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National Kidney Foundation
Life Story / Obituary
A selfless man who placed the needs of others before his own, Bernie Bacon was a well loved husband, father, grandfather, and friend. It brought him great joy to be there for his family and good friends with a helping hand. With his big personality, Bernie was not easily forgotten by anyone who came his way. In the hearts of those who knew him best, he was thoughtful, fun-loving and outgoing, all rolled into one special man. Although life without Bernie will never be the same, his memory lives on.
Bernie’s story began at a time when families began thriving and experiencing the American dream. The end of the Korean War, more and more families were moving their lifestyles to the suburbs all while enjoying an age of innocence. By 1953, local unions gathered strength in numbers in the work force while many advances were made in the field of medicine. It was an exciting year altogether, especially for Allen and Lillian (May) Bacon of Grand Rapids, Michigan when on February 15, 1953, they welcomed the birth of their son, Bernard Allen Bacon into their arms.
Bernie was the youngest of four and grew up with his three older sisters. With a ten year age gap between him and his eldest sister, needless to say, Bernie was always spoiled. His father worked as a local butcher while his mother remained at home as a homemaker. His family made their home on the on NW side of Grand Rapids on Hamilton Street NW. Bernie grew up quite poor and times were a struggle for the Bacon family. He slept on a cot, and didn’t have his own room in their small house. Despite the hardships, they shared numerous memories as a family and Bernie enjoyed a childhood of his generation, enjoying boyhood adventures with neighborhood friends.
Bernie went to the area schools and attended Union High School where he was involved with yearbook and ROTC. He acquired pretty good grades and didn’t have to study much. From an early age, he had the drive to be his own man and the initiative to make his own way in life. During his early teens be began working alongside his father at Farmer Pete’s Market as a meat cutter, and later driving truck all while attending to his studies. In his youth he took an interest in cars and motorcycles, but his attention soon turned in another direction when he met a pretty young girl by the name of Geraldine May.
They had a similar friend group, some of which were Geraldine’s cousins. She and Bernie had an immediate, strong attraction, and started dating. On May 10, 1975, they were happily married at St Francis Church. Together they spent a memorable honeymoon at Niagara Falls, although they didn’t take in the tours of the Falls as Geraldine purchased so many souvenirs, they didn’t dare leave them unattended on the bus!
The newlyweds rented a home and later built a house in Walker. Bernie supported his new bride working at a meat house while Geraldine worked at the Meijer Warehouse. Before long they were blessed with the births of two fine sons. Allen came along in 1976, and Bernie completed their family in 1979. An attentive and loving father, Bernie was always there for his boys.
Bernie was always showing them how to build or fix things. He was big into home improvement, and liked anything to do with taking apart engines, or plumbing and electrical tasks. They learned well from their father as Bernie led by way of example. Later in life he reveled observing his sons doing those very tasks as the “foreman”. Bernie loved technology and anything to do with it. He was always upgrading phones, tablets, and the TV to the latest and greatest, even if Geraldine had to learn time and time again a new apparatus! In fact, their entire house was set up with Alexa, and other wireless gadgets.
Bernie was present in the lives of his family. He was sure to be at the boys sporting events and never hesitated taking them to Tigers, Lions and Griffins games. Later when he came to own his own gas station at Alger and Eastern, he always had treats for the boys and their friends with plenty of pop and chips to go around. Whenever he participated in Allen and Bernie’s field trips, he came well stocked with snacks. When Bernie took on his own snowplow business, on occasion he’d take the boys with him. This often meant very early morning hours and the boys liked to sleep in, but they always looked forward to breakfast together at Denny’s. Bernie put the boys to work at his gas station pricing candy but they found their way a time or two playing roller hockey in the back service bay. When his youngest was little, Bernie gave him the task of running video cable through the ceiling of the station as he was small and light enough to get-up into the ceiling for the security system.
A hard working man, Bernie was conscientious about doing quality work. Later, he would go on to own storage units in Coopersville. He liked being his own boss, and the flexibility and freedom to do what he wanted and when he wanted, which offered him valuable time with family.
Despite the early struggles in his life, Bernie was living the American Dream. He built himself a nice life with hard work, determination and perseverance. When he and Geraldine acquired a cottage on Hess Lake, the boys always welcomed friends. Their home also had a pool which was filled with the boys and their friends during the warm months of summer. It was Bernie’s dream to own a Cadillac, and one day that dream was realized when he bought a new Cadillac Escalade. He liked having new cars, and when the warranty ran out, it was time to buy a new one!
In his free time, Bernie’s favorite thing to do was spending time at the casino. He was also into video poker. Playing card games made for great times, too, like Hand and Foot, Setback, and when the kids and grandkids were around, they played Showdown. While he always encouraged the kids to win, Bernie wasn’t afraid to beat them because in his mind, “a card laid was a card played“!
Bernie and Geraldine enjoyed much together and they both liked traveling, especially to Las Vegas or the local casinos. Treasured times were enjoyed when they took their sons and their families to Cedar Point where, like a kid himself, Bernie had a blast with the kids. He and Geraldine loved taking in the latest movies at the theater, and dining out was usual for them as neither of them liked cooking. They frequented Red Lobster, but twice a year, Bernie got out the pans to make a delicious ham and his specialty, homemade mac and cheese which the grandkids loved. Bernie’s sweet tooth for his love of cheesecake and chocolate candy never waned, and his pockets were always filled with candy, and his grandkids knew it!
When it came to music, Bernie liked the sounds of country and was recently fond of Blake Shelton and Trace Atkins. He liked watching the reality shows on TV such as Cops, Judge Judy, Deadliest Catch, and Alaska – The Last Frontier. Even though he didn’t drink, Bernie liked collecting beer steins, and over the years he helped his boys collect baseball cards.
As his health declined over the years, Bernie’s family was convinced he used up all of his nine lives but he seemed to always bounce back to some degree. Bernie was a fighter and did his best to keep himself going for the sake of the family he adored and loved. Regardless of how he felt, each day he made it a point of getting up and getting out of the house to check on work and getting to one of his favorite places to eat.
With his sense of work ethic, Bernie knew the meaning of pressing on. He was fair and lived with integrity, and went out of his way to help others. A wonderful and kind man, family was the absolute center of his life, and in them he found his greatest joy. With his larger than life personality, Bernie loved the gift of laughter. He was always happy and had a ready smile, and his lovingly sarcastic nature was one of the many things that drew others to his side. Although Bernie died somewhat unexpectedly, with ways all his own, his memory will forever remain with those he touched and loved. Gone yet never to be forgotten, he will be deeply missed.
Mr. Bernard Allen Bacon, age 68, of Coopersville, died on April 16, 2021. He was preceded in death by his parents, Allen (Lillian) Bacon and sisters, Janice Martin and Joanne Bacon. Bernie is survived by Geraldine, his wife of 46 years; sons, Allen (Jennifer) Bacon and Bernie (Angel) Bacon; grandchildren, Mckenna, Elyse, Jax, Elijah, and Aurelia. Also surviving is his sister, Judy (Joseph) Budzynski; brothers-in-law, Joe Martin, Joe (Mary) May and Bob (Kay) May; sisters-in-law, Mary Ann (Dave) Sciamanna, Linda May, and Carol May; and many nieces and nephews. A private family service will take place due to COVID restrictions. Contributions in his memory may be made to National Kidney Foundation. Please visit www.heritagelifestory.com to read Bernie’s life story, share a favorite memory, photo and to sign his online guest book.