Aunt Bernadine – Our family’s oldest feminist

As you know, my Great Aunt Bernadine died last week.  (If you don’t, see this post.)  At her funeral, I learned some things about her that I wanted to share.  I don’t think I adequately, or at this point fairly, described her.  My experience of Aunt Bernadine was based mostly on what others said to me about her and my small experience of being with her.  We never spent time alone together and I didn’t get a chance to ask her questions about her life.  Now that I know more, I think it is the right thing to do to share what I learned.

  • Aunt Bernadine was 94, not 92, when she died.
  • She had 5 sisters and 1 brother, total of kids coming to 7!
  • Bernadine, along with all of her siblings, graduated from the University of Michigan.  That would have been around 1934.
  • Bernadine was married and divorced before she met my Uncle Ned.  Divorced in the 1930’s!!  Can you believe it?
  • My uncle was a very nervous fellow while my aunt was much more laid back.  My cousin thinks that is why they made a good couple. Apparently her philosophy was, “Tomorrow is another day.”  I now see why my Nana had such a hard time with my aunt – my Nana was the biggest worrier I knew.  Must have really rattled her chains!  Hilarious.
  • I knew this but forgot to mention it: after my Uncle Ned died, Aunt Bernadine took the QE2 (the premier cruise ship of the Cunard line) to England and then flew back on the Concord.  By herself!  Because she wanted to!

My aunt most certainly would have been one of the millions of professional women working today if she had been born later.  I don’t think she was on the front lines of feminism but rather quietly telling her daughter, who is now the epitome of the career woman in all the best ways, that she could be anything she wanted to be.  I respect my Aunt Bernadine more than I ever had.

PS: In the Jewish tradition, anyone attending a funeral can drop a bit of dirt on the lowered casket, a way of signifying that we are caring for our dead.  When my cousin dropped her little bit of dirt on top, she said with a smile, “Toodle-loo, Bernadine!” If if Aunt Bernadine was listening, I am sure she got a good chuckle out of it.


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