Loving wife, mother, daughter, sister, auntie and friend Bernice Marie Hildebrand Joseph passed away Jan. 7, 2014.
She was born March 12, 1964, in Tanana and raised in Nulato. Bernice graduated from Monroe Catholic High School, obtained a bachelor's and a master's degree from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and was working on her Ph.D, from the University of South Australia Adelaide. Bernice retired from UAF in May 2013.
She loved her hometown of Nulato very much; she and Stewart built a cabin where her family could spend precious time with her extended family and continue to participate in activities she was raised doing and loved. One of her most cherished highlights was fishing alongside her grandfather, Eddie Hildebrand, along the Yukon River for king salmon. She loved to visit Kaiyuh with her family and friends.
Bernice's tireless dedication to the education of our indigenous people was a passion of hers, one she was successful in accomplishing. Many of those who worked with her admired the energy she brought to every thing she did.
A typical day found Bernice outside partaking in activities such as berry picking, gathering smoke wood, fishing or running up the hill of Nulato. From a very young age, Bernice chose to live a healthy lifestyle; she was an avid runner and accomplished athlete, participating in events such as the Fairbanks Equinox, Race of the Torch, Midnight Sun Run and the circuit of village races with her husband by her side.
She lived a traditional lifestyle of fishing and hunting, while seamlessly blending her traditional ways of life with the western ways. Her cultural knowledge and heritage was the foundation for advancement of her western education. Bernice always consulted respected community members in whichever region she was in before addressing the local community. She willingly shared her knowledge and wisdom with all who crossed her path.
"Belly laughs are good for the soul." Oftentimes, her friends found her in a crowd by her infectious laughter. She fully embraced life - dancing, music, sharing stories and traveling. She was a firm believer that you could achieve anything you put your mind to; any goal was attainable.
Bernice is survived by the love of her life, Stewart Joseph Sr.; her beautiful children, Alice and Derek; her mother, Edith, and stepfather, Victor Nicholas, and mother-in-law, Jenny Joseph; siblings, Kathleen Meckel, Bernard Hildebrand Sr., Victoria Hildebrand, Darrell Hildebrand, Rodney Hildebrand, Kristy Malamute and Bev Kokrine; grandparents, Eddie Hildebrand and Annie Hildebrand, and grandmother, Rita Esmailka; along with numerous aunts, uncles, cherished nieces and nephews.
She is preceded in death by her grandmother, Alice Hildebrand; father, Barney Hildebrand, and her son, Stewart Joseph Jr.
There will be a celebration of life from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. today at Chief David Salmon Tribal Hall. Immediately after, the family will fly her home to Nulato, and services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at the hall, burial following. Bernice will be laid to rest beside her son, Stewy.
Published by Daily News-Miner on Jan. 9, 2014.