Author(s):    RIC KAHN Date: April 16, 2000 Page: 1 Section: City Weekly

BROOKLINE - There are weathered benches at the seashore named for the old salts who flexed their reputations on the boardwalk.


There are beat-up benches in the city carved with the initials of the legions lost to the battles of Boone's Farm and John Barleycorn. Now, there is a sparkling yellow memorial bench set among the kiddie chairs and flute-lesson fliers in the kindergarten lobby of the Edward Devotion School.


This bench marks the passing of Anna Grossman, a 79-year-old grandmother to her own Devotion fifth-grader, Christopher Harris, and an at-large grandma to the many other kidlets who used to bounce at her feet, asking her to toss a ball, tie their shoelaces, or share a goofy laugh.


"My mother used to haunt the school. She loved the scene there, the energy," said her son, Severin Grossman, 51. "The kids recharged the hell out of her batteries."


Anna Grossman was a feisty widow who survived a Nazi labor camp, the loss of a son who died in infancy, and a major heart attack.


Last fall, she was hit and fatally injured by a garbage truck as she began her morning constitional, 120 feet from her front door on Winchester Street. Her son has filed a wrongful death suit against the garbage company and the driver.


More than 200 friends and family members packed her funeral, remembering the woman who chit-chatted her way into the lives of many, whether as the endless walker who delivered radio batteries to the homeless hermit she met along her route or as the delicate seamstress who offered free alterations on wedding gowns to daughters without dowries.


In lieu of flowers, her family asked that well-wishers make donations to a special cause: the Devotion School library.


"She had this connection with Devotion," said Pam Redlener, a longtime friend of Anna Grossman and former reading specialist at Devotion who now teaches at the town's Lincoln School.


Erected this month with the help of friends and local philanthropists, the bright yellow bench bears the fresh red-blue-and-green painted palmprints of Grossman's grandson and a handful of first-graders. If the children reach their required reading goals, their names will be placed on the bench alongside that of the woman who used to pirate mind-expanding tomes for her son Severin to read when they lived in rigid Romania.


Friends now hope this sunshiny seat, big enough to embrace four adults, will become a throne to the next generation of grandmas drawn to the children of Devotion, just like Anna Grossman.