Father’s Day

In this issue of The Georgetowner, we celebrate
Father’s Day, remember our fathers and
honor the qualities and virtues of fatherhood.

It’s an especially poignant time for us at the

Georgetowner because my sister, Susan, and I lost
our much loved father, Owen G. Bernhardt. Dad
died on March 24 after a long, arduous and painfilled,
but also life-filled, struggle with leukemia.

It has not been long enough
to acquire a distance from his
passing and to continue to acquire
inspiration from his life
and his role as my father.

When you think about
the loss of a loved one and
try to talk about it, it seems
almost surprising to see just
how rich, unique and original
a tapestry he had created with
his life. He was always our
father, and we tended to look
at him, respond to him and see
him in that way.

He was also a husband to
our mother, Pilar, with whom
he shared a remarkably deep
and enduring 43-year marriage.
She passed away at
62, much too young to lose,
in 2002. Together, they formed an enduring marriage
and partnership and made each other complete.

He was an absolutely doting grandfather to
Elisa, now 13, and Stefan, now 11, my niece and
nephew, my sister’s children.

He was more than that: of Swiss, German and
Russian stock, he grew up on a farm in the smalltown
world of heartland Kansas with a childhood
spent during the American Depression. He had
some of that quiet, almost stoic, demeanor that
might be typical of both his background and generation,
but he was also warm, energetic, optimistic
and strong and steady. His was the voice I
knew that would listen to my plans, my hopes and
fears, and he would hear me out, offer advice, and
be totally supportive, no matter how crazy the idea
or project. That included my foray into newspaper
publishing by acquiring the Georgetowner newspaper.
I know in my heart that the success we’ve
had would not have happened without his support,
without that steady voice on the phone, in person
and now in spirit.

His own career was varied and — combined
with his first enduring marriage to my mom —
original and even colorful. He came from a large
family of 11 children. At first, he dutifully took
on the role of managing the family farm but ruefully
discovered that perhaps he was not meant to
be a farmer. Instead, he enlisted in the Air Force,
a decision that landed him in Spain attached to
the Air Ministry in Madrid in 1956 where he met
my mother. He was an enlisted man but operated
among the highest ranks. He served in Vietnam
and acquired a Bronze Star. At the Pentagon, he
had a successful career that made him travel to
most places in the world.

My father had a keen curiosity about people,
about everything he came in contact with. He was
one of those hidden experts who knew a lot about
some very specific things, and at least a little about
most other things, a good quality for the father of
two daughters to have. He played tennis with passion
and loved sports, and his favorite football
team remained the Kansas City Chiefs.

Mostly, I miss his expertise about life. Even
when he was struggling with his illness, which at
one point left him without a viable immune system,
he remained a visible presence in his own
life—and ours. Until the end, he had that unique
skip in his gait that told everyone that everything
was going to be fantastic.

On Father’s Day, I miss my dad, Owen Bernhardt,
a lot. I know that everyone else who knew
him more than casually does, too.

On Father’s Day, I remember my father and
here at the Georgetowner, we remember and celebrate
the life of all the dads, ever, and ask you to
do the same.

— Sonya Bernhardt, publisher

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