Many people grow up with dreams of traveling the world, but few people actually get to do it. Bernie, a resident of Oakmont Rochester Assisted, is one of the lucky few. Throughout his life, he’s visited more than 30 countries – from Israel to Poland – and spent much of his adult life working a job he loved. Here’s his story.

A Future Wife from Flint

Born in 1925, Bernie’s upbringing in Flint was filled with much happiness and joy. His father was a professional organist in a local Catholic church, and Bernie spent many hours accompanying him as a singer. When not in school, he gravitated towards sports – playing baseball, basketball, football – you name it – with the other kids in the neighborhood.

It was in this same neighborhood, just two streets over, that a young woman named Irene also lived – the same Irene who would eventually become Bernie’s wife. “My mother and her mother were buddies,” he said. “She lived two streets away from me all my life, and when I got out of the Navy in 1946 and went home, she was still single so we started to date. And the rest is history.”

The Boss

Irene, a Registered Nurse who had graduated from a university in Toledo, and Bernie, a veteran of World War Two, were soon married, and Bernie took a job with the RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company – where he would stay for more than half a century. His tireless work ethic and natural talent for selling helped him quickly work his way up to the title of Area Vending Manager.

“I was the boss,” Bernie said. “I was the boss there for 54 years and it was the best job in the world. I used to go to Chicago and sell O’Hare Airport, would sell at the Port of Detroit. There are border stores now where you can buy duty-free, but at that time, those were my customers.”

World Travelers

Bernie and Irene

During his time in the Navy and working as a traveling sales manager, Bernie was bitten hard by the travel bug. And thanks to his wife’s skills as a Registered Nurse, the couple was able to travel to many places that most of us only see in travel magazines.

“We went with a group, a Michigan Catholic institution,” Bernie said, referring to his many trips. The group’s leader was in need of a nurse to join them on the trips, and though they had to pay their own way, the opportunity to travel across the world was one the couple just couldn’t pass up.

“We had to pay our own way, but we had the run of the joints wherever we went,” Bernie said. “Because a nurse was something that everyone knew, ‘yes, I’ve got protection. I’ve got an RN on board.” Their adventures took them to more than 30 countries, including Greece, Israel, Germany, Poland, Portugal, the Netherlands, Australia, and many, many more.

Now enjoying life at Oakmont Rochester Assisted, Bernie enjoys seeing his grandchildren and keeping up with all of his favorite Detroit sports teams. He still keeps his passport with him at all times; ready to jump to the next adventure wherever it may lead.