Thursday, May 2, 2013


I wish I could tell stories as well as my grandpa. He could weave a tale so vivid, so clear, so entertaining - just with his voice and his words. No thesaurus. No editor. Just him.

Many of his stories centered on his experiences during World War II. He was incredibly proud of his service on the U.S.S. Helm, a destroyer that fought in the Pacific. And while he saw some horrific things, his stories were always so exciting, so full of adventure. As a teenager, when I first heard many of these stories, I never thought about how these experiences must have changed his life. After all, he was only 18 when he went to war.

My grandpa was so proud of his children. When he'd tell stories about my mom, and the, well, frankly sort of bratty things she did as a child, he would get a glimmer in his eyes, a huge smile on his face. I could hear the pride in his voice when he talked about her accomplishments as an adult.

He loved his wife, my grandmother. He enjoyed teasing her, but she was obviously everything to him. He described her as an angel sent from heaven, and for him she truly was. I know he would not have lived as long a life without her. They were married for 63 years.

He wanted a great-granddaughter. He used to tell me that. He just wanted to hold her on his lap, see her grinning up at him. I used to laugh, tell him that I couldn't control the sex of any hypothetical (or later quite real), baby I might have.  But he got his wish. He held her, she smiled up at him.

He loved his grandchildren. I think my sister was his favorite, but I know he was also very proud of my brother's athletic and educational achievements.

He was musical. He played the guitar and the flute. My sister and I both followed in his footsteps and played the flute. Katie will play it next week, at his funeral, in honor of him.

During the last years of his life, my grandpa slowly, slowly slipped away. But I'll always remember him as he was before: a great story teller, a man of faith, a man who worked hard and loved his family (and the Packers), and always did what he thought was right.

Jerome G. Bernhardt
March 18, 1925 - April 26, 2013


  1. Oh, Em. I'm so sorry. Having a little tearfest over here for you. Please let me know if there's any way I can be of any help. Losing a special grandparent is so hard.

  2. I'm so sorry to hear of your loss, Em. Your post was a beautiful memorial to your grandpa. I'm glad he was able to meet Clare ... and now his legacy will live on through his kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids. May he RIP.