Bernice Griffith, 1891-1955
(Mrs. George Irvin Beard)

- by Alice Marie Beard

Bernice Griffith At two years old, Bernice lost her twin brother. At three, she lost her mother. At nine, she lost her father. After her father died, she lived with her father's sister Jane in Michigan.

Bernice earned a B.S. from Marion Normal College, in Marion, Indiana, on August 22, 1912. (The college is now known as Indiana Wesleyan University.) She moved to the Clinton Co. & Carroll Co. area of Indiana and taught Hoosier farm kids in one-room school houses. There was an old man who did maintenance work on the school house; his name was George Hooker. After she had taught a year in Pyrmont, the school district reassigned Bernice to teach in Owasco. In Owasco, Bernice rented a room from the old man's daughter, Sarah Catharine Hooker (Mrs. Jesse Beard).

The photo below shows Bernice with other teachers in her school district. Bernice is on the far left. On the far right is John M. Beard, a son of Mrs. Jesse Beard from whom Bernice rented a room while she taught in Owasco. Unlike Bernice, most of the teachers had grown up in that small area.


At some point while teaching in Owasco, Bernice met a son of her friend Mr. George Hooker. Mr. Hooker's son George Washington Hooker was a rancher in LaFleche, Saskatchewan, Canada. When the son came to visit his family, he said that teachers were needed where he lived in Saskatchewan. Bernice went to Canada and taught Saskatchewan farm kids.
wedding photo

After she began teaching in Saskatchewan, a grandson of her old friend George Hooker arrived in Saskatchewan to teach;
George Irvin "Irv" Beard was a son of George Hooker's daughter Sarah Catharine. On November 5, 1916, when Bernice was 25 and George Irvin was 19, they married in Woodriver, Saskatchewan. (Wedding photo at right.)

After teaching in Saskatchewan, Bernice and Irv returned to Indiana where their children were born.


Bernice's three sonsBy the time of the 1930 U.S. Census, Bernice, her husband, and their three sons were living in South Bend, Indiana. They'd found one of the few houses in the neighborhood with a bathtub. The house had a bathtub because the previous occupant had used the tub to make illegal alcohol during the years of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the time of "prohibition."

The photo to the left shows Bernice and Irv's three children, seated on a piano bench, each boy dressed with care by Bernice. From left to right are Max, Bruce, and Miles, at about ages 5, 4, and 7.

According to the 1930 Census, Bernice's husband worked as a gravel contractor. The family's next door neighbors to either side were the Batchelor family and the Marsak family.

In the 1940s, she worked at a South Bend hospital as a records keeper and medical secretary, and in 1944 she became a grandmother when her son Max's wife gave birth to a little girl. Ultimately, Bernice had four granddaughters and six grandsons. All of her granddaughters were born before she passed on; only one of her grandsons was born while Bernice was still of this world. For each of her four granddaughters, Bernice began a collection of sterling silver flatware. It was a gift and tradition that she wanted for her granddaughters.

Fast forward to 1955: Bernice was in the hospital in the last stages of Bright's disease, dying of uremic poisoning. Salt could be wiped off her forehead. She was in such pain that she begged one of her sons to put her out of her misery. Her hospital and medical bills were so great that the insurance company had cancelled her policy. Friends would come to visit her in the hospital and say, "We're praying for you," and Bernice would answer, "You're all praying for me, but Irv's paying the bills." Her husband, sons, and daughters-in-law sat with her in a death watch during her final weeks in the hospital. When the end came on April 1, 1955, it was Irv who was with her.

Her body was buried at a spot she had chosen in a cemetery that looked like a park: St. Joseph Valley Memorial Park, in Granger, St. Joseph Co., IN. She chose the spot because it was under a shade tree, and she wanted any family who visited her grave to be comfortable.

After her casket was covered with dirt, a little girl asked, "Is she in Heaven now?"

And the answer came, "Yes. She's in Heaven."

Bernice's obituary from the South Bend Tribune, Friday, April 1, 1955:

Mrs. Bernice G. Beard.

Mrs. Bernice G. Beard, 1218 Kinyon St., died at 12:15 a.m. today in Memorial Hospital after six months' illness. She was born in Benton, Ind., Jan. 13, 1891, and came here in 1925 from Carroll County, Indiana.

She was married in Canada in 1916 to G. Irvin Beard, who survives.

She leaves also three sons, Miles G., of Mishawaka; Max I. and Bruce W., of South Bend; five grandchildren; two sisters, Mrs. Alice Hubbard, of Chicago, and Mrs. Linnie Taylor, of Fowler, Ind., and a brother, Arthur Griffith, of Glendive, Mont.

Friends may call after 7 p.m. today in the Orvis Funeral Home until the funeral there at 2 p.m. Sunday. Rev. Kenneth L. Hemphill, of First Methodist Church, will officiate. Burial will be in St. Joseph Valley Memorial Park.

The five grandchildren Bernice left when she died in 1955 were Mary Fran (11), Tom (6), Alice (4), Fern (3), and Laura (1). Five more grandchildren were born in the years after Bernice's death. To see the newspaper clipping of her obituary, CLICK HERE.

To see Bernice's descendants, check her husband's page:
George Irvin (Irv) Beard

To see Bernice's mother, Bernice's twin, and a list of their siblings, check here:

Evaline Hukill

To see Bernice's father, check here:
Henry M. Griffith



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