On January 11th, five days before his 97th birthday, Bernie passed away peacefully at 504 Selkirk Street in Outlook, SK, his home for the last 56 years.
Born in 1924 in Orenburg, Russia, Bernie immigrated to Canada with his parents and two older brothers in 1926. They settled near Watrous, Saskatchewan, raising livestock and chickens and growing vegetables. Bernie completed his high schooling at Rosthern Junior College in 1941. He worked on the family farm for a few years to pay for his university education. During that time, he acted as the chief carpenter, plumber and electrician for a new home for the family, which by this time also included four younger sisters.
Bernie studied for two years at the University of Saskatchewan's School of Medical Sciences starting in 1949 before transitioning to the University of Alberta. After graduating with his Doctor of Medicine degree in 1953, he interned at Saskatoon City Hospital. He locumed in Turtleford and Borden before embarking on a solo medical practice in Delisle. During his 10-year tenure in Delisle, he married a beautiful nurse named Shirley Copeland and welcomed the birth of three daughters. Two more daughters and a son were added to the Neufeld family following a 1964 move to Outlook to join a group practice. Over the next 26 years, as a general practitioner, Bernie served the town and surrounding area at Outlook Memorial Hospital and the new Outlook Medical Clinic. He made house calls, assumed frequent "on call" duties, performed minor surgeries, administered anaesthesia, delivered babies (including two of his own), hosted and trained interns, acted as coroner, and went on ambulance calls.
Retirement in June 1990 allowed him to focus more on his hobbies and his growing number of grandchildren, who called him "Pops". His lifestyle and pastimes were shaped by his early years of growing up on the farm during the Depression. He loved gardening, and the fruits (and vegetables) of his labour even more. Many have admired the beautifully manicured yard where he spent many tireless hours. He also continued to pursue carpentry as a hobby, creating many custom furniture pieces for his children and grandchildren.
Bernie was a firm believer in the "reduce, reuse, recycle" philosophy long before it became popular. He brought home many things that were otherwise destined for disposal, such as old metal and wood from buildings being torn down around town. His creative and practical mind then turned many of these into useful items. For example, he refashioned an old hospital operating table into a welding table for his workshop. To the delight of his grandkids, he also built a zip line across the yard using his daughter's old pogo stick. He was the most talented "Mr. Fix-it", always finding, from his amazingly diverse supply of "stuff", the perfect piece needed for the repair. And he refused to admit something couldn't be done until he'd exhausted all possibilities, which usually meant that he found a way.
Family camping trips were always a highlight of the summer, with motorhome trips to both west and east coasts of Canada as well as down into the USA. A big adventure for Bernie and Shirley occurred in the fall of 1994 when they visited their daughter and family in Japan.
Within town limits, Bernie eschewed motorized vehicles, opting for bipedal power instead. Groceries were hauled from downtown on the back of his trusty bicycle in the summer, with a sled serving the same purpose in the winter. From flooding the large garden for a skating rink, playing tennis, joining his children in swimming across an inlet of Diefenbaker Lake, playing defence for the RCMP hockey team, to literally running to the hospital in response to a call, Bernie was often on the move. He maintained an active lifestyle even as his age advanced. Into his 80's he participated in round trip bike rides to Broderick and long walks with Shirley. At age 91, he asked his grandson and son-in-law to hold the ladder while he climbed over 20 feet to top some branches off a wind-damaged spruce tree, while his wife and daughter, who were sure to disapprove, were otherwise occupied.
With a quiet yet firm faith in God, Bernie was a spiritual leader in his family as well as active for many years in Delisle Community Chapel and Outlook Alliance Church. He was involved in building projects in both places, served as an elder, and led adult and youth Sunday School classes.
Left to cherish Bernie's memory are: his loving wife of 61 years, Shirley (nee Copeland); his family: Lois (Paul) Spate and daughter, Sara (Brent) Remyn; Sharon (Garry) Bruce and family, Kayla (Carl) Unger (Wesley), Chantal, Nicholas, and Joshua; Arlene (Todd) Sojonky and family, Jacob, Misha, and Tia; Carol Love and family, Andrew, Jonathan, Joel, and Emily; Ruth (Rick) Peters and son, Gage; and Ken Neufeld; sisters, Annie Wiebe, Hertha Neufeld, and Joyce (Alvin) Shortt; sister-in-law, Edith Guyot; and numerous nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his parents, Dietrich and Sara Neufeld; his brothers, Richard (Tina) and John (Betty); his sister, Sarah (Reuben) Harms; and brother-in-law, Peter Wiebe. A private family funeral service will be held on January 18 with the interment at the Outlook Cemetery. Memorial donations may be made to a charity of one's choice.
Published in The Outlook from Jan. 21 to Feb. 28, 2021.