On the evening of Saturday, September 27, 2014, Joan Bernowich passed away at the Kansas Christian Home in Newton. She was 89 years old.
She was born September 23, 1925 in Newton, Kansas where she was raised. She lived there all her life.
Her parents were Jesse and Lottie Tanner. Her father worked for the Fred Harvey Laundry before retiring from Wichita Boeing.
She is one of eleven girls, no boys. Her only surviving sister is Darleen Morris. Joan is preceded in death by her parents; two of her grandchildren, Ann Marie Altum Schmidt and Jerrod Schmitz; and nine of her sisters, Ethel Kackley, Juanita Proulx, Dorothy Schmidt, Doris Krieg, Genevieve Pierce, Bonnie Kirk, Jessie Schroeder, Virginia Greenfeather, and Judy Hartley.
Joan attended the Newton school district all the way through high school. She was a member of the marching band and played the snare drum. This was where her talent for rhythm found a voice until she started dancing. In a way, she was dancing right up till almost the end.
Her first husband William Hoffman, Jr. was killed in World War II on the Anzio Beach head on March 28, 1944. She had one daughter with him, Peggy Altum.
Joan met Vincent Bernowich while he was on leave. His unit came from Salina. Their meeting and time together was brief. Whenever they were on the dance floor everyone stepped back to let them dance. They did it fast and slow, from waltz to jitterbug. Her sense of rhythm never faltered.
While he was deployed during World War II they wrote letters back and forth and it was this medium that he proposed to her. They took little Peggy and went to New York City where his family was to get married on September 16, 1945.
Returning to Newton where Vincent eventually adopted Peggy, they had two more daughters Vikki Walton and Terry Schmitz.
For a few years Joan worked for Dillons then for Safeway in the meat department. She held her own with the boys and through cutting and handling the slabs of meat she became deceptively strong that served her many years later.
Her time with Safeway came to an end when she decided to become a stay at home mom and wife.
She took the time she had to volunteer for different things. She was actively involved with groups from St. Mary’s Catholic Church, the Daughters of Isabella, and the Altar Society, and even helped take classes on field trips.
As part of her involvement with the Daughters of Isabella she started inserting ads into the local circulation from the Newton Kansan. She was crucial to the operation from the beginning. She helped to call and coral volunteers. She was constantly moving around the room lifting and transporting heavy stacks of ads and papers both empty and inserted. Even when the Daughters of Isabella stopped inserting, the Newton Kansan called upon her to use her knowledge of the church and the community to bring in more volunteers to continue inserting. This lasted for over 30 years until the process was moved to McPherson, Kansas.
Joan was active in government events and campaigned for local public office. Although she didn’t win she stayed active. She even organized a rally for Desert Storm in front of the Harvey County Courthouse. She was a constant supporter and voice for the local police/fire/EMS workers. She was even supportive of the trash service by giving the workers things like cans of pop and ice cream as they came along the street to collect trash.
She was recognized locally for her volunteer efforts, first with the Giving Your Best award in May 2001 from Channel 12. Then a few years later the Kansan recognized her as the Woman of the Year for 2006.
Vincent worked for the City Service Oil Company. He developed lung cancer and passed away on November 10, 1989. She lived alone in their town house for a couple years before she moved in with her daughter Terry and her husband Jerome Schmitz and their four boys Jason, Darren, Chad, and Tristan. This was in September of 1991. She lived there until recently helping with day to day operations in the house from cleaning, laundry, cooking, and even grocery shopping.
She ended up having bypass surgery and a pacemaker put in, which allowed her to continue going at a pace she was accustomed. She was on her third pacemaker when things started to take a downturn in May of 2014.
They discovered she had severe blockages in the arteries in her neck and in her legs as well where they progressed to a point beyond which they could help or alleviate the situations. The bypasses that she had closed up, along with a leaky heart valve putting a stint in close to the heart was the only option the doctor had for her. They recommended a temporary stay in Kansas Christian Home to build her strength up for the surgery.
Through it all Joan managed to help those advancing in age get to appointments and run errands, most of which held residence at the Kansas Christian Home. Through her constant visits for these people and her sister who held residence there she got to know the nurses and staff there very well. She knew she was in good hands when going there.
After being there for a few days she had a stroke and was taken St. Francis Hospital in Wichita where she had four seizures. After about a week, she was sent back to Kansas Christian Home. Once there, she decided she wanted to get back to one of her favorite hobbies and social activities playing bingo at either the V.F.W. or the American Legion.
Eventually, the blockages became too much for to her to continue activities life bingo. She enjoyed a small birthday celebration with some close friends and family. Shortly afterwards, she slipped into a coma that would last about five days where she finally left this Earth for a better place.
Joan is survived by her three daughters Peggy Altum of Newton, Vikki (Robert) Walton of Gallatin, Mo., Terry (Jerry) Schmitz of Newton; sister Darleen Morris of Newton; nine grandchildren; seven great grandchildren; ten step-great grandchildren; along with many nieces and nephews.
Friends may call at the funeral home Thursday 1pm til 8pm, and Friday after 9am where the family will receive friends between 5 and 7, prior to the Rosary.
The Recitation of the Holy Rosary will be said at 7:00 P.M., Friday (October 3, 2014) at the Broadway Colonial Funeral Home
Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10:30 A.M., Saturday (October 4, 2014) at St. Mary’s Catholic Church. Interment will be in St. Mary’s Cemetery.
A memorial has been established with St. Mary's Catholic Church and Harry Hynes Memorial Hospice, contributions may be sent to the funeral home.
Arrangements are by Broadway Colonial Funeral Home, Newton.