Bernice D. Staszak

bernice staszak

Bernice D. Staszak

Bernice D. Staszak was born August 3, 1915 in Omaha, Nebraska to James and Agnes (Ellis) White.  She passed away December 9, 2013 in Lakewood, Colorado.

It is hard to put into words the impact Bernice has had on all of our lives. She has touched us in so many positive ways it is impossible to give our expressions of love and thanks to her in just a few short words.


Bernice worked at Gates Rubber Company for almost 40 years, flipping belts. She was one of the first women to be hired at Gates and the only one of the three original women hired to stick it out for so many years. She was the primary bread winner of the household.


Even working long, hard hours, Bernice would come home and take care of her husband, Ray, her sister, Sis and others, but always had ample time to walk, garden, read and spend time with her family.


Bernice never learned to drive a car, so she walked everywhere she went. She remained a physically fit person up until a couple days before her passing.


Bernice was both a physically and emotionally strong woman. In addition to her strength, she had a caring and giving nature to those around her and never said a negative word about anyone. Bernice always saw the positive in everything she did and in every situation. She was generous and empathetic, never blinking an eye when it came to helping others, especially her family.


Besides her family, Bernice had two strong passions in her life. She was an expert gardener and an avid reader.


Until recent years, Bernice worked endlessly in her rock garden. Anyone who knew her, knew if she wasn’t working, helping someone or spending time with her family, she was in her rock garden. Her rock garden was unforgettable and something that was a source of pride to Bernice throughout her life.


Bernice was also an avid reader with a somewhat morbid sense of humor. She loved reading murder mysteries. And although her true nature was to care and love others, the books she loved the most were the ones that had the highest body count. If someone hadn’t been murdered in the first few pages of the book, she would move onto the next one.


This has been a long standing joke in the family for many years.


Even with Bernice’s incredible work ethic and her passion for gardening and reading, these things in her life were always second to her family.


The most important things to Bernice were her daughter, Sunnie, son-in-law, Bob and her grandchildren, Kim and Raelee and grandson-in-laws, Lloyd and Jeff.


Bernice and Sunnie had a bond that could match no other. From the moment Sunnie was born, Bernice dedicated her life and soul to Sunnie’s happiness and well-being. She was a strong and supportive, yet loving mother.


Sunnie remembers her mother always being there for her, as a child and as an adult.


Sunnie remembers as a child her mother always being even tempered, easy to talk to and always giving and caring.


When Sunnie was a child, her mom would frequently take her to the Aladdin Theater, on the street car, to watch plays. Sunnie remembers the joy she had watching “Cinderella”, “Sleeping Beauty”, “Princess and the Pea” and others with her mother. It is a memory she holds dear today.


Sunnie also remembers when she was in high school that her mother made her crinoline slips in a variety of difference colors. Sunnie remembers her crinoline being fuller and more beautiful than anyone around her. This always made Sunnie feel like a princess and was just one more thing her mother did that made her feel special.


Throughout Sunnie’s life, her mom continued to have a graceful combination of a supportive mother and good friend.


Sunnie remembers countless incidents where her mother was there for her….She provided endless babysitting services for Kim and Raelee, she worked tireless hours at the family restaurant for many years and was always there to pick cherries from the cherry trees, power rake the family yard, help the family each and every time they moved and helped out with other unforeseen events.


Sunnie remembers one 4th of July, after her husband, Bob lit the snake fireworks on the kitchen counter to entertain the kids. Her mom stayed until they were able to clean up the entire mess.


Over the years the bond Sunnie and Bernice developed grew from a mother-daughter relationship into a strong friendship. They were best of friends.


Bernice’s baby sister, Donna has only fond memories.


Bernice was 16 years older than Donna and would take Donna with her everywhere she went. Donna recalls that because of the age difference and the frequency in which Ber took her places, it was almost like she was Ber’s daughter.


Donna remembers the time right after she got married and was moving out of the house with her husband, Al. Donna recalls that the men in the family had moved all the boxes Donna had packed to her and Al’s new residence and just dropped them off and left.


Donna was only 17 years old and had no idea what to do or where to start. Donna called Ber in tears and Ber came over and stayed until her new house became a home.


Donna stated Ber has always been there for her when she was in need and they remained very close throughout the years.


Bernice has also had a few very close friends over the years. Most recently, she became friends with several people at the Mapleton Care Center that included Joyce and Susan, to name a few.


But the closest friend Bernice has had for the longest period of time was the family’s long time family friend, Dodie.


Dodie remembers Ber as a woman who could do it all, she worked really hard at Gates for many years and she had a perfect balance between strength and love with her family.


Dodie describes Ber as one of the last of their generation who didn’t have a dime, but still enjoyed life. In the simplest terms, Dodie says, “Ber was just a Grand Lady…you just can’t say more than that”.


Perhaps the most cherished relationship Bernice had was with her granddaughters. As many of you know, Kim and Raelee will boast to anyone who is willing to listen about what a wonderful grandmother Bernice was. They always have great “Gram stories” to tell and were always expressed with much love.


Kim and Raelee remember seeing their Grandma and Grandpa on a weekly basis during their entire childhood. This included going on mountain drives with their parents for picnics, fishing and finding rocks for Gram’s rock garden.


But some of the most precious memories that Kim and Raelee have is all the weekends they spent at Grandma and Grandpa’s house…going to the park to have stick races down the ditch, making outlines of floor plans with fallen leaves in the backyard and eating lunch in the leaf house, building snowmen and snowwomen in the backyard, eating homemade hot roast beef sandwiches and making cookies with Gram.


Gram was also very big on traditions. Perhaps the most important tradition for Gram was the day after Thanksgiving. She saved all year to take Kim and Raelee downtown on the bus to pick out their Christmas gifts. The day included shopping and going to lunch at the Denver Tea Room, then spending the weekend at her house.


Even when things changed, like the Denver Tea Room going out of business and the atmosphere of downtown changing dramatically, the tradition remained, only the details changed.


Just this past Thanksgiving Kim and Raelee had lunch with Gram at Mapleton the day after Thanksgiving. There was never a year missed.


The day after Thanksgiving was always a special time for Gram, Kim and Raelee and that memory will live throughout the lives of Gram’s granddaughters.


Another important tradition to Bernice was going to the cemetary’s on Memorial Day weekend to decorate the graves of our loved ones. This is a tradition that continues today.


Kim's memories of Gram are so vast and varied, they could fill volumes. While contemplating those memories that are the most vivid, the most endearing, the most special, a few came to mind that really stand out. Kim will share a few with you.


Kim remembers taking the bus downtown with Gram to shop, to go to movies (some of these memories even before Raelee was around!) and having a wonderful day. But one of the biggest highlights of those days would be taking the bus home and making an extra stop at Berg's Candy Store. They made marshmallow candies in the shape of all foods. Oh, the joy and deliberation that went into whether to have the marshmallow hamburger, the marshmallow hot dog, or some marshmallow vegetables. Once the goods were chosen and packed it would be back on the bus as we headed down Broadway eating our treats towards grandma's house. To this day Kim wishes she could visit Berg's to sink her teeth into one of those wonderful confections. Gram would approve.


Another memory that stands out in Kim's mind was playing "button, button, who has the button." We would take an old button (Gram had some beautiful old buttons in tins) and pass it around behind our backs until we stopped and had to guess who had the button. Such a simple game, but we had fun with it. A couple of years ago Gram gave Kim her beautiful Singer sewing machine in its cabinet with the seat and all the accessories. When Kim started going through everything she had received she found some old tins and when she opened them, oh my, all of the old buttons. She opened the tins and dumped all the buttons on the floor and could smell grandma's house and was instantly transported back to another time playing "button, button, who has the button."


Kim's favorite meal that grandma made was flank steak and dressing. It was always the dish of choice for Kim's birthday and Gram knew how to make it perfectly every time. Years later when Kim asked for the recipe she filed it away, scared to make it for fear it wouldn't be like Grams. When Kim finally mustered the courage she made the flank steak and dressing for Grams birthday (it was to be a surprise) and as it was cooking a very familiar aroma filled the house. When Gram walked in the house for her birthday she asked if she smelled flank steak and dressing. Kim's joy was immediate and she knew she hadn't let Gram down and had done her proud. Of course, it wasn't, and will never be as good as Gram’s flank steak but it was close. Kim had a great teacher and Gram enjoyed her birthday lunch tremendously.


There are so many more memories of Gram that Kim could share but sometimes we like to hold those in our hearts because they are our memories and things we hold dear.


Gram enjoyed the simple things in life, marshmallow candies, buttons and flower gardens. That is something Kim strives for. Gram was also the most tolerant, patient, non-judgmental person Kim or Lloyd has ever encountered. She was so accepting of others and would look past the flaws and find some good in everyone. Another trait to strive for. And, she never complained. She always accepted what was handed to her and dealt with it gracefully. In a nut shell, she was an amazing role model. Gram was a very special woman, strong, compassionate, empathetic and generous. We should all strive to live by these traits but should accept that we will fail in that endeavor as Gram's shoes are very large ones to fill.


Raelee has many wonderful memories of Gram that has filled her life.


Raelee remembers going Christmas shopping with Gram on Columbus Day, having years of great memories of the day after Thanksgiving and remembers going to lunch in Wyoming on the train. Raelee remembers and continues to be very appreciative of all the times Gram always helping her move, paint and clean when she was moving from place to place. She remembers coming home to Irish Stew and Pie Crust cookies in her doorway when she was a starving college student and having difficulty making ends meet. There are numerous memories of endless lunches with Gram and having amazing one on one conversations that have made lasting memories.


Gram loved to tell the story about how Raelee used to drive her up to Wyoming to buy illegal fireworks to bring back to Denver. Raelee felt like it was unlikely to get stopped by the police if she had an elderly woman with her in the car. While Gram would laugh about this and point out the silly thinking behind it, Raelee always points out the fact that she and her grandmother never got stopped for smuggling illegal fireworks.


Raelee recounts many stories of decorating graves on Memorial Day weekend over her 49 years, a tradition Raelee continued throughout the years with her grandmother. Although the most important piece of the tradition will be missing next May, it will be a tradition that will continue to live on through Raelee and Jeff.


Raelee is also very grateful for the time she was able to spend with Gram in the last few years. Gram has always been the caretaker to everyone throughout her life and Raelee felt so happy that she could be there for Gram in her time of need. They spent numerous meals together, played Saturday kickball with her at Mapleton and fixed anything in her room that she needed fixing. These are precious memories that Raelee feels so fortunate to have been able to share with her grandmother.


Gram was such a positive influence in Raelee’s life that Raelee attributes her greatest values and the best of who she is to her grandmother. Gram has made her strive to be a better person.


These only touch on a few of the memories Bernice’s granddaughters have of their grandmother, but all their memories are happy ones.


Bernice was also very loving and caring to her grandson-in-laws, Lloyd and Jeff.


Kim's husband Lloyd has many happy memories of Gram as well. He fondly recalls going to her house and getting pots of flowers from her and transplanting them into his own garden. It was always fun watching them come up in the spring and knowing they had come from Gram’s yard. To this day, there are still plants in the garden that came from Grams yard. Now they will hold an even more special place in the garden.


Lloyd also remembers driving to Kansas to spend Christmas and Gram was along for the trip. It was a foggy morning in eastern Colorado and everything was covered in ice. The fences, the trees, the power lines were beautiful. Gram was mesmerized by the beauty of it and continued to marvel at the splendor. Her response, in and of itself, was beautiful. And, on that trip Lloyd marveled at how strong Gram’s bladder was, she never had to stop and pee!


Jeff has been a member of the family for 27 years and only has fond memories of Gram.


Jeff remembers Gram’s love of chocolate. He specifically remembers a time when he, Raelee and Gram went out to dinner. After dinner, Jeff stopped to get some chocolate for Gram for the ride home. Jeff handed her the chocolate and by the time he got into the car, the chocolate was gone. Jeff asked Gram where her chocolate went and Gram said, “I don’t think it’s a good idea to leave chocolate lying around”.


Jeff mowed Gram’s lawn for 15 years. As a token of appreciation Gram would always give Jeff a diet coke and a can of Pringles after the lawn was done. Jeff and Gram would sit on the back porch together and enjoy the newly mowed lawn while eating the snacks. This became a tradition that Jeff and Gram created together. Jeff remembers these special times fondly.


Jeff always saw Gram as a strong, loving, caring person….someone who has a limitless amount of care and compassion for others and he feels blessed to have known her.


All the family and friends remember phrases that Bernice would say that will be with them forever. Raelee refers to these phrases as “Gramisms”. Some “Gramisms” include:


-After a big meal and everything was cleaned up, Bernice would say, “If we weren’t so full, you wouldn’t know we ate”.


-After a meal, if everyone cleaned their plate, Bernice would say, “It’s going to be a clear day tomorrow”.


-When Bernice would joke about her age, she would say, “At my age, I don’t buy green bananas”.


-When Bernice was going to take a quick bath, she would call it a “Ma Bath”. This was apparently a phrase Bernice’s mother used and the family continues to use today.


-Bernice also said, “If you’re not supposed to have it, it wasn’t meant to be”.


Every once in a while someone comes along that possesses all the qualities that come with being an exceptional person. Bernice was one of these people.


She has given the best of herself to those around her, while keeping a level of grace and independence that she could call her own.


Bernice has taught us to remember the important things in life…to remember to love yourself, to have passion in what you do, to accept others for who they are, to lend a helping hand to those in need and most of all to love and cherish the people around you.


Bernice has been an example to all of us to be the people we are designed to be. She was truly an inspiration to those of us who were lucky enough to know her.


“Mrs. Staszak”, “Bernice”, “Ber”, “Bee”, “Mom”, “Gram”….you will be truly missed.



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  1. Grams must have been a very special person to have been loved so much.  Whenever Raelee spoke about her (which was a common occurrence), the love for her grandmother always came though loud and clear.  Raelee, our sincerest sympathies to you and your family.

  2. Shared a lot of stories over the years about this remarkable woman with her granddaughter.  Gram is a class act, and had a great impact on the lives of many people. My sympathy to those she leaves behind. The pain they feel in her loss is a reflection of the love they shared when she was here. The pain will diminish with time, but the love will remain.

  3. Gram was so passionate about life.  Her zest and enthusiasm mixed with her quick wit and sense of humor helped to raise a group of really strong and wonderful women.  My deepest sympathies are with you all and I hope the memory of how wonderful Gram was gives you comfort and peace.

  4. My sincere condolences to your family.  Although I never met Ms. Bernice personally, she sure touched not only mine but others hearts as well from Denver Human Services (Sunnie's former employer).  We reamed the wonderful benefits of her baking year after year!  I always looked forward to her wonderful cookies every Christmas, it was such a treat to us in Financial Services and Child Welfare. I also enjoyed hearing the details of Sunnie's grocery shopping adventures and visits with her Mom the following Monday's at work. Sunnie, my deepest sympathy and prayers to you and your family.  I know how much she meant to everyone.  (hugs)  Sheila

  5. There is so much I'd like to say about Bernice it will be hard to limit my words, but I will try.  Bernice's family was the most important thing to her and her love was apparent.  My last visit with her was three days before she passed away.  While I was with her she selected gifts to give her family for Christmas and it was important to her to choose things she thought they would like.  During my visit that day she also showed how she thought of others.  Ignoring her own problems she asked me, as she always did, about specific things she knew were going on in my life.  

    Bernice had the ability to laugh at herself for being a "worry wart", as she put it, but I think her worrying lead to some terrific planning which helped her to live such a long and happy life.  I miss her now and will continue to miss her.  When I would leave Bernice each time I visited she would hug me, thank me for coming, and say, "I love you; you'll never know how much."  Those words will remain with me and I felt the same for her.  I hope that I can live my life with half the grace and gratitude with which she lived hers.

  6. My sincere thoughts and prayers go out to this family. Much like Sheila from DHS, I also reaped the benefits of the Christmas cookies each year. Sunnie & Family, May God Bless your family and guide Bernice home. Much love from the Robledo Family.

  7. I knew Bernice when I lived in Englewood, CO from 1980-1986. She lived next door to my then mother-in-law and father-in-law JoAnn and Rick West on Sherman Street. I will always remember what a happy, hard-working woman she was and seeing her work in her beautiful backyard and talking with her over the fence. She had made an impression on me and was such a loving and special person and I've thought about her all these years. I am sorry to hear of her passing and sending my heartfelt condolences to her family. May all of your memories bring you comfort. Her presence will be lost on Earth but Heaven has gained a wonderful angel to watch over her loved ones.

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