Globetrotting grandmother dies at 98

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Millie Diamant Silverstein passed away in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Feb. 22. She was 98.

Born on Dec. 7, 1916, in the middle of World War I, a Cockney from the east end of London, England, she was of Dutch-, English- and Portuguese-Jewish descent. At the age of 7, her parents Harry and Elizabeth Garrits Diamant immigrated to the U.S. with her and her older brother Alec, older sister Rachael, and younger brother Louis, first to the South Bronx, where she attended P.S. 20, and then to Brooklyn, where she would graduate from Lincoln High School earning a commercial degree.

During World War II, Ms. Silverstein became a Volunteer Red Cross Nurses’ Aide and was on Civil Defense patrol. After the war, she worked in Miami Beach, where she would meet her future husband, Joseph Silverstein, a butcher from Washington Heights, with whom in 1949 she would move to and raise a family of four on Greystone Avenue in Riverdale. She lived in the neighobrhood for the next 65 years.  From the mid-1960s to about 1990, Ms. Silverstein was a secretary at Yeshiva University. 

After her husband passed away and she later retired, Ms. Silverstein continued to work throughout New York City as an “office temp” and began travelling extensively — often by herself — around the globe, including to Curacao, Israel, England, France, Spain, Morocco, Italy, Hawaii, Alaska and many places in the contiguous U.S. 

During that time, she was blessed with seven grandchildren whom she adored dearly. 

She was generous with her time and resources, giving to many charities and volunteering well into her 90s. She read to second graders at a school in Marble Hill, was a mainstay at her local Democratic club and campaigned for local politicians.  

She worked the polls as an election worker for every primary and general election, from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m., up to the age of 96. She was influential to all she came into contact with. Just a few months before her passing, she convinced one of her health care aides to return to nursing school. As her health failed in the last year of her life, Ms. Silverstein’s greatest joy was the birth of her first great-grandchild.

Ms. Silverstein was preceded in death by her husband, Joseph Silverstein; father Harry Diamant, mother Elizabeth Garrits Diamant, brother Alexander Diamant, sister Rachael Diamant Feldman; son and constant companion in her later years Robert Harry Silverstein of Riverdale; and nephews Joel Diamant and Lewis Garrett Diamant.  She is survived by her brother Dr. Louis Diamant; daughter Jane (Ted) Feigenbaum; sons Richard Silverstein  and Mark (Maureen) Silverstein; grandchildren Jon, Brad, Andrew, Nicolaas, Kerry, Jaclyn, and Michael; and great-grandson Sammy; as well as a host of nieces and nephews and their offspring. 

Funeral services, officiated with compassion by Cantor Stevens of the Conservative Synagogue Adath Israel of Riverdale, occurred on Feb. 26, at Riverside Memorial Chapel. Donations in her name may be made to the American Lung Association, American Cancer Society or another worthwhile charity of your choice; and if you wish to make a toast to her memory, Millie’s preference was Manhattans.

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