Bernie Vosman was my friend.
But then again, Bernie was everyone’s friend.
Bernie was a unique person. He was loyal, kind, dependable, witty and charitable and had an unbelievable work ethic. I got to know him during my years as administrator of the CACL Workshop. We teased each other relentlessly, something for which he became well known. Over the years, he asked many a married man, “How’s your wife?” When he was questioned on his own marital status, he would quip, “I’m not married. I have no money. Me teasing.”
He participated in the Special Olympics for decades and in 1988, traveled to Calgary for the national games. Amongst all the participants and volunteers at these games, numbering in the thousands, Bernie was given the ‘Spirit of The Games’ award. That speaks volume about his character.
He attended the CACL Workshop for many years and, as the supervisor of the woodworking shop said, “Bernie was the backbone of the woodshop. He always knew what to do. He didn’t need instructions and could operate every piece of equipment.”
He was considerate of others and was “a really good soul,” said another staff member. We can all attest to that.
Participants at the workshop enjoyed outings such as canoeing. Bernie was always keen to participate … as long as it didn’t conflict with work.
He branched out and started doing work in the community. At the time of his death, he was employed by Nova Construction.
Nick, his supervisor, said that Bernie worked with a purpose.
“He was never idle. When his regular duties were complete, he would come and ask if he could do something else to help out. He was our morale guy.”
While we will all sorely miss Bernie, it was his family that Bernie cherished the most. His siblings adored him and treated him with dignity and respect. And Bernie returned it in kind, along with some carefully chosen quips. His sister Mary put him on the bus on his first and last day, a span of some 51 years. His work ethic around the farm was legendary. He was proud of his Dutch heritage and while unable to speak the language, he understood every word when it was spoken.
Back in the 80s, his brother Johnny, who was running the dairy farm, was attending a Bulldogs’ playoff hockey game at the arena. He became concerned as the game went into triple overtime, knowing the cows needed to be milked. When he arrived home, Bernie has milked every cow and fed them as well.
“How did you know how much feed to give each cow,” queried Johnny?
“I went by the size of the udder,” replied Bernie.
When Johnny tested the milk later, everything was perfect. Bernie was one smart man.
Bernie loved his parents, Bill and Diny and he was their pride and joy. His siblings say that their parents were able to spend their last 20 years together in their house primarily because of the help Bernie provided. When Bill died, Bernie put his arms around his mother’s shoulder and said, “I’ll take care of you.”
At the end of every day, Bernie would go to his bedroom and rehash the events of the day … to himself … out loud. Anyone going by his door would think that there were four people talking.
Son. Brother. Uncle. Friend.
A family member said, “Bernie was our glue. He kept our family close.”
When Bernie arrives at the pearly gates, as he no doubt will, he will stride through those gates and say, “Bernie here.”