh, shed a tear.”

 

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