Julia Berkoski has lived on the South Fork her whole life—and Saturday, that will be a century.Having worked on a farm as a child in Mecox, Ms. Berkoski eventually went on to make dresses for some of the fashion industry’s most influential designers. Her long, healthy life will be celebrated on Sunday with a special Mass and blessing at Our Lady of Poland Roman Catholic Church in Southampton Village.
The Water Mill resident was born on December 19, 1915, one of five children of Polish immigrants Anthony Wienclawski and Anna Sczensa. She spent much of her childhood peeling potatoes, dancing the polka and fox trot, and attending the Hayground School. She dropped out after seventh grade, though—she was 15, as she started school late—and continued to help out on the farm where she lived.
Ms. Berkoski married her husband, William, in 1933, and together they had five children: William Anthony, John, Ray, Arthur, and Celia. Today, she boasts 11 grandchildren, 28 great-grandchildren, and five great-great-grandchildren.
Before retiring in 1963, Ms. Berkoski worked as a dressmaker for more than 30 years. She said she would often buy printed chicken-feed bags and make clothes out of them because she loved to sew.
Her resume included H. Klein’s, Peck and Peck, Ninna Murray and Lilly Pulitzer. She would also make pillows and aprons with fabrics adorned with Lilly Pulitzer’s famous prints for her family members, one of her granddaughters, Catherine Glazier, said.
For the longtime Hamptons resident, life is now simple and pleasant. She spends her days at her Narrow Lane home—she said she’s happy that she doesn’t have to cook anymore—and still crochets scarves in all sorts of colors and lengths.
Up until recently, she used to go out for walks measured by the number of telephone poles she passed, and her dog Benji would accompany her.
“I wake up in the mornings, and I’m happy that I have a home, and it’s paid for, and I don’t have to go to work anymore,” Ms. Berkoski said in an interview on Monday. “I’ve got a good memory.”
Ms. Glazier, who lives in Rochester and is heading down to the South Fork to celebrate Ms. Berkoski’s birthday later this week, said she is thankful that she can still make memories with her grandmother.
“I am so very proud of her and all she has accomplished. She raised five children alone after my Gagi [grandfather] died, and made a good life for them,” Ms. Glazier said. “She is my inspiration, my mentor and my greatest gift. I could never repay her all that she has taught me. She is truly amazing.”