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Obituary: Lena Bittenson

Lena Bittenson 1914-2010

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Lena (Lee) Bittenson. Born in 1914, Lena was the sixth of seven children of Eastern European immigrants and grew up on New York’s Lower East Side. She married Abraham Bittenson in 1935. Trained as a teacher, Lena never pursued a career in the classroom, but instead, to her children’s delight, was home with them while running a small family business with her loving and admiring husband. At age 50, Lena began a career in Metropolitan Life Insurance Company’s Statistical Bureau, preparing demographic bulletins for the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics and eventually training actuarial students.

Widowed in 1971, Lena continued working until 1979 and in 1981 started a third career, raising her newborn grandson, Trevor, in Great Neck. She commuted weekly from Brooklyn to Great Neck and soon after a second Great Neck grandson, Jared, arrived, moved to Great Neck full-time. She cared for her grandchildren, cooked an untold number of meals, hosted innumerable play-dates and clapped the loudest at the Saddle Rock and Great Neck South School concerts, shows and graduations. There was a constant flow in and out of Great Neck of family visiting her and her Sundays were typically dominated by calls from family. She lived independently until 2006 when she moved to southern California for a warm-weather lifestyle near the largest component of her family: her eldest son, his children and grandchildren. The constant flow of family visits and phone calls continued when she moved to California.

Lena was extremely generous and caring. While she still had young children at home, she moved her sick mother in to live with her. She shared what she had with those who were in need, kept others company and listened to their distress when no one else would, cared selflessly for frail friends and took on the taxing role of her childless brother’s guardian in his declining years. The week before her death, Lena attended the Bar Mitzvah of one of her great-grandsons and visited with family who came from throughout the country.

She is survived by four children: Leslie Bittenson of Chatsworth, CA, Sharon Meltzer of Nashville, TN, and Chicago, IL, Steven Bittenson of Bedford, MA, and Carol Bass of Great Neck; nine grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren; a sister, Sylvia Mintz of Delray, FL; a sister-in-law, Anne Press of San Diego, CA; innumerable nieces, nephews, great and great-great-nieces and nephews and many, many friends. Of her friends in Great Neck, her longest and dearest, Josefina Phillips, continued to communicate with Lena after Lena’s retirement to California, and Lena’s whole family treasures Fina’s wonderful friendship. Lena participated in various activities at the Great Neck Senior Center starting about 24 years ago when she first pushed her young grandson to pre-kindergarten class in his stroller. For those who wish to make a donation in Lena’s name, the family suggests contributions to: The Great Neck Senior Center, 80 Grace Ave., Great Neck, NY 11021, Attention: Ann Tarcher (516-487-0025).