Bernadine L. “Bernie” Gerfen, 97, of Livingston, Montana passed away peacefully on Thursday, June 7th, 2018. A private family burial will take place at Mountain View Cemetery. A memorial service will be held 11:00 A.M. on Saturday, June 23, at the Franzen-Davis Funeral Home, 118 North 3rd St., Livingston. A reception will follow the service at the Livingston- Park County Library in the Bev Steveson Meeting Room.
Bernadine Lee Hunt was born on March 23, 1921, to Forest Earl Hunt and Rosalie Tudor Hunt in the town of Alton, Illinois. She enjoyed being a much-loved granddaughter and niece of two large families and life was wonderful until her mother died of pneumonia and was buried on her 7th birthday. Two of her father’s sisters from Alton took turns caring for her and her brother Billy, who was approximately 5 years younger than Bernie. Even when the family moved to Baytown, Texas, 6 months later, the sisters took turns caring for the children.
Her family lived in Baytown, Texas, for almost five years. Forest worked as an engineer at the Humble Oil Refinery, and when he came home, they enjoyed boating on the bayous and bays along the Gulf Coast near Baytown.
At the age of twelve, she and her family, which now included a new stepmother and two step-brothers, moved to Lynwood, California. Her father opened an engineering office and designed and created numerous tools for the oil industry. Bernie became involved with the Methodist Church, making many friends with the young people there, including Henry (Hank) Gerfen. He was 16 years old and she was 12 when they met at church camp. He always said that when he met Bernie that he knew that he had met the girl that he was going to marry.
Bernie was a top tennis player in high school and her first year of college. In addition, her father’s love for boating brought them many pleasant hours of sailing along the coast of California and included trips to Catalina.
Hank and Bernie married on August 31, 1940, in Las Vegas, Nevada, and they resided in Lynwood. When the war began, Hank went to work in the shipbuilding industry. They bought the first of their many businesses, a motel, which Bernie operated. Hank suffered from the effects of rheumatic fever and was not eligible for service during the war.
Their first child, which was to be a boy, was born in September 1941. They named her Judith Marion. Their second child, which was to be a boy, was born in August 1946. They named her Virginia Rosalie. Hank realized that he would not have a son to mentor in boy scouts. Bernie realized that she would have a lot of fun making lovely clothes for their daughters.
In 1947, they chose to move to the small town of Bishop, California, where they bought several businesses and raised their family. Bernie was involved in school and church activities as well as working very hard in their businesses. She did, indeed, love making clothes for her daughters and taught them to make their own as they became old enough to do so. She also loved gardening and had a rose garden that was the envy of the neighborhood. The family loved exploring in nearby Yosemite and the high Sierra Mountains. Death Valley provided a destination in the winters and many forays were made to distant Los Angeles shopping centers. Many Christmas vacations saw the family on trips to Mexico where everyone enjoyed practicing their Spanish and seeing the sights. Eventually, they travelled to every state in Mexico.
When the family was raised, they began looking for property in Montana. In the late 1960’s, they bought the ranch east of Livingston, but did not move to Montana until 1980. A home was built on the ranch and this is where Bernie has lived ever since. Hank died in 1991.
Bernie has enjoyed the love and friendship of many people in Livingston. She attended Grace Methodist Church and became a member of the P.E.O sisterhood, serving as president three times. She served on the Board of Directors of Sky Federal Credit Union. She was also on the Board of Directors of Livingston Health Care while they were planning the new hospital. At 90, she retired from these positions. She regularly enjoyed lunch with her friends at the Rib and Chop House; she had a favorite corner table and was gifted with a special teapot. She was a surrogate mother and grandmother for many of her friends and their children. She felt that she needed younger friends, because she was outliving her older ones.
Bernie is survived by her daughter, Judy Clark, and son-in-law, Ron Clark, their son, Steve Clark, and their daughter, Cindy Brooks (husband, Eric Brooks), and children, Jack and Liam; she is also survived by her daughter, Virginia Mueller, her son, Michael Gorton (wife, Julia Keffer), and children, Henry and Julius Gorton, and her son, David Gorton (wife, Rebecca Gorton), and their son, Christian, and daughter, Olivia. Bernie has several nieces and nephews. Amazingly enough, she is also survived by her uncle, James Minor Hunt, who is approximately 6 weeks older.
We are going to miss our mother. She was a special person, a real lady, and so full of love for people and the world.
Memorials are preferred to Montana Cottey College Scholarships, checks should be made out to: MSC P.E.O. and mailed to: Chapter Treasurer, Pauline Nygaard, 333 S Central Ave, Cut Bank, MT 59427, in memory of Bernie Gerfen.
Arrangements are under the care of Franzen-Davis Funeral Home and Crematory in Livingston.