In this issue of The Georgetowner, we celebrate Father’s Day, remember our fathers and honor the qualities and virtues of fatherhood.
It’s an especially poignant time for us at the Georgetowner because my sister, Susan, and I lost our much loved father, Owen G. Bernhardt. Dad died on March 24 after a long, arduous and painfilled, but also life-filled, struggle with leukemia.
It has not been long enough to acquire a distance from his passing and to continue to acquire inspiration from his life and his role as my father.
When you think about the loss of a loved one and try to talk about it, it seems almost surprising to see just how rich, unique and original a tapestry he had created with his life. He was always our father, and we tended to look at him, respond to him and see him in that way.
He was also a husband to our mother, Pilar, with whom he shared a remarkably deep and enduring 43-year marriage. She passed away at 62, much too young to lose, in 2002. Together, they formed an enduring marriage and partnership and made each other complete.
He was an absolutely doting grandfather to Elisa, now 13, and Stefan, now 11, my niece and nephew, my sister’s children.
He was more than that: of Swiss, German and Russian stock, he grew up on a farm in the smalltown world of heartland Kansas with a childhood spent during the American Depression. He had some of that quiet, almost stoic, demeanor that might be typical of both his background and generation, but he was also warm, energetic, optimistic and strong and steady. His was the voice I knew that would listen to my plans, my hopes and fears, and he would hear me out, offer advice, and be totally supportive, no matter how crazy the idea or project. That included my foray into newspaper publishing by acquiring the Georgetowner newspaper. I know in my heart that the success we’ve had would not have happened without his support, without that steady voice on the phone, in person and now in spirit.
His own career was varied and — combined with his first enduring marriage to my mom — original and even colorful. He came from a large family of 11 children. At first, he dutifully took on the role of managing the family farm but ruefully discovered that perhaps he was not meant to be a farmer. Instead, he enlisted in the Air Force, a decision that landed him in Spain attached to the Air Ministry in Madrid in 1956 where he met my mother. He was an enlisted man but operated among the highest ranks. He served in Vietnam and acquired a Bronze Star. At the Pentagon, he had a successful career that made him travel to most places in the world.
My father had a keen curiosity about people, about everything he came in contact with. He was one of those hidden experts who knew a lot about some very specific things, and at least a little about most other things, a good quality for the father of two daughters to have. He played tennis with passion and loved sports, and his favorite football team remained the Kansas City Chiefs.
Mostly, I miss his expertise about life. Even when he was struggling with his illness, which at one point left him without a viable immune system, he remained a visible presence in his own life—and ours. Until the end, he had that unique skip in his gait that told everyone that everything was going to be fantastic.
On Father’s Day, I miss my dad, Owen Bernhardt, a lot. I know that everyone else who knew him more than casually does, too.
On Father’s Day, I remember my father and here at the Georgetowner, we remember and celebrate the life of all the dads, ever, and ask you to do the same.
— Sonya Bernhardt, publisher