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Civic leader Joe Bernard leaves legacy

Joseph Bernard, the former mayor of Milwaukie, died on June 18, but his legacy lives on in many ways.

He will be remembered most for his work with Providence Milwaukie Foundation, said his son Jim Bernard, also a former mayor of Milwaukie and now a Clackamas County commissioner.

'He had great respect for doctors and wanted to make sure that Providence grew to meet the needs of the community,' Jim Bernard said.

Another part of his father's legacy is Bernard's Garage, still a viable downtown Milwaukie business, now owned by Jim Bernard.by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - This historic photo of Bernard's Garage features a sign saying, 'Model Makes No Difference, We Make Them All Run.'

'My grandfather, Joseph Bernard (Sr.), started the garage in May of 1925; in 1952 he gave half the business to my father (Joe junior), and then dad purchased the business. I bought it from my dad in 1984,' Jim Bernard said.

During the summer, he remembered, the family would go on vacations, but his father didn't like to leave the garage, so he would only join the family on weekends.

'The business was very important to him,' Jim Bernard said.

Joe Bernard also was a past national president of the Automotive Services Association and helped build that organization.

Although Joseph Bernard was only mayor of Milwaukie from 1962 to 1964, during that time he changed the way meetings were run, making them more businesslike and transparent, Jim Bernard said, adding that he also worked hard to get several city councilors to work together more amicably.

Father and son

On a more personal note, Jim Bernard remembers family outings with his father, camping, hiking, climbing mountains and going to the coast.

'One time we went crabbing in Tillamook Bay, and dad was too cheap to rent a motor boat, so he rented a row boat,' he recalled. 'When the tide changed we couldn't row back, so we had to pull the boat to shore. Then a game warden came up and gave dad a ticket, because he had mis-measured the crabs and we had too many.'

His father was a scout master when all four of his sons were in Boy Scouts, and he remembers climbing Mount St. Helens, Mount Hood and the South

Sister, Jim Bernard said.

'Dad was also an avid hiker and hiked on the Pacific Crest Trail from the Columbia Gorge to California, over a period of many years,' he said.

Jim Bernard first knew his father was really special when he was the mayor of Milwaukie.

'It was fun to realize that your dad had some power and respect,' Bernard said, adding that once he played a baseball game on the team sponsored by his dad, then after the game hopped into a car with his father for the Milwaukie Daze parade.

Although his father was a very conservative Republican, and Jim Bernard considers himself a moderate Democrat, he and his father 'agreed more than you'd imagine we would,' Bernard said.

'We talked about budgets and dad appreciated my community efforts. We had many things in common: in addition to the garage and both being mayor, I was the chair of North Clackamas Chamber of Commerce, and dad was a past president, and we were both active in Rotary.'

A wife remembers

During the last week of his life, Joseph Bernard celebrated his 84th birthday, Father's Day and the 20th anniversary of his marriage to Shirley Benson Bernard.

What was it like being married to a man, who was so civic minded and devoted to helping others?

'He was busy, but he enjoyed it. He was the kind of man who would help little old ladies cross the street,' Shirley Bernard said.

'He had a lot of influence on a lot of people's lives.'

Since her husband's death, Shirley Bernard has received a number of phone calls from people who wanted to pay tribute to him.

'He cared so much about other people. Our friend's husband passed away, and (his wife) said that Joseph was the only one who always called' to see how she was doing.

She also received a phone call from a man who had moved back East, who worked with her husband at Bernard's Garage.

'He was a just a young fellow when he worked at the garage, but he said Joe helped him at a really early age to make school decisions,' Shirley Bernard said. 'He learned how to work and about cars. He said he never knew why Joe was so hard on him, correcting his behavior when he was working at the garage, but now he truly appreciates all his corrections. And he said he uses that same technique now with his own children.'

Providence Milwaukie

Lesley Townsend, executive director of the Providence Milwaukie Foundation, first started working with Joseph Bernard in the 1970s, and continued right up until a few days before he died.

'He started out as a community board member for Dwyer Memorial Hospital, and stayed on for the next chapter, when it became Providence Milwaukie Hospital. He then became a dear friend and mentor to me,' she said.

Bernard is considered by many to be one of Dwyer's 'founding fathers,' she said, adding that everyone looked up to him, and looked to him for leadership, once it became clear that Dwyer needed to affiliate with a larger system.

'In the late 1980s, I was the administrative assistant for Providence Milwaukie Hospital and we worked together, moving Dwyer to Providence Milwaukie. It was a good affiliation; Providence met the community feel and the focus on taking care of all people,' she said. 'He believed in that hospital.'

Inspirational work

In 2005, Bernard and his wife, Shirley, spearheaded the One Baby at a Time campaign, designed to support women and babies who did not have health insurance.

As co-chairmen for the campaign, the Bernards gave $100,000 as a 'lead gift' to ensure that babies born in the Milwaukie area get a good start on life.

One Baby at a Time is still going on today, Townsend said, adding that Providence Milwaukie Hospital recently honored Joseph and Shirley with the Outstanding Inspiration Award.

As for what she will miss the most about Joseph Bernard, Townsend said she will miss his phone calls.

'He would check in with me in the morning, to make sure we were keeping focused on reaching out to people. Then at the end of the day he would call me to tell me to go home and take care of my family. He believed in balance.'

Townsend added, 'He was so loyal to his friends and family, and he was a dear man and compassionate. He cared for everybody he ever met.'

Civic leader

Joseph Bernard served in leadership positions at Providence Milwaukie Hospital Foundation, La Salle Catholic College Preparatory School Foundation, Milwaukie Rotary, Benedictine Sisters of Mount Angel, Boy Scouts of America, Automotive Service Association of America, North Clackamas Chamber of Commerce, Exceed Enterprises (formerly CCI Enterprises) and many other organizations.

A funeral mass to celebrate his life was held at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Milwaukie on June 26.

In addition to his wife, Shirley, he is survived by: sons, Joseph, Edward, James and John; daughters, Joan McFadden and Kathleen Butler; 11 grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

The family requests remembrances go to Providence Milwaukie Foundation, Benedictine Sisters of Mt. Angel or La Salle.