Bernice Wilke was a woman cut of the warmest, kindest cloth, who always volunteered her time, her effort and her love. She built her life around hard work, family and her faith in the Lord. Bernice was so many things to so many people – a loving wife and mother, doting grandmother, loyal friend and faithful Christian. But more than anything, she was a wonderful example of the good in people.
Though it fell within the timeframe of World War I, 1916 was a year marked by many great events. While Albert Einstein worked on completing his theory of relativity, Charlie Chaplin was at the height of his fame entertaining wartime audiences as a silent movie star. It was into this heightened world of war and laughter that Frank and Veronica (Jazhniak) Nizolek of St. Joseph, Missouri welcomed the birth of their daughter, Bernice, on October 31, 1916.
Bernice grew up in a fairly large family; she was the youngest of six children. Her father earned a living as a traveling salesman so she and her siblings were pretty much raised by her mother, since her father wasn’t home much. When economic hardships hit the Nizolek family, they moved to the big city of Milwaukee in hopes of finding work there. Here, Bernice went on to complete her high school education in the Milwaukee area schools, and upon graduating, she attended beauty school.
Bernice was in her late 20s when she met her beloved husband, Leonard Wilke. She and Leonard were set up on a blind date by one of Bernice’s girlfriends, and as fate would have it, they were a perfect fit. The two were happily married on January 22, 1944, and were blessed with five wonderful children: Janis, Norman, Nadine, Christine and Randy. While Leonard supported their family working at Bill’s Potato Chip Co., Bernice, like her mother, devoted herself to the role of a mother, raising her children with unconditional love and sense of family. She consistently demonstrated sacrifice and unselfishness to her children as she always put their needs before her own. It was said that Bernice was the glue that kept the family together. In later years when Bernice was blessed with grandchildren, she poured the same amount of love into these relationships as she did her own children. She was truly a wonderful “Granny.”
When Bernice did make time for herself, she enjoyed shopping on Mitchell Street, especially searching the sewing department at Goldmann’s, for patterns and fabric. She loved to go rummaging in search of jewelry and beads to make pieces of her own or to give to others. When not looking for bargains, Bernice liked to sew, bake, sketch and work in her garden, where she planted red firecrackers and impatiens. But above all else, Bernice enjoyed being surrounded by the love and smiles of her children and grandchildren. They were the people that she shared her life with, and the people that she loved.
Besides her family, Bernice’s faith was very important to her throughout her life. She had an innate passion for sharing God’s love and felt the best way to do this was through her actions and her example. A real prayer warrior, Bernice always kneeled to pray before bed and when rising every morning, even in later years when it became harder to get up and down.
A loving, devoted wife, mother and grandmother, Bernice will be deeply missed and always remembered.
Bernice A. Wilke (nee Nizolek), age 92, died on Monday, July 20, 2009, at Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Her beloved husband, Leonard Wilke, preceded her in death. Cherished mother of the late Janis (Jerry) Schultz, Norman (Lois) Wilke, Nadine (the late Bill) Piel, Christine (Jerome) Millen, and Randy (Joyce) Wilke; loving “Granny” of Dawn, Gayle, the late Jerry, Becky, Martin, Jerry, Leanne and Christy. Further survived by 11 great-grandchildren, 1 great-great grandson, other relatives and friends. Visitation will be on Friday, July 24, at St. Helen’s Catholic Church, 3307 S. 10th Street, from 9:00 a.m. until time of the Mass of Christian Burial at 10:00 a.m. Interment will be at St. Adalbert Cemetery. Please visit Bernice’s personal memory page at www.lifestorynet.com where you may share a memory with her family or sign her online guest book. Arrangements made by Suminski Family Funeral Homes.