Vivian Theresa Bernhardt: June 7, 1946 – May 17, 2021
Monday, Monday … hearts apart …every other day is fine…
Monday morning not trusting turning out this way
Forever youthful, without a warning, tearing hearts apart.
In the absence of our dear sweet child of June,
forever youthful, rock and roll, attitude and altitude
After daytime fever sleeping, somehow not awakening that evening
Three weeks before turning 75 years young,
Leaving us too suddenly sad,
her passing from our world…”
Our beloved Vivian Theresa Bernhardt, loving and ever loved mother to Jessica Mary Bernhardt, after reporting a feverish morning to her next-door neighbor Michael, died at home of natural causes due to heart failure on May 17.
Vivian was born in Amsterdam, New York, to Genevieve and Frank Bernhardt. She attended Amsterdam Memorial High School, then Northeastern University in Boston. After college, she moved to Sharon, Massachusetts. There her employment began at Pygmalion, a hair salon, and for many years Travel Fair, initiating a travel agent career, which she continued in California. She also managed the renowned Sharon Community Gardens and was respected for her green thumb and her vast knowledge of plants and vegetables.
Taking advantage of the benefits from being a travel agent, Vivian’s years at Sharon included travels to China, Istanbul, Greece, Paris and Amsterdam, then Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia. In 1972, she conceived her forever, beloved and precious daughter, Jessica, and began her most important life endeavor, motherhood and single parenting. Mother and daughter cruised to England and took trips to Jamaica, the Caribbean and Hawaii as well. Their home in Sharon was a favorite spot for youthful and later teenage gatherings!
Vivian and Jessica moved to California in 1993. Vivian renewed her career in the travel industry. In her spare time, she devoted her energies to care for a close friend and Berkeley poet housemate for over five years, Charley, a quadriplegic since 1973. In addition to gardening, she was most passionate about music, especially The Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia, and at every opportunity attended live musical events, shows and concerts.
After moving to and from the North Berkeley Hills in 1993-1998, Vivian to a house in San Leandro which Jessica shared and became their home. Vivian transformed their small yard into a beautiful garden enclave with abundant roses and many other flowers, different vegetables and numerous exotic plant varietals, ever amazing, very much still enjoyed beyond her passing! There she also shared time and raised her dog Bear and cat Puna.
Most notably for a good part of her first 10 years in San Leandro, Vivian was secretary to and assisted the amazing longtime Bay Area human rights (civil, disability, AIDS, anti-war) activist Jane Jackson, whose friends included Fidel Castro, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Bobby Seale (1973 Oakland mayoral campaign). After hospitalization in August 2006, from 41-day fasting outside the Oakland federal building to call for troop withdrawal from Iraq, Jane died Sept. 26, 2007, in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.
In further service to social and political issues involving her friends, Vivian acted as secretary to the Divinity Tree Patients Wellness Co-op from 2005-2013, a licensed San Francisco medical cannabis dispensary co-founded by her close friends Charley and Raymond. She was a valuable presence at numerous Supervisor, City Council and commission meetings and a very welcomed assistant to recording storefront business and employment operations.
Vivian’s vibrant and almost always upbeat personality, energy and sense of humor had a frequent positive impact on acquaintances and resulted in the creation of her great number of lifelong friendships from her days of youth, Massachusetts’ education, parenting, and life in California. These included her college schoolmate in Boston since 1965, Faye Ann Markowitz D’Elia and several members of her family; as well as Kaaran Harbinson James, whom she met shortly after moving to California; and a long, long list of soulful close friends far too numerous to mention, who hopefully will post their names and thoughts.
“Viv will always be remembered by this universal network of friends, for her incredible kindness and desire to share, her homemade Christmas cookies, and the veggies from her gardens. She was a free spirit whose signature words, ‘Sunshine and Rainbows’, reflected all that was generous, nurturing and magical,” said D’Elia.
Besides her daughter, Jessica, Vivian’s surviving family relatives include cousins Tom Corrado and Frank Cannizzo from New York and also her oldest best friend of 56 years, Faye Ann Markowitz D’Elia.
Donations in her memory may be made to shelter the homeless or to aid rescue animals.
Child of June
Once indeed you were,
Then becoming a woman,
And bearing a girl-child so happily for you!
A child of June
Every birthday still you are,
As years’ remember youth and whim
A child of June,
With your strength look toward what is to be,
Smile knowingly for what has passed
A child of June
Sadly can’t be with you today,
Left and gone so far away,
Speaking from the heart thinking with my mind,
Trying the right rhyme and pleasing words to find
For who you are, all you’ve given, everything kind
A child of June
Wishing joy and success,
Offering feeling, caring, and love always…