Ted Beirdneau Bernhisel|
1921 ~ 2013
Ted Beirdneau Bernhisel, known affectionally by so many as "Doctor B" and "Grandpa Ted" passed away of natural causes after a brief but steep demise at the end of a long life, on September 2, 2013. He was 92 years old.
Born on April 30, 1921, to Fay Harris Bernhisel and Marie America Beirdneau, in Lewiston, Utah, Ted recalls growing up in the small Northern Utah farming community as having been surrounded by towering mountains, fields of sugar beets, and cows. He attended North Cache High School, graduated with a BS in Chemistry from Utah State University, and was elected to the honor societies, Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi, and Alpha Epsilon Delta. He entered medical school during World War II receiving a uniform to wear on opening day as Private First Class. He graduated from the University of Utah School of Medicine in 1946. Ted was the great grandson of the first physician in Utah, Dr. John Milton Bernhisel.
As a young intern at Dee Hospital, Ted stumbled across the beauty who would become the love of his life as she received care for a leg she fractured ski racing. Maxine's recollection of their first meeting was particularly humorous. But Ted was charming, and after a whirlwind romance he and Maxine Hedges were married on the day after Christmas, 1947.
In the early years of marriage, Ted and Maxine moved several times; Chicago for his internship at Cook County Medical Center, to SLC for residency in Internal Medicine at the VA, and to both Ft. McClellan and Ft. Leonard Wood during periods when Ted was activated and served in the National Guard's 144th EVAC Hospital, where he rose to the rank of Colonel and company commander. Later, Ted joined the Intermountain Clinic and established a respected and successful practice. While on staff at LDS hospital he read EKGs into his 80s.
Ted was famous for a cluttered desk once mistaken by the police as the ransacked target of a clinic break-in. He was quick to tear off a sheet of exam table paper to sketch a hiking route or point out how to find his middle-name sake Beirdneau peak on the Cache Valley Skyline. He was revered for his wonderful connection with his patients, the respect and dignity he treated them with, and the life-long friendships wrought.
Ted had a remarkable, savant-like memory for detail. He would often ask if anyone remembered what had happened on that given day, a particular number of years ago. Most struggled to even guess, but he knew. This often sat in amusing contrast to the recollections and stories of Maxine, which certainly gained in drama and color what they lost in fact.
Ted's mind was strong, but his heart was stronger. Literally hundreds of times in the years since Maxine passed away, even when otherwise completely lucid he would ask what time she was coming home or whether dinner out with Maxine and the girls was planned. Once, when told she was deceased yet again, he sat down on the porch and marveled aloud that try as he might he simply could not force his brain to accept the concept that Maxine was gone. It was a beautiful moment.
They were a beautiful couple. They traveled together to many, wonderful places and had lives filled with adventure. They loved to ski, hike, play bridge, and tennis and to be together with their ever expanding but closely connected family. With a group of bridge-playing friends they formed Irresponsible Associates, bought some land years ago, and built a cabin on Bear Lake that continues to be beloved.
Ted loved sports. He began listening to the Chicago Cubs by radio as a child. He was a good athlete, talented enough to be offered a try-out for a semi pro baseball team while in medical school, winner of numerous horseshoe throwing competitions and the proud holder of a season ski pass into his 80's. He also loved sports as a spectator, attending and cheering for the Utes, except when they were playing the Aggies. In recent years he watched more and more sports on TV, and though content to do so alone it was obvious that what he really enjoyed was when someone pulled up a chair and watched together with him. Also obvious, from the volume on the TV set and whether one could hear the game from the driveway was whether his hearing aids were in or not.
Ted was never a very demanding guy. He loved Utah sweet corn on the cob but tried his best to avoid cucumbers and most greens. He was best off when things did not require assembly. His famous line proclaiming a dumpy motel room "clean but not fancy" pretty well sums up the fact that he was easy going and not too hard to satisfy. He was good at going with the flow, which was good because Maxine created flow, and he enjoyed the ride.
We will all remember Ted's handful of favorite phrases and his lighting-quick wit. He was funny. For example on arrivals, he could be counted on for "this is the place, said Brigham". Just last Friday he won a final game of "Touched you Last" with one of his grandsons by somehow conjuring up a truly amazing burst of hand speed. Ted lived an amazing, full life, likely with very few regrets. He was happy at home, happy in his rose garden, happy with a bowl of chowder, and happiest of all with Maxine at his side. He taught his children, by example, the importance of commitment, hard work, family, and love. Ted our thanks to you, "keep your weight on the downhill ski".
Ted was preceded in death by his parents; wife Maxine; sister Betty Wilson; grandsons Jonathan Osborn and Andrew Eixenberger. He is survived by their children Suzanne (Daniel) Allred, Kristin (Dean) Osborn, Kurt (Betsy) Bernhisel, Jan (Ken) Bernhisel-Broadbent, Lisa (Bob) Eixenberger. They have 14 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. Also survived by siblings Harry (Bethine) Bernhisel, Virginia and Jay (Janet).
Services will be held on at 11:00 am on Monday, September 9, 2013 at the First Presbyterian Church, 12 "C" Street South Temple, Salt Lake City. Interment will be at 5:00 pm at Lewiston Utah City Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests a donation be made to the John A. Moran Eye Center with a memo requesting interest in the Maxine H. Bernhisel Memorial Fund for International Ophthalmology. Please send to Bernhisel, 2740 Wilshire Drive, Salt Lake City, Utah 84109
Online condolences may be offered to the family at www.starksfuneral.com
Published in Salt Lake Tribune from Sept. 6 to Sept. 8, 2013