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James Irwin Bernardin

May 23, 1929 May 6, 2016
James Irwin Bernardin
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Obituary for James Irwin Bernardin

James Irwin Bernardin was born on May 23, 1929 at Glendale Hospital near Moundsville West Virginia. His Mother cried because she wanted a brown haired, brown-eyed little girl, but got a blue eyed, blond haired little boy. She made the best of things and along with his Dad made him into the best man she could. He died on May 6, 2016 in Royal Oak Michigan.

Jim, some called him Little Tom during his youth, had an interesting and eventful life.
He was a Boy Scout with the rank of Star, played guard on his Triadelphia High School Football team where he received a broken collarbone, a dislocated finger, and a broken leg. Other elected honors were junior class vice president, football co-captain, and All City and All Ohio Valley football recognition. Baseball and Basketball were non-starters but he lettered twice in Track even though handicapped by a lack of running speed.

Gainful employment at this time included jerking sodas for Hoag David Drug Store, cleaning fish for the Wheeling A&P store, greasing and parking cars, driving a wreck truck, and cutting grass when all else failed. Fishing, canoeing, hunting, and other sports, like girls, occupied his off hours. A move from West Virginia to Michigan was a disappointment to him but proved to be a positive event. An attempt at becoming an engineer at the University of Detroit was a complete failure, but another positive event. He spent three years driving back and forth from Lincoln Park to the University of Michigan where he graduated with a BS in Design. During this time he discovered his high school friend Frank Andre’s little sister Ruth, had grown up and filled out in all the right places and became the most beautiful girl in West Virginia. On their first date at the Capital Theater in Wheeling he held her hand, squeezed it and she squeezed back. They lived happily ever after.

His ad career began at Kenyon and Eckhardt but he found time for fathering son Tom. Next he became the art director at Benton and Bowles Detroit office on their Studebaker business while fathering son Jim. Then he moved to Campbell-Ewald and Chevrolet while fathering number three son John and number four son Bob. He always said that creating advertising was almost as much fun as creating sons. He couldn’t believe they paid him for creating advertising and couldn’t believe the cost of creating sons. He worked long and crazy hours making ads for Chevy while his sweetheart Ruth worked long and crazy hours raising and training four boys. She was a small lady but strong and had the boys convinced she was bigger, stronger, and tougher than all of them put together. She was the center and most fulfilling part of his life for something over 58 years. Without her help, understanding, and support he could never have achieved success in the very competitive ad business. But success did come as Chief Creative Officer for the huge Chevrolet account at Campbell-Ewald and finally Chairman and CEO of CECO Communications, a subsidiary of Campbell-Ewald. Along the way he enjoyed cooking six-inch thick steaks right on the red-hot charcoal just like the cave man he pretended to be. Ribs and chicken smoked in a special outdoor oven were a specialty and often served around midnight after sufficient stimulating libations. There was really no food fit to eat that he didn’t like and in his later years it showed around his waist. He liked just about all bourbons, Stoli vodka, cheep white wine, and a bit more expensive red wine. Champaign, he could easily give a pass. Lake living was his preference and he enjoyed it on Pine Lake and Walloon Lake, both at the same time. But, his most comfortable home was a farm in Metamora where all his sons and their families lived at one time or another. His Mother and Mother in law also spent their remaining years with he and Ruth in a comfortable tenant house. He even owned a horse named JEB Stuart and became a good enough rider to know which way to face when you mounted.

The horse was named JEB Stuart in honor of the Confederate cavalry leader during the Civil War. He had become interested in the Civil War during a trip south to visit Ruth’s parents and the battlefield at Shiloh. This resulted in many trips to battlefields, some with all four boys tucked away in a Chevy Corvair Spyder Convertible. Ruth was an exceptionally good clothes packer and patient mother while he imagined himself charging sword in hand to save the Union or maybe it was to save the Confederacy. A collection of artifacts and books followed, enough for a small museum. His ad agency writers and art directors always celebrated his birthday and anniversaries with cards and posters depicting him as a Confederate who refused to surrender in the face of creative defeat.

He was a collector second to none. He never threw anything away, well maybe the garbage but even that with some care. He loved books and reading, mostly history of any kind, Civil War, WWII, great battles, submarine histories, 8TH Air Force raids, gangsters, and movie making. Watching old movies was a ritual during his retirement. They all came from his own collection, where else?

Living on the farm gave him great pleasure. He liked to call himself “Farmer Jim” at least to his faithful secretary Marie Schemmel. Cutting acres of grass wasn’t work but pleasure! The advertising business required considerable travel especially during the announcement of new cars and trucks, but the fun travel with Ruth included trips to Germany, Italy, and Portugal. Trips to many historic locations in the good old USA were a yearly adventure where he took voluminous photos, many of which ended up as locations for future Chevy ads. Taking pictures began when he was still in high school and continued all his life. Over the years he generated thousands of pictures, perhaps close to million. They have been left for his family to review and catalog, something he always meant to do before time ran out.

He always liked lots of elbowroom and his farm gave him that and more. Even the place he picked for Ruth and he to spend eternity has lots of elbow room and enough space should any of their off spring decide to use it. He always said that he never knew anyone could love him as much as Ruth, and that their greatest accomplishments were Tom, Jim, John, and Bob.

“My life has been more successful than I could ever have imagined. Maybe hard for you to understand but for me all the success has been incredible. I could never have dreamed about living in a wonderful home like Metamora or any of the other places we enjoyed. I have had success beyond my wildest dreams and that is pretty good; a wonderful wife, wonderful children, wonderful grandchildren, even great grandchildren, and a wonderful living. What else could anyone ever ask for?”

Friends may visit with the Bernardin family from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. on May 14, 2016 at the Bernardin residence (4350 Barber Rd. Metamora, MI 48455). A funeral service for James will immediately follow at 2:00 p.m. Tom Bernardin Jr. will be officiating. James will be laid to rest at Metamora Cemetery. Following the burial friends and family are invited to a continued celebration of his life back at the Bernardin residence.

Previous Events

Visitation

Saturday

14

May

1:00 PM 5/14/2016 1:00:00 PM - 2:00 PM 5/14/2016 2:00:00 PM
The Bernardin Residence

4350 Barber Road
Metamora, MI 48455

The Bernardin Residence
4350 Barber Road Metamora 48455 MI
United States

Funeral Service

Saturday

14

May

2:00 PM 5/14/2016 2:00:00 PM
The Bernardin Residence

4350 Barber Road
Metamora, MI 48455

The Bernardin Residence
4350 Barber Road Metamora 48455 MI
United States

Cemetery Details

Location

Metamora Cemetery Final Resting Place

2100 Dryden Rd.
Metamora, MI 48455

2100 Dryden Rd. Metamora 48455 MI
United States

Memorial Contribution

Foundation Fighting Blindness

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