Sophie (Braunschweig) Kessler, 98, Ephrata, Holocaust survivor, farm wife, Peter Polly Shop owner

By on October 3, 2018

Sophie (Braunschweig) Kessler, 98, of Ephrata, passed away on Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018 at UPMC Pinnacle Lititz.

Born in Sulzberg, Germany on May 26, 1920, she was the daughter of the late Isaac and Frieda (Leder) Braunschweig.

She attended school in Basel, Switzerland, and lived in Efringen-Kirchen, Germany until, July 1938, when she, along with her parents and two brothers, arrived in New York City on the USS Washington on July 22, 1938, as Holocaust survivors.

Once settled in this country, she lived in New York City and worked as a nanny and seamstress. It was there that she met and married Alwin Kessler in 1943, while he was serving in the U.S. Army. In 1950, they moved to Norwich, N.Y., where they bought a farm and raised three children.

In addition to working with Alwin on the farm, Sophie was an exceptionally savvy businesswoman who owned her own very successful children’s clothing store. People would travel great distances to visit The Peter Polly Shop. After Alwin passed in September 1982, Sophie moved to Ephrata, to be closer to her children and grandchildren.

Sophie loved to bake and did lots of entertaining. She was a kind-hearted, generous person with a loving spirit who enjoyed her close friends, golfing, going out for lunch and dinner, shopping and family functions. She was a member of the Hadassah and Shaarai Shomayim Synagogue in Lancaster.

She was the beloved mother of: Frances Cohen, wife of the late Leon Cohen, Ephrata; Linda Brightbill, wife of Scott Brightbill, Mountville; and Barbara Gawin, wife of Gary Gawin, Cochranville. She is also survived by her greatly loved grandchildren who made her very proud: Mark Cohen, Michael Cohen, Jeremy Weiss, Andrew Gawin and Alyson (Gawin) Schwartz. Her greatest pleasure was her great-grandchildren: Lauren, Samantha, Joanna and Sophie Cohen, who put nothing but smiles on her face.

Preceding her in death were two brothers: David and Julius.

A private graveside service will be held at Mt. Hope Cemetery in Norwich, N.Y.

Public memorial services will be held at Gravenor Home For Funerals, 100 W. Main St., Ephrata, on Sunday, Nov. 11 at 2:30 p.m. The family will receive friends after the short service.

In lieu of floral offerings, please consider donations in Sophie’s memory to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society ( or to the charity of their choosing.

Services under the care of Gravenor Home for Funerals, Ephrata. To leave condolences, visit

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