Bernadette's Legacy

Olga S. Hardman


It is the day after the funeral and what evidence do we have that Bernadette has ever lived? In her cedar chest we find a crocheted lace baby bonnet, probably worn by some unknown ancestor, her two-piece, navy-blue wedding dress with assorted changeable white collars, and an itemized list of honeymoon expenses scribbled on the back of an envelope. Fifty years ago you could get a hotel room for $4.00 a week. She and Jerome had gone to the Chicago World’s Fair on their honeymoon in 1932.

There is an envelope full of blonde curls from her only child’s first hair cut -- her beloved Mary Anne. There is a picture of her husband of almost 50 years, when he was a handsome 16-year old football player for Victory High School. There are a few letters of request written by her daughter while she was away at summer camp.

There is a yellowed recital program that reveals she sang "Cradle Song" in concert when she was a music student at Salem College. There is a picture of the Adamston Grade School Toy Orchestra that she directed as a teacher in 1930.

Ah, but this is only the physical evidence. If I look closely, I can see her real legacy.

She was a hard task-master, but she gave me priceless gifts. As a piano teacher, she was second to none. When I try to analyze my own pedagogical techniques today, I realize that I am frequently copying her teaching method.

When I was a 12-year-old student organist at St. James Church and she was the choir director, she practically pounded into my right shoulder a small gully through which she imparted to me a sense of beat. This strong sense of beat and accuracy of rhythm, both of which came from Bernadette, have stood me in good stead for over forty years as a pastoral musician, as well as a public school music teacher and private piano teacher.

One of my most cherished gifts -- the Catholic faith -- also came from her. In 57 years, she was the best preacher I ever encountered. She didn’t preach only on Sunday -- frequently it was 7 days a week. She saw to it that I was baptized, confirmed, and married in the church. She even insisted on having my wedding breakfast at her house because she wanted to make it a "real celebration for our family and friends."

I am especially grateful to Bernadette for having instilled in me the precept that I have a moral obligation to use my God-given talents well. For you see, I have since been able to impart this truth to hundreds of other children.

I’m certain she had no idea how many other young lives her "moral truths" would touch through me, her only piano and organ student.

© 1992 Olga S. Hardman