Bernice Connors

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Sunrise: November 27, 1917

Sunset: June 7, 2014

On Saturday, June 7, 2014 our remarkable Mother, Mom, Momma and Nani took flight with the angel wings she had so respectably earned over the 96 1/2 years of living on this beautiful planet and in the paradise she so loved, Carpinteria.

Mom was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois by her adored parents William and Harriet Slavinskas (deceased) and accompanied by her younger brother Bill (deceased). Considering growing up in the era of the Great Depression, our Mom's life was considered "good" by many; because, her father was a commercial landlord.  Although, our grandfather had to supply the coal to heat the homes of his tenants, there was always food on the table. Mom's story of her childhood was always of gratitude and how blessed she was, while others were not so fortunate. This mantra replayed over and over in our Mothers mind and this respectful attitude is what clearly defined her.

Our Mom found her 66 year partner in life, Francis "Franko" Connors after he begged her to please go out on a date with him. Our Mom was reluctant, since not only would our father be dating her, he would be embracing a beautiful four year old daughter named Barbara Jean from a previous marriage. One glance at the two beauties and Frank was smitten and sold. Our parents married on October 16, 1948.

Once our father was blessed with his new found family, love was in the air and Gail Frances was born February 28, 1951 in Chicago, Illinois. Chicago was a safe place, filled with many friends and family; but, our Mom had a pioneering spirit, and California beckoned. The clan moved from Chicago to California several times before finally sinking their toes into the intoxicating blue Pacific for good in 1955.

Mom and Dad, with their new family settled in Van Nuys, California. They purchased their first home in the late fifties, quickly embracing new surroundings and new friends. Soon, their home was alive with weekly Pinochle parties, Frank Sinatra crooning on the HiFi and dry Martini's being sipped (shaken not stirred). Quite often, impromptu Bossa Nova dancing would erupt and the party was on! Life was good - and on February 18, 1957 Debra Anne joined the family.

Desperately needing a larger place to live, our Mother, always the most forward thinking person, found her "Dream Home" in 1963. This "Dream Home" was quite the stretch beyond their modest means, but Mom was determined to make it her home...and that mission was accomplished. Mom made the home we inhabited, her castle and it was a "Better Homes and Garden" statement. Martha Stewart had nothing on our Mother. Mom's rose garden produced specimens that the Rose Society held in high esteem. The Dichondra lawn was the envy of the neighborhood, as was her meticulously painted house (yep, she painted it) and her regularly scrubbed sidewalks, and that was just the outside.

Almost every drapery and piece of upholstered furniture was precisely sewn by this incredibly talented seamstress. Homecoming Princess nomination? Prom date? Academy Awards invite? No problem! Our mother would whip up amazing fashion couture gowns sewing late into the evening, all this, after working all day at her own hair styling business and maintaining her impeccable home. Not only could our Mother garden like a Master Gardener, design and sew like Chanel, entertain like Martha Stewart and run a business Donald Trump would like to emulate, our Mom could also put the "F" in Fun. Had "Dancing with the Stars" been popular at the time, we are pretty confident Mom would have won the coveted "Mirror Ball Trophy" with her Cha Cha Cha skills...move over Shakira, Bea's hips didn't lie. As soon as Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass blasted, all hell was on fire! You see, our Mom always found a reason to be happy and positive, it was this attitude that needed to be bottled, nothing brought this woman down.

After all that has been said about her extraordinary talents, we haven't even touched on her culinary skills. We always wondered if our Mom was the witch on the TV show "Bewitched"; because, Mom could turn a seemingly empty refrigerator into a meal fit for a king...her Thanksgiving feasts were legendary, her spaghetti and meatballs were Food Network worthy and her lasagne, oh yes, her lasagna.  We all have the recipe, but it never quite gets replicated like Nani's, pretty sure it's the "Love" seasoning missing. We will never forget mom's command to "Valgyti" it will forever be embedded in our memory.

Our Mother was not formally educated. We found out later in life that she did not complete high school, but that didn't matter, because in our eyes, Mom had completed her post doctorate. Mom had an incredible sense of ingenuity, a solid sense of justice, impeccable native and emotional intelligence, advanced creative sensibility, culinary genius and was a passionate humanitarian. Oh, and did I mention the endless energy and determination of an Energizer Bunny? Yep, our Mother gave and gave and never asked for anything in return. Even in her final days, we would ask her, "are you ok?" Her response would always be the same. "I am fine". Everyone wanted her approval, her reassuring embrace, her warm smile and her insisting support. Mom never allowed you to be sick, or, god forbid, sad - because sick and sad were simply words that were not in this women's vocabulary. Her grandchildren will always recall with fondness her "Gold Stars" because, if you got emblazoned with that "licked thumb", you were beaming for the rest of the day.

Our Mother. Mom, Momma, Nani left us, and it is difficult to summarize the impact she had on all our lives. Her generous spirit, her classy demeanor, her incredible work ethic and her ability to entertain in a heartbeat were all awe-inspiring. No one can ever wear her ruby slippers quite the way our Mother and Nani wore them. No one can replace this much loved and adored role model.

Our Mother was so blessed to have the incredible care and love from Leslie Pulido Saenz, Letty Pulido, Vilma Urbina, Mhynda Paxson, Nancy Madrid, Anita Pulido, Jaime Ricks, Kathy de Alba, and Andrea Bermudez.

Our mother leaves behind her "Hubby", our father, Frank. Her daughters, Barbara Werger, Gail Goldberg (Steven) and Debra Ploch (Thomas). Her beloved grand babies Alison Werger (Galen), Maegan and Hayden Goldberg, Hunter and Holden Ploch and her sweet dog Zacky.

In honor of our incredible Mother, plant a delicious garden, nurture a glorious flower bloom, feed a stray animal and prepare a beautiful feast with all your heart, so you can share it with everyone you love.

Mom, we know you are in South America doing the Cha Cha with your beautifully coiffed hair, vibrant smile and toasting to a life well lived and respected. Go Mom! You so deserve it! Forever in our hearts! Love you Forever!

" In My Life I Love You More"

Published in The Santa Barbara News-Press Online Edition from July 6 to July 10, 2014
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