Mildred Celia ‘Millie’ Alper, 94, passed away peacefully at Lower Cape Fear Hospice on Thursday, May 19, 2016, surrounded by her children, Jonathan Alper and Barbara Alper Behar. The daughter of Solomon and Jenny Smith, Millie was born in Hazelton, Pa., on September 8, 1921.
In 1935, her family moved to Long Island City, N.Y., where she eventually caught the eye of a dashing young neighbor, her beloved Seymour Alper. After Seymour’s return from service in the South Pacific, they married on February 12, 1945, beginning a 67-year love affair and partnership. In 1952, the family moved from New York to Wilmington as they searched for a better environment to raise their children, Marilyn, Jonathan and Barbara.
Anxious to become a part of her new community, Millie looked for ways to become involved in the life of her adopted city. Within a very short time, she became a ‘pink lady’ at James Walker Hospital, volunteered with the Community Concert Association and actively participated in the B’nai Israel Synagogue community. She remained actively involved in each of these organizations throughout her entire life.
As a volunteer at James Walker, Millie became acutely aware that the conditions at Wilmington’s old hospital were deplorable. She recognized that the city needed a new medical facility and sparked Seymour’s involvement in the effort to bring quality medicine to Southeastern North Carolina. She and Seymour worked tirelessly to help make New Hanover Regional Medical Center a reality; she, behind the scenes, and Seymour, in the public arena.
Millie’s work with the Community Concert Association reflected her love of the arts, particularly classical music and opera. For over 40 years, she served the Association by working hard to increase the subscription-only membership in order to bring top musical talent to Wilmington. A skilled homemaker, cook and baker, Millie was often asked to host receptions for visiting artists when they performed in town. Over the years, many of the world’s most famous classical artists, including Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zuckerman, Andre Watts, Andres Segovia, Alicia de Larrocha, among many others, ate dinner in her kitchen.
Millie believed she was obligated to share whatever good fortune she had with those in need, and, as a result, quietly supported local causes as well as national and international charitable organizations to the best of her ability. She was honored as a ‘Lion of Judah’ for her many years of support for the United Jewish Appeal. She was a life member of Hadassah, and an active volunteer for her synagogue, where she cooked many meals and baked hundreds of cakes for their fundraisers. Even at age 94, she baked a cake each month for a local hospice.
Millie was the matriarch of her large extended family. She kept in touch with relatives from all over the world and hosted large family reunions at Wrightsville Beach. She was the strength of the family. With her calm demeanor and dogged determination, she kept everyone moving forward when times got tough. She never fully recovered from the death of her daughter Marilyn in 1998; but, in typical fashion, she was the ‘rock’ that helped everyone cope with the loss.
Millie is survived by children, Jonathan (Reba) of Wilmington and Barbara Behar (Robert) of Philadelphia, Pa.; and grandchildren, Richard Davidson (Andra) of Denver, Colo., Rebecca Kaltman (Jonathan) of Bethesda, Md., Wendy Alper of New York City, Scott Behar (Brooke Lewy) of San Francisco, Calif., and Emily Behar of San Francisco, Calif. Millie was also the proud great-grandmother of Max and Hannah Davidson, Madeline and Jacob Kaltman and Samuel Behar. She cherished all of her nieces and nephews, but enjoyed especially close and caring relationships with Mark Alper and Jerry and Debbie Smith of Wilmington and Helaine and Richard Sugarman and Steve Alper of Atlanta, Ga. Millie treasured the special relationship she had with her caregivers and companions, Barbara Karp and Nily Walters, who took incredible care of her through her later years.
Funeral services was held at 11 a.m. Sunday, May 22, at B’nai Israel Synagogue. The family will observe Shiva at the home at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday evenings.
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