Sunday, June 29, 2014

Goldie Benas

Goldie Benas was my great grandmother – a woman who never had a chance to get to know some of her grandchildren let alone great grandchildren. 

Goldie, the only daughter of Benjamin Benas and Frdericka Wilzinski, was born December 10, 1864 in Vallejo, California.  Goldie had three brothers – Isaac (1863-1951), Max (1867-1928), and Morris (1872-1929).  I don’t know much about Goldie’s early years, other than that she lived with her family in Vallejo until she married Herman Levy in San Francisco in September, 1883.  The Fresno Republican from September 22, 1883 (page 2) states that the marriage occurred on September 18, 1883 by Rev. Dr. Vidivar and the Oakland Tribune from September 18, 1883 (page 4) states the marriage occurred on September 15, 1883.  I do know that by December 23, 1884 the family was almost certainly living in Fresno when their first child, Herbert Levy, was born.  The next two children, Leon and Sigmund (my grandfather), were born in Vallejo – family interviews said that Goldie went back to Vallejo in the summer of 1886 and 1888 to have her sons in order to escape the hot summers in Fresno.  I’m sure she stayed with her parents as they were still living in Vallejo at the time.  The story of “too hot in Fresno” makes sense as the Fresno Republican reported on June 21, 1884, page 3, that Goldie was spending the summer in San Francisco with Miss Sopha Sachs.  Who was Sopha and why did she accompany Goldie to San Francisco?  Maybe a nurse or housekeeper?

I don’t have many pictures of Goldie but I’ve been able to come up with a few. 

Levy Home 1890
Levy Family Home, built 1887
846 or 946 K Street (later Van Ness Avenue), Fresno

When I enlarged the photo to be able to see the people better, I can see Goldie, Herman, Leon, Herb and Sig standing in front of the house.  I love the bicycles and Sig’s dress!

Levy House Van Ness Avenue Fresno 1890 cropped

Youngest son Benjamin (1892-1965) showed a picture of the family in his autobiography.

Levy Family Leon_Sig_Ben_Herb_Goldie_Herman
Back row:  Leon, Sig, Ben, Herb Levy
Front row:  Goldie Benas Levy and Herman Levy

In 1918, Herman passed away and Goldie was on her own.  In 1910 the family lived at the house shown above – Ben stated in his autobiography that K Street later became Van Ness Avenue.  In 1920, Goldie was living with Leon and Ben at 1509 Van Ness Avenue.

Here’s Goldie with her four grandchildren who were living in about 1922-1923.

Levy Goldie_HerbJr_Hermina_Barbara_Robert
Left to right:  Herb Levy Jr. (son of Herb), Hermina Levy (daughter of Benjamin), Goldie Benas Levy, Barbara Levy (daughter of Herb), Robert Levy (son of Sig), c. 1922-1923

And Goldie by herself. 

Goldie Benas 1922
Goldie Benas Levy
February 22, 1922
Taken at 647 N. Van Ness Avenue, Fresno, California
Based on 1920 census, home of Herb Levy and family

Goldie died January 19, 1926 at Stanford Hospital in San Francisco County from Chronic Myocarditis.  She was just 61 years old and was never able to meet her two additional grandchildren, my father, Gordon Levy, and Benjamin’s youngest daughter, Gilda Levy.  Interesting to note that my mother told me that based on Jewish custom, children were often named with the first letter of their first name matching that of a deceased loved one.  My father and Gilda were both born in 1927, just a year after Goldie’s death, and while I know that Gordon was named with a "G" in Goldie's honor, I would guess Gilda was, as well.

Goldie Benas Obit


Pioneer Fresno Citizen, Active in Community Affairs, Dies, Aged 61

Mrs. Goldie Levy, 61, mother of Herbert, Leon, Sigmund and Benjamin Levy of this city and a resident of Fresno for the last forty-three years, during which she had taken a prominent part in social club and civic affairs, died late yesterday at Stanford University Hospital in San Francisco.  She was the widow of the late Herman Levy.

Funeral services will be held at 1:30 P.M. tomorrow in the Stephens and Bean Chapel, followed by cremation.

The service will be conducted by Fresno Chapter of the Order of Eastern Star and Rabbi Alexander Segel.  The pallbearers will be S.B. Goodman, William Glass, S.L. Platt, Maurice Rorphuro, F. L. Simons and Curtis Ballard.

Mrs. Levy was born at Vallejo, December 10th, 1864.  Her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Benas, were pioneers of the state.  She came to Fresno soon after her marriage and lived for twenty five years in the 800 block of Van Ness Avenue.

For several years of late, Mrs. Levy had made her home at 1509 North Van Ness Avenue with her son, Leon Levy.  She belonged to the Order of Eastern Star and the Parlor Lecture Club, taking an active interest in both organizations.  Besides her four sons, she leaves three brothers, Isaac and Max Menas [sic] of San Francisco, and Morris Benas of Oakland, and four grandchildren who live in Fresno.

I wish I knew which paper this obituary was printed in but I have just the clipped article above and haven’t yet located the source.

Goldie is interred with Herman at Chapel of the Light Columbarium in Fresno, California.

Grave Herman Goldie Levy Grave Name Herman Goldie Levy


  1. Being a resident of that same hot, dry valley, I can see why Goldie might opt for the cooler summer temperatures of Vallejo for the later stages of her pregnancy and delivery--especially before air conditioning!

    Debi, have you gone to Fresno for any of your research on this line? There may be organizations there with more information on this family that you might find helpful. I found it well worth my time to do so when I was researching my Shields line in Fresno.

    1. No, Jacqi, I haven't been there myself but I have been in contact with a grandson of Herb Levy and he has a wealth of information - I just need to get there so I can go over it. Probably won't be during the hot summer, though ;-)

  2. 61! That seems so young now. The Jewish naming tradition is so interesting to me - it's nice and flexible.

    1. Goldie's husband was also 61 when he died, too. It seems so, so young to me since I am - ahem - getting close to that age myself.

  3. I don't blame Goldie for escaping the hot summers of Fresno during her pregnancies, especially without the benefits of air conditioning.

    Great post Debi!

    1. Ha, I thought about you, Jana :-)

    2. Debi,

      I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

      Have a wonderful weekend!