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Life Story / Obituary
Down-to-earth, Bernie Germain was a humble man who gave from the heart. There wasn’t a mean or angry bone in his body, and everyone enjoyed his company. Bernie was a social fellow who shared the friendships of many. He was outgoing in nature, and his sense of humor was a true delight. Family was the very core of Bernie, and his grandchildren and great grandchildren were the apple of his eye. In them he found his greatest joy, and in Bernie his family found a man who set a fine example for them to live by.
Bernard Germain was the son of Lawrence and Marie Germain. Born on July 6, 1934, in the community of Avondale, Michigan, he came into the world at a time when families struggled through the hardships of the Great Depression, and impending war overseas. People learned to find joy in the little things, like taking in a picture show which freed their minds from everyday worries. Raised in Reed City and the Remus area, Bernard was the fourth of five children in his family, including his siblings, Mary, Robert, George, and Shirley.
Bernie’s father sold real estate for a living and he had an evergreen wreath business in Reed City. Times were already extremely difficult for all during these days of the Depression, and as a young boy Bernie witnessed his mother’s dependence on alcohol. While still just a boy, his parents divorced, and despite these days of hardships, Bernie enjoyed a childhood typical of his generation. In time his father remarried, and Bernie considered Beulah a nice lady to have by his family’s side.
Having attended the area schools, Bernie played the trombone and enjoyed many friendships during his youth. Although he later earned his GED, Bernie was eager to serve his country. He left his schooling behind and as soon as he was able, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He served for four years during the Korean War as a gunner, having shot down a plane from the USS Mount Olympus, a command ship. Upon his honorable discharge from the service, Bernie returned to Michigan. He settled in Grand Rapids for a while before moving to Plainwell.
In nearby Kalamazoo, Bernie landed a job working at the Jolly Kids clothing factory. As a new hire, he caught the attention of a pretty co-worker who felt sorry for him, and truth be told, she was quite smitten with him, too! One night while attending a local dance with friends, Bernie spotted Marilyn. Although she was with a date, she and Bernie clearly had eyes for one another. Bernie eventually called Marilyn, and for the next two years they dated. On November 23, 1957 at St. Joseph Church, Marilyn became Bernie’s bride. The two enjoyed a reception held at Marilyn’s sister’s house in Kalamazoo before spending the night in Plainwell for their honeymoon.
Bernie and Marilyn made their home in Portage and soon began a family of their own. They shared the love of three children, Sherie, Brian, and Ken, and in 1959 they built their forever home where memorable times were shared. To support his family, Bernie worked at Ream Manufacturing where a mishap took several of his fingers. He also worked at U.S. Plywood and for Portage Schools, and from 1980 until retiring in 1995, Bernie worked for the Upjohn Company.
Wherever he worked and wherever he went, Bernie was friendly and well liked. Quite social, he kept things light and he loved telling jokes. Always genuine, through example he taught his children well. He was a hard worker, yet he never missed one of his kid’s school or sporting activities. He was there for his family, and Bernie and Marilyn were both just as dedicated. Bernie loved taking the kids to Sugarloaf Lake to go fishing, and even though money was tight, he always rented a row boat for all to enjoy. The kids always loved going junking with Bernie where treasures were sure to be found.
Bernie went to many garage sales, and another man’s junk was truly his treasure! He loved picking through junk piles, especially at night and during spring clean-up times when everyone discarded their unwanted items. Some of Bernie’s favorite pastimes included going to flea market and antiquing. He spent hours at the Riet's Flea Market in Paw Paw selling his wares. He never sold much, but he sure loved meeting and talking to people there. Resourceful in many respects, Bernie also enjoyed night crawler hunting. He raised the worms for fishing, and sold them for a profit.
As a couple, Bernie and Marilyn often played cards with neighbors. They led a simple, gratifying life, and together they enjoyed the comforts of home. Never much for eating out in the early years, they later did so more often. Through the years they enjoyed trips to California and the time they took a few of the grandkids to Disney World in Florida. With his penchant for local casinos, Bernie preferred the slot machines and three-card poker. Blue Chip was his favorite. One time he and Marilyn drove to Las Vegas for a fun-filled time at the casinos and seeing the sights.
A meat and potato’s man, Bernie disliked dairy products and mustard. A big coffee drinker, he sometimes drank tea and he loved orange pop. His sweet tooth was usually satisfied with his love for butterscotch or Werther’s, especially after he quit smoking. As an avid sports fan, Bernie loved all Michigan teams, particularly Detroit Lions football. Bernie’s love for fishing continued to the point where he came to have several boats over the years. He enjoyed perch and salmon fishing on Lake Michigan with his fishing partner and friend, Earl, and his family. A true country boy at heart, Bernie favored country music and liked old “twang” from the likes of Johnny Cash and he knew his music well.
Bernie was a very outgoing and social man who balanced his humble nature with a grace all his own. With an unending grin, he’d always say, "Aren’t you glad to see me?" and his generous ways were genuine and simply stated. He’d drop everything to help a friend, and he was someone with whom others could rely. After smoking for many years, Bernie quit “Cold Turkey” and his vice became Brach’s Butterscotch candies and Werther’s. In his early 60’s Bernie suffered a heart attack and more recently he was diagnosed with COPD. In the past year his condition worsened and he began to slow down. When his needs recently became greater and he needed more care, he was moved to Kairos Dwelling where he remained for a day before taking his last breath. Gone but never to be forgotten, Bernie will be remembered for all that he was and more by those who knew and loved him.
Bernard Germain, age 81, of Portage, died May 11, 2016, at Kairos Dwelling in Kalamazoo. He was preceded in death by three siblings: Mary, Robert and George. Surviving are his wife of 58 years, Marilyn Germain; three children: Sherie (Bill) Goodman, Brian (Cheryl) Germain and Ken (Theresa) Germain; six grandchildren: Brandon (Leah) Goodman, Tiffany (Ryan) Plunkett, Maria, Megan, Casey and Cameron Germain; three great-grandchildren: Rylan, Zoey and Easton; sister, Shirley Wills and many nieces and nephews. Visit with Bernie’s family and friends on Sunday, 3-5 PM at the Life Story Funeral Home, Betzler-Kalamazoo, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo 375-2900 where services will be held Monday at 11:00 AM. A luncheon will follow in the Life Story Center. Burial will take place at South Portage Cemetery. Please visit Bernie’s personal memory page at www.lifestorynet.com where you can share a favorite memory or photo and sign his online guestbook before coming to the funeral home. Memorial contributions may be made to Kairos Dwelling.