Bernice Raymond was a woman of integrity and goodwill. She looked at the difficulties of life and tried to make them better; she saw what was wrong and made sure she did what was right. With an easy manner and generous spirit, she gave herself fully to her family and made life sweet for those around her.
Bernice’s story began when her father, Ernst Richter, emigrated to the United States from Germany to avoid his being conscripted into military service during WWI. Here he met and married Amanda (nee Fobian). Ernst found work as a carpenter, while Amanda worked in a cigar factory. They had five children before Bernice was born on April 6, 1925 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Bernice was one of seven children growing up on 11th Street: George, Juanita, Lawrence, Roland, Marvin, Bernice, and Harriet. Despite the hard times of the Depression, they enjoyed a childhood filled with fun—jumping rope, playing ball, jacks or tag.
Like others of her generation who survived a financial crisis and a second brutal world war, Bernice was shaped by the values of duty and sacrifice. She never forgot the adjustments the family made to get through the hard times. As a child, she drank coffee because the family could only afford one quart of milk a week. She wore the same clothes for days at a time because each child had only one set of Sunday clothes and not many more for every day. Bernice attended Girls Tech in Milwaukee, focusing on homemaking skills, but she left school in the 10th grade and took a job to help with family expenses. She gave her parents all her pay except what she needed for work.
Bernice was truly a giving and compassionate person who looked out for others. One childhood story is particularly representative of her kindheartedness. She befriended a neighbor girl who had Downs Syndrome—a gesture that wasn’t understood by everyone. Bernice’s best friend asked how she could be seen with a “retard.” Bernice defended her neighbor, saying she enjoyed playing with the girl and teaching her things. Interestingly, Bernice met up with her best friend years later and learned that she had a child with Downs Syndrome. All this was a life lesson that was not lost on Bernice, nor on the children she would raise one day. She would tell them to be kind to everyone and every living thing, and that what you do comes back to you.
As a young woman, Bernice worked in a parachute factory. It was an important job during WWII, and Bernice had to be fingerprinted by the government as a means of security. She not only made good wages, she was contributing to the war effort and the American economy.
During that time, Bernice’s friends introduced her to Lloyd Paul Raymond. The two fell in love and were married on Sept. 17, 1949 in Fish Creek, Wisconsin, where Lloyd was from. Though the ceremony at the Justice of the Peace was small, family and friends planned a big dinner. They butchered their own chickens and everyone brought side dishes. Unfortunately, Lloyd and Bernice went to Milwaukee to pick up some friends for the dinner, but started celebrating already in Milwaukee and never made it back up north for the dinner.
The three children that were born to Bernice were her pride and joy. She devoted herself to Roger, Jackie, and Gary, especially after Lloyd left the family and she raised them on her own. Very resourcefully, Bernice used her sewing skills to make her children’s clothes. She sewed all Jackie’s dresses, Gary’s baptismal gown, and notably, a sailor suit for Roger using material from a real sailor suit.
Bernice was home-oriented and family-centered, making a way to support her family as a stay-at-home mom. She babysat other children so she could be at home full time when her three were young. All told, Bernice babysat for some 50 years, because she took care of her grandkids when her children had families of their own.
Children and animals always melted Bernice’s heart. She couldn’t resist giving gifts—especially at Christmas–to grandchildren and great-grandchildren, but to the grand-pets as well. She was also generous with her time and her wisdom. Though she never planned much ahead, she met each day with a healthy attitude: “Get through today as best you can, if it’s a bad day, tomorrow will be better, if it’s a good day, enjoy it.” Whenever the grand kids were naughty, she good-naturedly commented, “It could be worse–they could have been twins.”
For recreation, Bernice belonged to a Bavarian folk dance club. However, she did not dance, though her children and grandchildren did. Instead, she worked in the kitchen serving customers at the Holiday Folk Fair and other German festivals. Her other entertainment was at home: Bernice was a QVC (quality, value, convenience) and Shopping Network fanatic. As a result, her family has many treasures to remember her by. More importantly, they hold Bernice in their hearts as a loving woman, proud mother, and adoring grandmother.
Bernice Raymond (nee Richter) died at Ruth Hospice in West Allis on Sunday July 17, 2011 at the age of 86. She was preceded in death by her son-in-law, Kelly West. Cherished mother of Roger (Paula) Raymond, Jaclyn (Darrell) LaVigne, and Gary (Rhonda) Raymond. Loving grandmother of Tom, Jason, Heather, Tracy, Josh, Eric, Amanda, Jeff, Courtney, and Taylor. Proud great-grandmother of Brianna, Nathan, Annastasia, Armani, Kelly, Maya, and Eva. Further survived by other relatives, and friends.
Family and friends will gather Saturday, July 23 at the Funeral Home from 1:00 PM until time of the Memorial Service at 2:00 PM. Inurnment Lincoln Memorial Cemetery
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