Uncle Bernie doted on my mother when she was a child, and fiercely supported her during the painful divorce from my father. Because of his kindness and compassion, Unk Bernie will always have a special place in my mother's heart. And my heart, too.
Legend has it, he was the youngest Sergeant Major in the history of the United States Marine Corp. He enlisted when he was a teenager, during World War II, and because of his work ethic, tenacity, and fiery spirit, he rapidly moved up the ranks and achieved Sergeant Major by the age of 21. He was at the infamous Battle of Guadalcanal and has long had the reputation of being tough as nails.
When I introduced him to Charlie, many years ago, at his daughter Jackie's wedding in 1992, I told my then boyfriend that my Uncle "was a former Marine." The words hadn't even completely left my mouth when my uncle sternly corrected me, "Young Lady, once a Marine ... ALWAYS a Marine!"
(Thank you Uncle Bernie ... I've never made that same faux pas again!)
When he first ventured in to the world of personal computers nearly two decades ago, Uncle Bernie's email address was SgtMaj21, and he'd often forward jokes, stories, or various anecdotes with a sentence or two about how much he was enjoying this "new technology!" We swapped emails for the next few years, and I'm honored that my then 83-year old Uncle left a comment on my very first blog post in 2006.
During his time in the USMC, he was stationed in San Diego for a while, and would tell me how much he loved the brilliant blue sky against the rugged desert mountains. He once told me the story of a plane that he took off from Coronado Island that crashed very soon after lift off. He and the pilot parachuted to safety, but the plane is still somewhere off the coast, in the depths of the Pacific.
Uncle Bernie is one of the greatest generation. He was a great Marine, a great brother, and a great Uncle - who was the inspiration for my brother Frank, to enlist in the Marines as well. But more than any of that, he was a great husband and a great father and I know this because his family is solid and that doesn't happen by chance.
Tonight, it is my heart felt prayer that our fiery Uncle Bernie's spirit is once again united with his beloved, Lorraine, and his daughter, Andrea. While we will mourn his loss, we will also celebrate the amazing life that he has led ... an abundantly full and predominantly healthy life that spanned 93.5 wonderful years.
Semper Fi, Uncle Bernie. I've always been so proud to be your niece and have often bragged on your behalf, too.