Richard (Dick) Bernard
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Richard (Dick) Bernard

Feb 5, 1932 - Aug 14, 2019

During the last months and weeks of his long life, Richard "Dick" Bernard often said he felt lucky. Lucky to have the family he had, and lucky to have had the wonderful life he lived. He was Chicago born and raised in a modest home, in a modest part of the city during the depth of the depression. As a kid he was always tinkering. He built crystal radio's and model airplane's with real motors, that is, when he wasn't playfully teasing his only sister Bonnie. His first job was at the local meat market which earned him a bit of spending money, and occasionally allowed him to help the family with a bit of extra meat during WWII war rationing. After the war, his father started a business in their small basement and taught Dick to make things with early machine tools. Together in that basement they developed an arc welding process that to this day is one of the most widely used in the world.

Dick would soon join his father in what became Bernard Welding Company, but first he took time to get an engineering degree from the Illinois Institute of Technology, marry a beautiful and smart local nursing student named Jean, and serve in the US Army. Upon his return, his inventive father quickly turned the management of Bernard Co. over to his young son. Under Dick's leadership the business grew to become a world leader in arc welding accessories. Always restless, Dick and Art sold Bernard Co. to Dover Corp in 1970. Dick started a new business in 1973 with his teenage son Dave called Darex Corporation. In 1979, to the surprise and consternation of the many friends and family left behind, Dave Art and Richard (the DAR in Darex) and their wives moved themselves and the business across the country to a small town in Southern Oregon called Ashland. One by one his three daughters also settled in Ashland to raise their families close to Dick and Jean. Darex went on to become an important economic anchor in Ashland, and world leading producer of sharpening machines for cutting tools. The family legacy continues with Dick's grandson Matthew now leading the company.

Dick was a renaissance man. Dabbling in metal sculpting, philosophy, music and photography, even developing his own film. Although never the life of the party, he was the one to put the party playlist together on early 8 tracks and cassettes. He loved the latest technology and was what we now call an "early adopter" always ready to jettison the old and embrace the new. He was an Eagle boy scout, a private pilot, an inventor who holds many US and world patents, and a marketing wizard, introducing many innovative approaches to the industries his businesses touched. His management style was always progressive for its time. Often saying he wanted people to work "with" him not "for" him, and starting in the '60's, he was one of the earliest to share company profits with his employees.

In addition to being a good employer, Dick quietly gave much of his time, talent and treasure to many community causes, often answering the call to lead those organizations. They include the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland YMCA, and the Ashland Community Hospital Foundation, just to name just a few. He was a humbly forceful man who loved a good debate and was an expert at seeing the other side of an argument, especially his own. Not outspoken but widely read, especially world events and business, he had a knack for integrating what he learned to come up with just the right thing to say, at just the right time to say it. He was a teaser, and his dry, devious sense of humor was always nearby to add some fun, or, a little levity when needed to ease tense or difficult situations. His accolades were many, including Ashland Citizen of the Year, but the plaques never hung on his wall, or his heart.

Dick and Jean loved the water, spending much of their free time perched at the edge of a lake in Michigan, then later at the edge of the sea in Brookings Oregon and Maui Hawaii. Dick loved fine automobiles, ordering a new one every couple years or so. When the salesman would ask what options he wanted, he always had the same answer, YES. He used to say, "I like trading cars instead of wives", this when many of his friends were doing the latter. He enjoyed poker days with his buddy's, and got pretty good at card tricks, using the skill to entertain the kids. He loved a good meal and a good drink, but no vegetables thank you. Fitness and athletics?……well, just not his thing.

To Dick, family was all important, and most of his generosity was focused there. He was always available with a word of advice or a helping hand. He was predeceased by Jean his wife of 63 years, and his grandchildren Brett Bernard and Tony Kinzie. He is survived by his sister Bonnie, daughters Vicki, Becki, and Cindy, son Dave, his 8 Grandchildren and 12 Great Grandchildren. Those who knew him will not be surprised that he kept his spirit of optimism, humor and grace until the very end, passing from this life as he had lived, gently, peacefully, and with family. Yes, Dick Bernard was lucky man, but his community and especially his family is very lucky indeed that he shared the extraordinary life he lived, with them.

Dick's motto was Keep It Simple. At his request there will be no memorial. His family Simply asks that you keep him in your thoughts and your hearts.

Printed Obituary
Published in the Daily Tidings
on August 20, 2019
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