Family History browsing by category


#825 – Dick Bernard: A Time to Go.

Sunday, January 5th, 2014

Yesterday, I attended my first funeral of the New Year. Tom was a member of one of my “families”: head usher for one of the other teams at 9:30 Mass. I did not know Tom well, but he was a good guy, and he was, as I say, “family”.

It was important to attend.

(click to enlarge)

Jan. 4, 2013, Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis MN

Jan. 4, 2013, Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis MN

I am at the age where this kind of occasion will be common this year. Death will choose who, how and when…. There will be different names for the event, as “memorial service” or the like; and they will be in differing settings.

Tom was about eight years older than I am; most of the observances I’ve attended or acknowledged have been for persons younger than I am.

These events are really for the living, all of us heading for this destination, however we try to slow it down, or avoid it altogether, or be “forever young” as some TV ads promote.

We’re all on the same train, with the same destination – only at different times, perhaps different circumstances. “You can’t take it with you” comes to mind.

In Tom’s case, there were a goodly number of family and friends in attendance at the Church.

And the eulogies were, as they always seem to be, instructive to those sitting and listening; and entertaining too….

When it comes down to the last public appearance, attention seems drawn to the small things contributed by the deceased to the community, which usually centers, its seems, on “family”, a term with varying definitions.

Perhaps it is because I’ve rarely been to such services for the “high and mighty”, I don’t recall hearing tales at these events of acquiring great riches or “power” in some other context. Rather, more common is how this person or that was a contributor in some small way to the family circles of which he or she was part.

And, make no mistake, everyone has their story.

Some years ago, I came to be the representative of my brother-in-law, the unmarried last survivor of his family of origin. He and I were friends, though we lived over 300 miles apart and were in contact seldom. Ultimately his life went south; he lost his house, and then his mobility, and then lung cancer closed in for the kill…succeeding November 7, 2007, age 60.

Mike was a person who, in most of his adult life, would be considered the odd person in his town. He mused about where it would be best to be homeless. He had no friends, to my knowledge. I was about all he had.

When death circled ever closer, and Mike gave me power of attorney, I inquired of the local funeral home as to whether Mike had any final requests on file with them. They had handled his mothers funeral in 1999.

They sent me a brief letter from Mike, dated March 19, 2001, in which he said this: “…I have decided that I would like to be cremated. As for the ashes, maybe you could bury them between my mother and brother’s graves…As far as any funeral service, that would be nice. However, I doubt if I would have more than two or three people attending. I guess I am kind of a lone wolf….”

Mike got his wish, and he wasn’t far off in his prediction. As I recall there were about seven of us at graveside when his ashes were buried on a chilly afternoon near Thanksgiving 2007.

One of the seven at graveside was one of the teachers, now very elderly and frail, who Mike had had in high school (class of 1965). She made a point of complimenting him as a good student. Her biggest compliment to him was that she showed up on a very chilly late November day to recognize that he had lived.

A couple of weeks after his death, the residents at his final home, New Horizons Manor in Fargo, met to recognize his life. There were probably 30 or more in attendance, mostly elderly or severely disabled. Few knew him. He had lived there only a short while, to the end, a “lone wolf”.

But his was one of the most wonderful memorial services I have ever attended.

We are born and then we die.

In between is “life” and in the end, it seems to me, all that really matters are the small things, the things of supposedly no consequence, that are remembered at rituals of departure.

Tom and friends, October 6, 2013

Tom and friends, October 6, 2013

POSTNOTE: A book (and movie) that I highly recommend: The Book Thief, narrated by Death, see here and here.

#824 – Dick Bernard: “Christmas” Mail; thinking ahead as the New Year begins.

Saturday, January 4th, 2014

This is a very long post, and includes very divergent opinions from several people. I pass it along because I think it is interesting, and of current interest and concern. I invite comments. I muse about how to break the ideological polarity that is slowly strangling us as a country. For those readers who do not know me: I was born in 1940, born and reared amongst the so-called greatest generation which survived the Great Depression and WWII, and is now most departed. I am a military veteran (Army 1962-63) from a family full of military veterans, documented at least as far back as 1862-63.

Among ample “Christmas” mail, were two e-items from people I know. The “forward” is printed in its entirety at the end of this post. Following it is an impassioned more personal letter from a friend I’ve known for most of my life.

A third comment, below, is a letter to the editor of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, written by a long-time neighbor two houses over from us, who’s a great guy, mid-80s, who if asked about us would say we’re great neighbors too, though it probably didn’t compute with him that he was, in effect, writing about us in his rant to the world, as we are “liberal” Democrats and active Catholics who might actually agree with portions of his letter. We never have we talked “politics” with him – one picks ones battles. The contents of his letter are not surprising, though it was surprising to see he’d actually written the letter. He and his wife are very nice folks, good to share a neighborhood with, as are we…. [Carol responds to this letter later in this post, before the "forward".]

(click to enlarge)

Letter to Editor Dec 15, 2013

Letter to Editor Dec 15, 2013

I never decline the angry “forwards” – there are a few who send them regularly. I reply to them; most are false either in fact or implication, most are from people in my generation (older, social security and medicare recipients) and all are in one way or another seething with anger, resentment and full of fear.

But they’re worth looking at (at least so I think) and worth responding to. These folks are an ever smaller minority in this country, but they vote, and they are useful tools for those whose agenda is against their own selfish interests….

In the below instance, I sent the “forward” (“The typical U.S. household” one) to a number of friends, and got some interesting responses, which are passed along as received. I didn’t ask for responses, and I didn’t edit, or remove any. These are people sharing back their own feelings.

As for the folks who send along the angry and false stuff, I feel badly for them, but they simply energize me to do more to make sure their attitude does not result in the kind of “Tea Party Nation” we almost dissolved into between 2010 and 2014.

This is an election year, and if we want positive change, be aware of what happens when greed and anger prevail…. Become aware of the issues, register and vote.

My introduction to the “forward” as I passed it on: The guy who sent this to me is somebody whose Dad was an immigrant. He spent many years in the military, enlisted and civilian, and he’s in a network out west which seems to be heavily military oriented.
I might respond to the [originator] guy though, as with [my friend], who sent it to me, it is wasted words.
This is the bitter, angry, old fringe that still has a lot of power, fueled by anger and, as is said, money.
They believe their own propaganda. You know people like them, certainly.
The only antidote is to work like you’ve never worked to elect some viable alternative. I emphasize “viable”.

The responses to the “forward”, unedited:
from Joyce, a quote from Charles Pierce: “The Scary Liberal is still a formidable bogeyman to people terrified of their own best interests.”

from Jeff: I just delete this stuff… I am not sure what one can honestly say to it. If you posted a point by point rebuttal with reasoned thought, they would only delete it too. No generation deems worship… life goes on.

from Carol: There are no links to these guys, but could you pass this on??

I also am an “old geezer,” I guess (female variety). I voted for Obama. Twice. I don’t understand your reference to “tasting socialism.” As far as “seeing evil face to face,” yes – most any time we watch the news or pick up the newspaper. Evil has been around longer than you or I. I don’t happen to think “evil” resides in the White House (or in a President who happens to be of a different color than I am). I don’t choose to blame the Obama administration for the problems that started before he was even in office. Or those created by a greedy Wall Street.

People like you (and yes, it’s almost always old white men) make me sad. You deserve our nation’s greatest thanks for your military service/sacrifices. You deserve credit for your hard work, raising good families, and for voting. You do not deserve credit for your paranoia or racism. The world changes – with or without your approval. Your bitterness only serves to make people avoid you (trust me, I had angry old uncles…) Those outdoor biffies (my family had one) are gone – along with your “white bread” world. (Back then my German immigrant ancestors were treated with suspicion and persecuted here, by the way. There’s always somebody around we can find who’s scary, and to whom we can feel superior – if we choose.)

Adjust. It’s really not your/my world anymore. You act like “mostly the young people of this nation” had no right to vote for Obama – or maybe to vote at all, without your permission? Befriend someone who doesn’t look exactly like you (maybe one of those feared “immigrants”). You may get a whole new outlook on the life you have left.

from Peter (see also additional response in “responses” section): I’m always a little puzzled when you talk about “viable” candidates. There are several reasons for this. I understand that in your life you have worked in a domain where cooler heads were essential to progress, and moderation could actually work. At the national politics level, however, I don’t think anything works as designed anymore; it has been broken, maybe purposefully, so that now (as your correspondent below believes) money is key. So it boils down to this: money equals viability as a candidate. But we can’t win that game by trying to out-spend the opposition, especially when the opposition is not confined to party lines in the least. We’re playing tennis, while they play football.

That situation is so antithetical to democracy that until it is resolved I don’t consider that we have any vestigial shadow of the thing left to us. It is decades beyond time for national strikes and massive demonstrations, and these have been forestalled, so far, largely by convincing people that they are futile, and the rest by the simple expedient of news blackout. How many of the massive turnouts on the DC Mall this year reached the ears and eyes of, say, 20% of Americans?

What I think we disagree on here is that I believe working to elect a candidate who is “viable” is a dead end, that Obama is doing pretty good for a guy who certainly wouldn’t survive a full term if he stood up to the banksters and the fanatics, but a President is not the real power in the country, nor is Congress, any more. We are now non-voting shareholders in a wholly-owned subsidiary of what Jane Stillwater calls “War Street.” We all need to catch up to this, or we will continue in the downward spiral we see unfolding now. Under that scenario, when enough of us have died off from poverty and pandemic disease that the climate can stabilize, humanity may yet survive. In some very stunted form.

“They don’t think it be like it is but it do.”

Dick’s response to Peter about “viable”: Since 1787, the U.S. has been governed by people elected by rules in place at the time. In order to make any difference at all, you need to be elected, which means you need a majority of the people who vote, to vote for you. There is no alternative. The Tea Party types got in more because more reasonable people didn’t go to the polls in 2010. We got the bitter, anger, selfish folks we deserve, and we’ve seen the results – the Congress with the lowest approval ratings ever in 2013.

I always remember the advice I gave my sister when she was elected to a school board years ago. She would be the only liberal on what sounded like a very conservative board: “remember, that to get anything accomplished, you first need to find someone to second your motion; and then you need to find two more members who will also vote with you”. It’s simple common sense. And she ended up serving two successful terms. Governing by influence of money and raw power is how things work now. We are the ones who have to change that.

from Bob: Actually, it’s worse than “bitter and angry,” it’s downright stupid! It’s really too bad that some that close to the military is so ignorant. Apparently, when he listed his studies, it noticeably did not include civics, and his history teacher failed miserably. He hasn’t a clue what socialism is.

Then he says the very people who aren’t interested in voting actually elected Obama. And those are the same people traitors like him are trying to suppress in the voting process. He also has to understand the Constitution before he starts spouting off about patriotism.

Then he laments “No jobs, lost mortgages, higher taxes, and less freedom,” most of which have been caused by the Bush/Cheney crowd who I assume he adores.

To put it mildly, this writer is a moron. I’m a “geezer,” but I’m sure not a friend of his.

from Howie: I am not sure why either you or Dick are forwarding this message to anyone. In doing so, you run the risk of putting it into the hands of other crackpots who are teetering on thinking in the same way. I get from one to several of this kind of rant every week. Some I critique and return to the person who sent it to me as a way of cauterizing the infection. Others go right into my “trash” file. I suggest you do one of the same. There is no need to tell others that there are crazies out there. We know. Ten minutes of Fox News accomplishes that goal.

from Carol: Dick- Sometimes I think it’s amusing/amazing to google a line from things like that “old geezer” rant you sent out. This one is all over the place – inc. versions with some interesting edits (below). But check out the end for part of a long online rebuttal… :)

from Carol, Jan 4, 2014, responding to Letter to Editor above: Interesting that your (really nice) neighbor blames the “degenerate liberal culture” and Democrats for the law since the state senate voted for it unanimously. And he’s pretty paranoid about it being targeted only against the Catholic Church – not the Boy Scouts, etc.

That “local attorney” has been filing these types of cases for like 30 years (the law firm where I worked was involved in the huge “Father Porter” case). If becoming rich were his goal, he probably arrived there long ago.

I see it’s everybody’s fault but the Catholic Church.

“There are those who want to destroy and change this land we love but, like our founders, there is no way we are going to remain silent and allow them to do it without a big time bloody fight.
This land does not belong to the Marxist puppet in the White House nor to the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.
We didn’t fight for the Socialist Communist States of America, we fought for the “Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.”

on-line response from someone from “Youth Fix-it Brigade”
“So, Gray-Haired Geezer, please don’t stampede to the polls with your walker and your equally delusional friends. As noble as you think your sentiments are, we know they aren’t true. You’ll keep on voting to extend Social Security, to keep Medicaid around so I can subsidize the continuation of your artificially preserved life and you’ll keep sending back the same losers you’ve been sending to congress for the past 50 years. And, you’ll either cause an accident on your way to the polls or drive so slow getting there that you’ll prevent five members of my generation from getting to the ballot box on time to cast their more informed votes.”

* * * * * *

The “forward”, received January 2, 2014 from Robert, via Steve, via who knows how many others:
“The typical U.S. household headed by a person age 65 or older has a net worth 47 times greater than a household headed by someone under 35, according to an analysis of census data released Monday. If all of us “old farts” have all of the money, then let us try to elect someone who might be near honest and not be after feathering their own nests.

They like to refer to us as senior citizens, old fogies, geezers, and in some cases dinosaurs. Some of us are “Baby Boomers” getting ready to retire. Others have been retired for some time. We walk a little slower these days and our eyes and hearing are not what they once were. We have worked hard, raised our children, worshiped our God and grown old together. Yes, we are the ones some refer to as being over the hill, and that is probably true. But before writing us off completely, there are a few things that need to be taken into consideration.

In school we studied English, history, math, and science which enabled us to lead America into the technological age. Most of us remember what outhouses were, many of us with firsthand experience.

We remember the days of telephone party-lines, 25 cent gasoline, and milk and ice being delivered to our homes. For those of you who don’t know what an icebox is, today they are electric and referred to as refrigerators. A few even remember when cars were started with a crank. Yes, we lived those days.

We are probably considered old fashioned and out-dated by many. But there are a few things you need to remember before completely writing us off. We won World War II, fought in Korea and Viet Nam. We can quote The Pledge of Allegiance, and know where to place our hand while doing so. We wore the uniform of our country with pride and lost many friends on the battlefield.

We didn’t fight for the Socialist States of America; we fought for the “Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.” We wore different uniforms but carried the same flag. We know the words to the Star Spangled Banner, America , and America the Beautiful by heart, and you may even see some tears running down our cheeks as we sing. We have lived what many of you have only read in history books and we feel no obligation to apologize to anyone for America.

Yes, we are old and slow these days but rest assured, we have at least one good fight left in us. We have loved this country, fought for it, and died for it, and now we are going to save it. It is our country and nobody is going to take it away from us. We took oaths to defend America against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and that is an oath we plan to keep. There are those who want to destroy this land we love but, like our founders, there is no way we are going to remain silent.

It was mostly the young people of this nation who elected Obama and the Democratic Congress. You fell for the “Hope and Change” which in reality was nothing but “Hype and Lies.”

You have tasted socialism and seen evil face to face, and have found you don’t like it after all. You make a lot of noise, but most are all too interested in their careers or “Climbing the Social Ladder” to be involved in such mundane things as patriotism and voting. Many of those who fell for the “Great Lie” in 2008 are now having buyer’s remorse. With all the education we gave you, you didn’t have sense enough to see through the lies and instead drank the ‘Kool-Aid.’ Now you’re paying the price and complaining about it. No jobs, lost mortgages, higher taxes, and less freedom.

This is what you voted for and this is what you got. We entrusted you with the Torch of Liberty and you traded it for a paycheck and a fancy house.

Well, don’t worry youngsters, the Grey-Haired Brigade is here, and in 2014 we are going to take back our nation. We may drive a little slower than you would like but we get where we’re going, and in 2014 we’re going to the polls by the millions.

This land does not belong to the man in the White House nor to the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. It belongs to “We the People” and “We the People” plan to reclaim our land and our freedom. We hope this time you will do a better job of preserving it and passing it along to our grandchildren. So the next time you have the chance to say the Pledge of Allegiance, Stand up, put your hand over your heart, honor our country, and thank God for the old geezers of the “Grey-Haired Brigade.”

This is spot on. I am another Gray-Haired Geezer signing on. I will circulate this to other Gray-Haired Geezers all over this once great county.

Can you feel the ground shaking???

It’s not an earthquake, it is a STAMPEDE.

Dec 17 letter from someone I’ll call Jim, who I’ve known near 70 years, who is fond of sending “forwards”, mostly false, but this time, spoke personally to me:
“Mr. Bernard . You call yourself a catholic and you support the democrats and Obama. They support abortions even late term abortions. They also support gay marriage. Gay men have anal sex.(Sodomy) and call it love. Sodomy is one of the capitol sins that calls to heaven for vengance . And Obama says after his speech God bless America. I don’t think God listens to him. Israel is under the protection of God. How else could they have won all those wars with the Arabs when they were greatly outnumbered and out gunned. God has said if you support my people I will bless you and if you are against my people I will curse you. Israel can not be taken. Its under the protection of God. Things in our country are getting worse and worse since we took God out of our schools and public places. If kids don’t know the laws of God they will not keep the laws of men. Obama care is a joke and will not work. Hopefully the democrats will loose control of the senate in the elections coming up. Your are not getting any younger you better change your way of thinking before its too late. The last pope said to the Europeans you need to straighten out your moral house or your financial house will never get better. I think this applys to our country also. I suppose you say happy holiday instead of merry christmas.”

I responded, respectfully.

Haven’t heard from him since, but chances are in the near future will come a new batch of “forwards”, churned out wherever such things are churned out, most likely false or so put together as to be false.

#818 – Dick Bernard: A Christmas Tree Decoration. Some thoughts about Christmas time.

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

Directly related posts to Christmas 2013 are linked here.

Each year my spouse, Cathy, enjoys decorating our Christmas tree, and every year one of the first decorations up is one of the most plain, made by myself, some years before she and I even met.

Here’s both sides of the decoration:

(click to enlarge)

1977 Christmas Card

1977 Christmas Card


I remember all of the details surrounding this small card. It came to be during a difficult period in my life.

Back then, I had a printer do about 50 of these cards, and I used the U.S. mail to send them to a select group of family and friends.

The homemade card became a tradition for me, continuing in one way or another for, now, 36 years.

But it is a difficult tradition to continue.

At the beginning, the process was very simple and straightforward: you did something, and either hand-delivered or U.S. mailed it using addresses in your address book.

By the 1990s e-mail became common; and then came the present day explosion of means of communicating with the frustrating outcome that most of us have experienced in one form or another:

Fewer and fewer use U.S. mail and traditional cards exclusively. Each year there are fewer of these arriving in our mail box.

There’s e-mail, and assorted internet options, such as this delivery means, or others like Facebook, Twitter, and on and on and on.

Most people come to have their own personal preference for receiving/sending messages…and (probably) dislike other means.

I’m one who still likes letters, but most of my letters, this year, will happen after Christmas responding to others who sent cards, notes and Christmas letters.

Then there’s the Facebook crowd – I have lots of “friends” there, but I have never gotten comfortable with how best to use the medium, and as a consequence rarely even visit my Facebook page.

It’s my loss, I know, but I have only so much time.

Then there’s Twitter, Linkup, and all the rest. Great tools (I hear) if used.

Years ago I seem to have coined a phrase that remains true today: “there are more ways to communicate less”. This is enshrined on the internet going back to Nov. 2008, but it actually has its origin for me several years before that.

Christmas Day is now about over in my part of the world, so once more to everyone who might possibly be in reading distance, I hope you had a Merry Christmas, and that you have a great New Year.


When I did my card in 1977, there was no thought of including or excluding the Christian idea of Christs birth as the origin of Christmas. I was and remain an active Catholic; I noted just now that Kahlil Gibran was a Maronite Christian from Lebanon.

The Christmas tree apparently has Christian origins. Initially, the personal tradition was to cut a genuine tree, and suffer through the latter days of needles on the carpet, etc.

For the last many years, the tradition here has been an artificial tree, fancily decorated by Cathy, who will continue looking for new and unusual ornaments. She does good work:

2013 Christmas Tree at the Bernard home.

2013 Christmas Tree at the Bernard home.

We accompany the tree with a traditional nativity scene, carved olive wood, which I purchased in Israel, from a Palestinian merchant, in 1996. It is accompanied by Mary and Joseph carved by a Haitian ca 2003.



Some years ago my Uncle allowed me to borrow a collection of several hundred post cards sent to the North Dakota farm in the very early 1900s. This was a very Catholic family. I looked through the cards, and discovered the topic of Christmas, and other, greetings back in that period in time. You can read the entire article here. Of the 111 “Christmas cards” in the collection, less than 10% had a religious theme to them. This contrasted with Easter cards, which were about 40% religious.

We are and we have always been a diverse country in terms of religious beliefs.

“War” is a relatively recent construct, at least as it is played out in the media.

May there be Peace on Earth, and Good Will towards ALL.

#817 – Dick Bernard: The Eve of Peace as a real Possibility.

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

Yesterday as I leafed through the Minneapolis Star Tribune I noted the obituary of John Eisenhower, the son of Dwight D. Eisenhower, Commander in Chief of the Allied Forces at the end of WWII, and later two term President of the United States. John S.D. Eisenhower001

What especially drew my attention was this comment, made about young Eisenhower’s aspirations on graduation from West Point in 1944: “John Eisenhower hoped to see combat as an infantry platoon commander, but his father’s fellow commanders, Gen. Omar Bradley and Lt. Gen. George Patton, feared the impact on his father if he were killed in action or captured. He was assigned to intelligence and administration duties in England and Germany.”

That there was concern about Eisenhower’s emotional reaction if something happened to his son is not surprising. What did surprise me was the expression of very human feeling by two high level commanders about their even higher level commander was specifically mentioned in the obituary itself. Perhaps that is why the on-line obituary differs from the print edition linked above. We like our war heroes to have a ‘take no prisoners’ attitude.

But War kills, in more ways than just physical death.

All who have ended up in battle somewhere, or lost a friend or relative to war, know this.

Just last Friday, I had displayed models of the USS Arizona and the Destroyer Woodworth DD 460 at the local Caribou Coffee, and a lady came up and recalled her Dad’s visit to Dachau after the liberation of that horrible death camp at the end of WWII.

She said he never wanted to talk about what he’d seen.

I asked for her address, and later that same day sent to her a recollection of a visit to that same camp, at the same time, by another GI who, his niece told me some years ago, was tormented by the experience for the rest of his life. His writing and photographs are here: Omer Lemire at Dachau001

Within Omer’s text is this quote: “…we received word (posted on the bulletin board) from Generals Patton and Eisenhower, encouraging us to visit newly liberated Dachau Camp in order to witness for our children and grandchildren the horrible destruction between human beings…”man’s inhumanity to man”. I believed that we would be witnessing a historical event but had no idea what I was about to experience. This singular event changed me for the rest of my life….”

Tomorrow is Christmas, and celebration of the birth of the Prince of Peace.

This season, for the first time in a long time, I see significant openings for the pursuit of peace, in small and not so small ways. I referred to this in my December 7 post, here.

The route to Peace is rough and ragged, but it is certainly a better option than staying on the rutted path of War, the practice to which we have too long been accustomed.

In all the ways you can, make this season truly a season of Peace.

Merry Christmas.

Today, relook, or look for the first time, at the recounting of the Christmas Day Truce during World War I. There are many writings about this. Pick one or more from this menu of choices.

#815 – Dick Bernard: What we did on our vacation: A not-so-ordinary Road Trip from North Dakota to California, 1941

Sunday, December 22nd, 2013

“We did some visiting in North Dakota before we left for California…June 22, 1941 at Long Beach. The first time we had our family together for seven years, and also the last….”

Merry Christmas! This blog quite naturally follows two previous blogs about 1940: here and here. UPDATE Dec. 24 post, also related.

Today would have been my Dad’s 106th birthday (born Dec. 22, 1907). Today, his daughter, my sister Mary Ann, arrives on the Big Island of Hawaii from Vanuatu for a visit with her kids and grandkids and our niece Georgine and partner Robert. Her last 15 months in the Peace Corps is chronicled here, the most recent post, Dec. 18, at the end.

It seems a perfect day to recall a June, 1941, trip I took with my family from rural North Dakota to Long Beach California. The narrator is my Dad, Henry, RIP Nov 7, 1997.

I was one year old at the time. The travelers were Grandma and Grandpa Bernard, Mom and Dad, and I.

We traveled by car.

Here’s some background and the “cast of characters”: my parents were age 33 and 31 at the time of the trip; my oldest grandparent, Grandpa Bernard, was 69 (I’m 73, as I write); the youngest, Grandma Busch, was 57. Grandpa Bernard had a love for machines. Fixing a car enroute would have been no problem for him. Mom’s siblings, my Uncle Vince and Aunt Edith, were 16 and 21…. Dad’s sister, Josie, would have been 37; his brother, Frank, 25.

By 1941, Bernard’s were no stranger to travel: Grandpa migrated to North Dakota from Quebec in the 1890s, and in 1898, sailed to the Philippines via Hawaii to be a soldier in the Spanish-American War. Grandma and Grandpa had first gone to Los Angeles in November 1935 for daughter Josie’s wedding. They likely traveled by train, visiting people they knew in Oregon along the way. Beginning in 1937 they became a regular part of the North Dakota winter community in the Los Angeles area, living in Long Beach.

Josie’s husband, Alan Whittaker, had died after surgery only three years or so into their marriage, about 1938. In 1939 she took a major cross-country automobile trip with friends, documenting the route on a 1939 American Automobile Association road map (see below).

For the geographic inclined, here’s a map for reference. The Red and Blue lines are explained here: Josie Bernard trip 1939001

(click to enlarge any photos)

U.S. map showing the 1939 trip route, and the beginning and end points of the 1941 trip.

U.S. map showing the 1939 trip route, and the beginning and end points of the 1941 trip.

In 1940-41 Dad was a school teacher in rural Rutland ND. His parents home was Grafton, but since 1937 they had spent a lot of time in Long Beach/LA area where there was already a relatively large North Dakota population.

Mom’s parents lived on a farm near Berlin ND.

Invited by Dad’s parents to go west with them, the decision was made to go to California to visit their daughter and sister, Josie Whittaker, who had lived in Los Angeles since the early 1930s, and was widowed. An apparently unanticipated bonus was to also be able to see their son and brother Frank Bernard, whose ship, the USS Arizona, berthed in nearby San Pedro June 17 – July 1, 1941.

A first stop on the 1941 trip was at the farm of Mom’s parents, Rosa and Ferd Busch:

Henry Bernard, Rosa Busch, Richard Bernard, Josephine Bernard, Ferd Busch, at the farm June, 1941

Henry Bernard, Rosa Busch, Richard Bernard, Josephine Bernard, Ferd Busch, at the farm June, 1941

Many of Busch family, and neighbors, pose with the Bernards June, 1941.  Note particularly Edith, 3rd from left; Mary, 4th from left, and Vincent 2nd from right.  Dad, Mom and Richard (me) are roughly at center.

Many of Busch family, and neighbors, pose with the Bernards June, 1941. Note particularly Edith, 3rd from left; Mary, 4th from left, and Vincent 2nd from right. Dad, Mom and Richard (me) are roughly at center.

Dad, Henry Bernard, recalled the trip in a written memoir in February, 1981. Here is his recollection:

“The grandparents Bernard had not yet seen Richard so in the spring of 1941 they came from California to see us [at Rutland Consolidated school in SE North Dakota].

They spent a week or so with us and then said that they would buy us another car if we would drive them back to California and spend some time there. We were happy to get this gift so we managed to get to Fargo with our old ’29 Chevy and went to Ford and Dad bought us a ’36 V8 Ford*. It was used but in good condition. It even had a radio in it. [Note the so-called "suicide" back doors. This was our family car for the next 10 years.]

Grandma and Grandpa with Richard and car for the California trip May, 1941

Grandma and Grandpa with Richard and car for the California trip May, 1941

We did some visiting in North Dakota before we left for California…then on through the Black Hills of South Dakota and then on through Wyoming where we saw our first oil wells, and continued on to Salt Lake City and I remember stopping at a motel at St. George UT. Early in the morning I could hear water running and I got up and behind the motel there was an irrigation ditch running full of water. That was the first irrigation I had ever seen.

We continued on and reached Las Vegas after dark. We saw all the neon lights of the gambling dens but we were interested only in rest. Had a good supper and then to bed. We had heard that the desert crossing was an adventure and were warned to get started early so we did and made the crossing with any great incident. I remember stopping at a filling station about the middle of the desert and among other things asked for a drink of water This was reluctantly given as water had to be hauled in from miles away.

We reached Long Beach in due time and stayed with the folks in their small apartment. I recall that it had three rooms and a bath and also a front porch. It was set in the alley and there were several attached apartments somewhat like the modern condominiums. It was about two blocks from the beach and we could put on our bathing suits and walk to the beach with ease.

Richard on the beach, Long Beach CA June 1941

Richard on the beach, Long Beach CA June 1941

[My sister] Josie was living in Los Angeles and we saw her frequently. We were surprised one day to hear that “the fleets in” [San Pedro] and shortly after my brother Frank [crewman on USS Arizona] came over. He had leave and several times he was in port we had a chance to visit with him and go on trips here and there. Little did we realize that Pearl Harbor was only six months away. [Grandma wrote on the back of the iconic photo of the trip, below: "Taken June 22, 1941 at Long Beach. The first time we had our family together for seven years, and also the last. This is where we lived."]

from left, Henry and Josephine Bernard, Josie Bernard Whittaker, Frank, Richard, Henry and Esther Bernard

from left, Henry and Josephine Bernard, Josie Bernard Whittaker, Frank, Richard, Henry and Esther Bernard

I remember one time we were riding around the suburbs of Los Angeles that we came by an area of Japanese homes. Each one had huge radio aerials and Frank said that was sure they were in communications with the home land. he already felt that we were going to be in the war soon. Security was heavy with the fleet and we did not get a chance to visit the Arizona, the ship on which Frank was stationed. We would be just curious but not spies like the Japanese.

We left Long Beach on July 5 for the long trip back home. Up the California coast to Oregon and Portland where we visited the Krafts and also the Battleship Oregon [then in repair at Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton WA] and on through Montana and then stopped at Amidon [ND] to visit people we had met there while teaching [1937-39] and then back to the Busch’s before getting on back to Rutland Consolidated where I would be teaching a second year.

I had a chance to do some shocking of grain and threshing before school started. This little bit of extra income was certainly welcome.”

Little more than three months later, Frank Bernard lay dead in the hulk of the USS Arizona.

War was on for the U.S.

Lives had changed dramatically, instantly.


How long a trip was it? Assuming Jamestown ND to Long Beach CA, Long Beach to Seattle WA, and Seattle back to Jamestown, and just doing Mapquest as a guide, that single trip was 4268 miles, under far different driving and vehicle conditions than we’re accustomed to today. It is unknown the exact number of days enroute, or in Long Beach, but the assumption is we were gone at least a month, at least ten of these days basically in the automobile, no air conditioning, seat belts, gps, automatic transmission, cruise control, four-lane highways…. It would not have been a simple trip.

Dad was 73, my present age, when he wrote his memoirs in 1981. If you’re thinking you should do something similar, it’s not too late!

Esther’s brother, George (not in the family picture), finished college at Mayville and became a Naval Officer on the Destroyer Woodworth in the Pacific 1943-45, docking at Tokyo Sep 10, 1945. Melvin Berning (the 13 year old to my left in the family picture above, double cousin to my mother, next farm over) saw his brother August off to the Army. August Berning became a Captain in the Pacific theatre.

Unknown to everyone in the pictures, the summer of 1941 was to be the last of peacetime for over four years….

Twenty-five years later, in the summer of 1966, my parents essentially duplicated the 1941 trip with their two-year grandson, my son, Tom. His mother had passed away a year earlier, and I was in summer school at Illinois State U (Normal), and my parents were the sitters-in-residence for Tom. They, along with my brother John and sister Flo, drove to LA (by a different route, if I recall right), thence up the coast and back to ND across Montana as before. Florence was about to begin two years in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic, as her older sister, Mary Ann, is now past half way in her own later-life tour in the same Peace Corps.

George Busch and Jean Tannahill wedding Thompson ND May 20, 1944.  Vincent Busch, George's brother, was best man, 19 years old at the time.

George Busch and Jean Tannahill wedding Thompson ND May 20, 1944. Vincent Busch, George’s brother, was best man, 19 years old at the time.

Josie (Bernard) Whittaker and group at Hilo HI May 2, 1969

Josie (Bernard) Whittaker and group at Hilo HI May 2, 1969

Models of the USS Arizona and USS Woodworth, Frank Bernard and George Busch's ships in WWII.  The Arizona was 608 feet long; the Woodworth, 381 feet. The models were made out of wood blocks by good friend and colleague Bob Tonra in 1996.

Models of the USS Arizona and USS Woodworth, Frank Bernard and George Busch’s ships in WWII. The Arizona was 608 feet long; the Woodworth, 381 feet. The models were made out of wood blocks by good friend and colleague Bob Tonra in 1996.

#811 – Dick Bernard: “Smooch! Siblings”

Monday, December 9th, 2013

If you’re part of a family, most likely you have siblings. If you were an only child, as many are, “sibling” had another context: nonetheless, likely there was someone in close proximity who played a similar role to sibling for you.

My last surviving Uncle and Aunt, 88 and 94 respectively, never married and have lived their entire lives together. There may be longer lived “siblings”, but my guess is that there are few who have lived their entire life in close proximity most every day. These days they are just a couple of rooms down the hall from each other in a Nursing Home. Being siblings they had their differences. But when my Aunt became the first to move down the hall to the Nursing Home next door to their assisted living, I noticed that my Uncle missed his sister and looked forward to visits with her. That is just how it is. Siblings. Brother and Sister. Now there’s no trip needed to visit each other, and I think they like that.

Into this mix comes a wonderful project, the Smooch! Project, and the Projects first book, “Smooch! Siblings“, brand new, was first released last Saturday in Minneapolis; photographs by Bonnie Fournier, text by Julie Meier.

I came home with seven books, and I’ll get more: my spouse has siblings too, and children who are siblings, and she was very impressed with everything about the books.

You will be too. Perfect for coffee table, for conversation, for sharing memories!

Even my sister, Flo, who has true tales to tell about her four years older brother, me, that aren’t at all complimentary, will, I predict, like the book (she and I are long past the time when I really “got her goat” as a truly obnoxious seven year old (she was three). We were in our tiny dining room, and…well, she’d certainly be willing to finish that story.

These days, for many years actually, we’ve gotten along famously. As siblings universally can attest, there are ebbs and flows…and the older you get, the more likely the flows!

The founder of the Smooch! Project, Bonnie Fournier, is a graphic designer who I first met when she and I worked together in the same building, the Minnesota Education Association, from about 1991-94. One summer she took a leave to do a residency at Yellowstone Park and, until I gave it back to her a year or two ago, a valued possession of mine was a postcard original drawing she had sent from Wyoming.

We were out of touch for many years, then in the early 2000s I saw some of her photo art at a Minneapolis coffee shop and we reconnected. In 2004 a whimsical “selfie” of Bonnie being “smooched” by her twin sister Barbara, launched what has now become Bonnie’s life work. (That first photo is in the book as are many others from among the 4,500 people she has photographed in the past nine years.)

The “Smooch! Siblings book is now on sale at 11 Twin Cities locations, as follows: (Out of area? Or can’t get to these stores? You can order at the Smooch! Siblings internet link)
Bibelot (4 locations) – DEC. 14 BOOK SIGNING! 11am-1pm, St. Paul store (1082 Grand Ave., St. Paul, MN 55105)
Bloomington Drug - DEC. 15 BOOK SIGNING! 1-2pm, 509 West 98th St, Bloomington, MN 55420
Common Good Books – 38 S. Snelling (Snelling & Grand), St. Paul, MN 55405
The Goddess of Glass Shoppe (2 locations)
Live, Laugh, Love – DEC. 14 BOOK SIGNING! 3-5pm, 5019 France Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55410
Paper Hat – 2309 W. 50th Street, Minneapolis, MN 55410
West Side Perk – 7700 Old Shakopee Road, Minneapolis, MN 55438

I took camera along to the opening, but forgot to take a photo….

Bonnie had given each of us an opportunity to pose for some funny shots. Here I make a hideous (she says “hilarious”) Grandpa Face.

Dick, by Bonnie, Dec. 7, 2013

Dick, by Bonnie, Dec. 7, 2013

Don’t worry. You won’t have to pose if you go to the signing! On the other hand, it’s a fun experience.

#807 – Dick Bernard: A Happy Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

Those who will take a moment to read this have a range of knowledge about who I am and what I’ve recently been about: from no knowledge at all onwards….

Two pieces of film sum up 2013 Thanksgiving for me.

Last year, about this time, a friend sent me a 10 minute clip of film entitled Gratitude, by the noted filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg. You can watch it here, wherever your life is, today.

Yesterday, another friend sent another clip of film, from CNN, about Pope Francis and the Disfigured Man. You can watch this clip as well, here, wherever your life is, today.

For me, this day, I recognize Uncle Vince whose life, is in transition, and his sister, Aunt Edith, who began the transition a year ago. All of us who know them can be thankful that we know them; as others can be thankful that they know each of us.

(click to enlarge photos)

April 10, 2013, at Rosewood

April 10, 2013, at Rosewood

Near sunrise outside the farmhouse, 8:30 a.m. Nov. 24, 2013

Near sunrise outside the farmhouse, 8:30 a.m. Nov. 24, 2013

Have a great day.


Five of us worked together to clean Uncle Vince’s apartment a few days ago. He finally had to move down the hall to the nursing home in their North Dakota town, to the same wing as his sister, our Aunt Edith.

Before I left town, I made one last inspection to see if we’d missed anything, and indeed we had: a dreamcatcher and a stained glass cross that had hung for several years in the same place on their living room window. You can see them in the above photo.

I took them down. Here they are, to symbolize for you whatever you wish them to symbolize….

Nov. 24, 2013

Nov. 24, 2013

#801 – Dick Bernard: Obamascares. The Insanity of it all.

Friday, November 15th, 2013

Last night, while watching the Daily Blathers (some call it “evening news”; a good friend, yesterday, referred to it more precisely and accurately: “CBSNBCABCFOXCNN”), I set to the task of sorting through the paper flotsam and jetsam from my Uncle’s apartment in rural ND.

Like tens of thousands of others, yesterday, and over time, I was trying to sift and sort through mail, receipts, records, etc., that some friend or relative was no longer able to deal with, due to death, disability, or otherwise.

As I sorted, the blather on the evening news programs was about President Obama’s contrition about the (insert your own words) continuing rollout computer problems of (insert your own descriptor), otherwise officially known as the Affordable Care Act.

Just three days earlier my Uncle had made an undesired but necessary move from assisted living, his home in town for the last six years, to the nursing home down the hall. His stuff stayed behind for someone else to deal with: an oft-repeated story everywhere in this country, every day.

In one box was the specific reminder of why he and his sister moved to town in the first place:

Heart Surgery001

It was a folder given to him after successful open heart surgery in April, 2006. The surgery was the only reason he’s still alive, but (in his opinion) that surgery is held as the reason he never fully recovered and could not return to his lifelong occupation of farming. Whether this is so or not can be argued forever. Nonetheless, he held off the grim reaper for what is now an additional seven years. While he couldn’t farm, his general quality of life was pretty good. And at near-89, why should he still want to farm?

Of course, the surgery, and virtually all of the other medical costs for other dilemmas since then, have come under the protective umbrella of Medicare and supplemental benefits of North Dakota Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

What gave him the wherewithal to financially survive, indeed thrive, as an independent farmer was the Medicare program signed into law in the summer of 1965 by President Lyndon Johnson. That earlier version of “Obamacare” was scorned then, too, as socialized medicine, and it was spared withering coverage by the “blathers” of the time by, likely, two main factors: 1) fewer and less technologically advanced news media outlets; and 2) media reporters who were more conscious of reporting news, as opposed to dispensing propaganda.

Now we are engaged in the great unCivil War of simply trying to implement a new imperfect insurance program (and even more imperfect computer program) that will cover more people more efficiently and effectively than the hodgepodge of legitimate and scam “insurance” that now faces America, and excludes from coverage tens millions of Americans, but not my only surviving Uncle and Aunt, who benefit from an assortment of programs which thankfully exist in their time of need.

We’ll get through this hysteria, I hope. For me, a survival strategy will be to quit watching the endless analysis, the faux news, about ACA, at least as portrayed on CBSNBCABCFOXCNN. It is all a bunch of dangerous nonsense.

In the same ‘sifting and sorting’ session last night, we watched an excellent special of CNN on the approaching 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Familiar faces appeared there: Walter Cronkite, Lyndon Johnson, on and on…. Just a short while ago CBS celebrated the 50th anniversary of the 30 minute evening news program inaugurated on CBS by Walter Cronkite in the year 1963. Oh, how things have changed.

COMMENTS: one in the comment box below, and the following as well
from Corky: Just finished my 5 year repeat “internal flushing” of the colon yesterday and apparently good news. Now as to the news pundits who state that all these citizens really like their insurance . Or like the movie , the way we were or something like it.Is America brain dead? When you look at medicare billing and the significant reduced cost by medicare administration and the really miniscule and late payments by the insurance carriers . A $200 Dr. office billing and medicare reduces to $70 and medicare supplement F pays less than $20 (3 months after office visit), shows me the system is very busted and hooray for any proposed changes to health care. Michael Steele GOP guru even said this morning that constructive changes need to be proposed by GOP legislators! Did I hear that comment correctly or am I hearing impaired?

from Tref D: Just a lot of hot air on all sides. Eventually I hope it will work out for many folks.

#800 – Dick Bernard: Visiting home.

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

(click to enlarge)

7:30 a.m. November 12, 2013, between Berlin and Grand Rapids ND

7:30 a.m. November 12, 2013, between Berlin and Grand Rapids ND

Early this morning I made a solitary drive out to the farm where my mother was born in 1909.

I’d been up and down this driveway hundreds of times over the years, but this trip was different.

The sky in the east was pink and I knew sunrise was close, but as I drove the lane to the farmstead, when I reached the top of that small hill, I was greeted by an intense rising sun. I immediately stopped the car, got out, and took the single photo you see above.

It was 7:30 a.m., and the thermometer showed 11 degrees.

Just a few hours before, and ten miles away, I’d been dealing with the stress of admitting Mom’s brother to the local nursing home. It was the reason for this trip.

He’s near 89, and finally reached the point where he could no longer independently cope, even, with assisted living. So down the hall he and I and an attendant went, to a new room a couple of doors down from where his 93 year old sister has lived for the past year.

It was not easy. I’ve participated in this ritual before, with others, as have many people I know. For the elderly, nursing home beds are not preferred destinations. It was Veterans Day (Armistice Day) when Uncle was admitted. While his room is pleasant, and private, it may as well have been the Hanoi Hilton. He knows what it means. But he needs to be there.

He and his sister lived for 81 and 87 years perhaps 50 feet to the left of where I took my photo of the sunrise.

In 1904 his Dad, my Grandpa, purchased the quarter section of never-plowed ground, and stood where I was; a few months later, Grandpa and his new bride, Grandma, took the train the 600 or so miles from rural Wisconsin to the bustling new farm country to build a life.

The building you see to the left in the photo was a grain bin, the first building constructed on the property. The next was the farm house, built just to my left, and the first ground tilled was to my right. It had to be an exhausting but fulfilling year, even though they were young, 25 and 21, respectively.

At right in the photo is the long vacant barn. The roof blew off that barn in 1949, and Uncle, Grandpa and my Dad did lots of the building of the trusses for the roof. The local pastor, an expert carpenter, looked at their work and said, “it’ll never last”. That was 63 years ago. Uncle was 24 and Dad was 41 and Grandpa 69. I think in that kind of context quite often these days.

When Grandma and Grandpa died, my Uncle took over operation of the farm. He was always a small farmer, but a good one. He was the kind of person who built the midwest and fed the country. This lasted until 2006 when health issues made farming impossible for him, and they moved to town, ten miles away. Even then, driving out to this driveway, tending flowers, and the garden and such, were frequent occurrences.

We talk now in the past tense.

Sunday, two days earlier, he and I had driven the countryside and were on the road that goes past the Berning place, and just a quarter miles or so west, Uncle noticed something hanging from a telephone pole. We stopped there, and took a look.

It appeared to be a hawk who by some circumstance found itself entangled in some way, and had died there, fluttering in the wind. I took several photos, and came back the next day and took some more, including turning 180 degrees and taking one final photo of the family farm.

For all of us, “there is a season”, as that oft-quoted text from Ecclesiastes says.

We do the best we can.

For sure my Uncle and Aunt did just that, and however long they both have, they earned our respect.

November 12, 2013

November 12, 2013

November 12, 2013

November 12, 2013

Nov. 11, 2013

Nov. 11, 2013

November 11, 2013, at the Nursing Home.

November 11, 2013, at the Nursing Home.

#792 – Dick Bernard: The Gospel of the Soprano

Sunday, October 27th, 2013

Friday evening my 88 year old Uncle and I went down the hall to visit his sister and my aunt in the Memory Care unit at the Nursing Home/Assisted Living facility in a small rural North Dakota community. It was a short trip, under a single roof. My Aunt, at 93, is most likely not suffering from severe dimentia, but nonetheless the placement is appropriate. She’s been in the unit for about a year.

My Uncle and I just went to visit. My Aunt was working on a puzzle. (photo at end.)

It was supper time, and two other ladies were at the same table, one familiar to me, the other not, perhaps a recent resident.

“Emma” was attempting to engage, but not succeeding. The second lady was easily understood but not allowing for much visiting.

We may have looked or sounded annoyed: at some point you don’t know what to do. Those knowing someone with any variation of dimentia understand.

The man assigned to evening duty came around. I’d talked with him during an earlier visit. He’s a retired teacher in the town, and as I recall, he willingly took his job more as a service than as a job. He had a relative – perhaps his Mom? – who was or had been a patient in this very facility. Maybe, it has since occurred to me, she was Emma….

For whatever reason, he entered the conversation: “Emma stood in front of me for 20 years in our Church choir”, he said. “She had a wonderful Soprano voice.” He mentioned one particular piece which required a phrase one octave higher than the usual, and it was Emma who would sing it, beautifully.

As I recall, Emma had nodded off.

Off he went to other duties, and our visit continued, helping my Aunt finish a puzzle (she’s good with puzzles) and then we left.

And all the next day, driving 300 miles back home, I kept thinking of that brief but powerful encounter in the Memory Care section of the Nursing Home.

This morning Cathy and I went to 9:30 Mass at Minneapolis’ Basilica of St. Mary as usual.

Fr. Greg Welch was celebrant and homilist, and today’s Gospel was Luke 18:9-14, the well known passage about the righteous Rich Man and the repentant Tax Collector (I knew is as the Pharissee and the Publican story).

Fr. Welch, in his own comments, chose to focus on the Pharisee, and drew us into the Pharisee’s circle, as it were, with a simple parable of his own.

He opened with a simple comment: when he was young, he grew up in a family that assumed the kids would go to college. There was no need to discuss this reality. For many other families, college is not even a dream, he said. It is not part of their reality for financial or other reasons.

Those of us in those pews are mostly pretty privileged, and Fr. Greg wondered aloud about the wisdom of a country criticizing “Obamacare” while 32 million people are without health care, and no alternative being offered; about cutting food stamps while considering military expenses to be essential; about people, including the homeless holding those cardboard signs on street corners, needing a job not being able to find one in which they can earn a living.

The open question, not directly addressed, was to each one of us: “where do YOU fit into this picture?”

It was an applause worthy homily; we in the pews were very, very quiet.

I’ll let the Memory Care attendant know about this blog post, and perhaps he will tell me what motivated him, on Friday night, to tell us about Emma, the lady whose grasp of what we take for granted is very limited.

At any rate, he sang a magnificent Soprano for us on Friday afternoon. It is a message that will stick with me.

(click to enlarge)

My Aunt and Uncle with the completed Puzzle, October 25, 2013

My Aunt and Uncle with the completed Puzzle, October 25, 2013

UPDATE Nov. 3, 2013:
Today’s Gospel was the story of “Zacchaeus, who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man” (Luke 19:1-10). Our Pastor, Father Bauer, gave an excellent homily interpreting the Bible story.

As with the previous Sundays text and interpretation, this Gospel fit into todays news, which included, this past week, the mandatory cut in “snap” funds at the federal level – I think they’re called food stamps.

There is a lot to talk about….

Also, this past week, came a review of what is likely a very forgettable book, by Bill O’Reilly, which essentially attaches the crucifixion of Jesus to taxes, and another “Christian” who labored mightily to prove that “government” is not “people”, when that is all that government ever is or has been….

It takes all manners of tortured interpretation. But the reality is, there are those of us who have, and we have an obligation those who have less.

Some day we may find ourselves in the same position of needing help.