Feb. 2, 1921 San Francisco San Francisco County California, USA
May 19, 2011 Fullerton Orange County California, USA
Frances Topping Berkhemer, best known by her nickname "Topper", died May 19, 2011 at the age of ninety from natural causes. She lived almost forty years in Ventura with her late husband, Bob Berkhemer, and the previous twenty-five years in Claremont and Pomona. Most recently she resided at Sunrise Assisted Living Center in Fullerton.
Topper was born in San Francisco on March 2, 1921, the daughter of one of the first licensed obstetricians in the state, Dr. Frank and Caroline Topping, who survived the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Topper grew up in Sacramento, learned to play piano, golf, tennis, and polo, and attended Stanford University and Pomona College.
Flying was an important part of Topper's life-she took flying lessons from her first husband, Kenneth Brooks. Kenny served in the Air Force during WWII. At the outset of the war, she joined the legendary Women's Air Services Corps (WASP), which ferried aircraft to military training bases in the U.S. Topper and Kenny helped build Brackett Air Field in Pomona.
Topper married Bob Berkhemer in Claremont on October 1, 1960, and three years later moved to Ventura where he worked at Port Hueneme Naval Base, as liaison from Johns Hopkins Laboratories in Washington, DC. Their daughters, Betsy, Dabby, and Bonnie Berkhemer, graduated from Buena High School and Ventura College, then UCLA, USC, and UC Santa Barbara, respectively.
Topper and Bob enjoyed golf at Saticoy and Ojai, and playing duplicate bridge together. Topper loved playing piano. She shared that talent with family and friends singing around the piano, and for ten years in Ventura, she taught piano lessons to young and adult students. For Topper's ninetieth birthday celebration, she was surrounded by three family generations.
She is survived by her son, Richard Topping Brooks, from Austin, Texas; her daughter, Bonnie Berkhemer Vincent, now living in La Habra; her two stepdaughters, Dr. Dorothy Berkhemer Perry, from San Francisco, and Betsy Berkhemer-Credaire, from Los Angeles. Topper had five grandchildren: Karen Brooks Swortfiguer, from Austin, Texas; Anne Perry Shurin, from London; David Vincent, Brad Vincent and Kara Vincent Ramirez, and two great-grandchildren, Haden and Kali Ramirez, all residing in Southern California.
Topper's ashes have been interred at Loma Vista Memorial Park in Fullerton.
The family wishes to thank the staff at Sunrise Assisted Living Center in Fullerton for their care and kindness to Topper during her last few years. Published in the Ventura County Star from June 26 to June 29, 2011.