Volume 74, Number 43 | March 02 - 08, 2005

Lillie Sherer, 89, beloved Chelsea nursery teacher

Lillie Sherer, a Chelsea resident for 57 years who raised her family in the neighborhood and taught nursery school at the Hudson Guild settlement house for 35 years, died on Feb. 14 at the age of 89.

She and her younger sister, Janet, who survives, were a much-loved and familiar presence in the Penn South Co-op where Sherer and her family moved when the complex opened in 1962.

“She could not go down a single block in Chelsea without getting a warm greeting from friends and nursery school students now grown,” said her daughter, Ellen Victor.

Born July 20, 1915, on First Ave. in what is now known as Kips Bay, she was one of four children of Samuel and Minnie Steinberg, immigrants from Austria and Russia, respectively, who had a grocery on Ninth Ave. between 33rd and 34th Sts. Her father had also worked as a window washer and a subway conductor,

With their four children, Irving, George, Lillie and Janet, the Steinberg family moved to Brooklyn. In 1940, Lillie married Ben Sherer, an opera basso who served in the Army as an entertainer during World War II in California.

During the war, Sherer worked in a California aircraft plant. A lifelong Democrat, she proudly proclaimed that she had worked on a plane that carried President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

After the war, the Sherers family moved back to New York and in 1947 moved to the Elliott Chelsea Houses. Lillie Sherer began teaching at the Guild nursery school soon after coming to the neighborhood when her daughter Ellen was enrolled in the program. When she retired in 1981, the Guild celebrated Sherer’s three and a half decades of service.

Among her nursery students at the Guild who became celebrities were the Wayans brothers and Whoopie Goldberg. Goldberg’s mother, Emma, an assistant teacher at the Guild nursery, worked with Sherer for several years, Victor said.

“Lillie loved arts and crafts,” she recalled. “She studied pottery at the Guild for many years. She did macramé and knitted and she loved to read mystery novels. At the age of 62 she went on to earn her bachelor’s degree,” she added.

Sherer’s parents both died in 1959 when they were hit by a car in Brooklyn. Her husband, Ben, died in 1983.

Sherer was afflicted with ill health late in life and had to use a motorized wheelchair but it didn’t stop her from responding to anyone who needed a helping hand. “Aside from being my mother, she was my best friend, confidante and inspiration,” her daughter said.

In addition to her daughter Ellen of Manhattan, and her sister Janet Steinberg of Penn South, a brother George of Florida also survives. A graveside service was held Feb. 17 at Beth David Cemetery in Elmont, L.I.

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