Bernadine Vinck, 98, Albert Lea

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 17, 2005

Bernadine C. Vinck, longtime resident of Albert Lea, at 402 Vine Ave., died after a brief

illness on Thursday, June 9, 2005, in Woodland, Calif. She was 98 years old.

Funeral services were held June 14 and she is interred at St. Theodore’s Cemetery alongside her husband Clement P. Vinck who passed on March 31, 1992.

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Bernadine was born March 1, 1907, and lived on a farm five miles south of Bird Island, Minn., Renville County. She was the eldest of eight siblings and as she was growing up hardwork was the order of the day. Except for the staples like flour, sugar and salt which were purchased in town, the family raised and processed all of its own food. For meat they slaughtered their own steers and hogs, they milked their own cows, picked and canned apples from their own orchard, grew everything from tomatoes to fresh greens in their garden plot, and for those lighter moments fermented their own wine in a crock in the basement.

Bernadine’s father, Henry Keltgen, tilled the farm with hand-held plows and cultivators pulled by massive Belgian draft horses with hooves the size of dinner plates. He worked from dawn to dark during the busy planting and harvest seasons, and with the support of Ottilia, his wife, sons and daughters led by his capable eldest, Bernadine, the family made a success out of an enterprise that would be more than daunting for even the most dedicated back-to-the-soil advocates in modern day America.

At the age of 20 (she stayed home for three years to assist with family chores). She graduated with honors from St. Mary’s High School in Bird Island. She went on to attend business school in Minneapolis and shortly thereafter obtained employment as a collections specialist for Gately’s Department Store chasing deadbeats who were more interested in their own petty interests than paying their bills.

During this time (circa 1930) she met her husband-to-be, Clement, on a blind date. They were

later married at St. Helena’s Church in Minneapolis on Thanksgiving Day 1934. They resided on Osceola Ave. in St. Paul during the first years of marriage and their daughter, Audrey, was born to them August 18, 1935. Clement’s employer, J.T. McMillan Meat Packing Co., was bought out by Wilson & Co. in 1937, whereupon the family was transferred to Albert Lea where he served as foreman of the smoked meat department for the next 31 years.

The hard work to which Bernadine had become accustomed during her early years did not end with marriage. Her son Paul arrived Oct. 21, 1941. So now with two young children and a house to keep Bernadine’s responsibilities continued to increase. In the late 1940s they started the Hyde Grill, a small counter and stools, short order cafe in the Hyde Building at the corner of William and Newton in Albert Lea. Bernie’s business background came into play with the cafe’s book and record keeping.

They sold the Hyde Grill in 1950 only to embark on a foray into the motel business. Clem and his able partner Elmer Petersen purchased five acres of land on a knoll a few miles north of Albert Lea on Highway 65. There they single handedly constructed an eight-unit motel which they operated from 1954 into the early 1970s. Of course, Bernie did all the bookkeeping and kept all the records.

In spite of keeping a home and the paperwork for several businesses there was still a little time left over for recreational pursuits during which Bernie became a crackerjack bridge player. In the early years she was a member of a bridge club that grew out of her participation in the Rosary Society at St. Theodores. The bridge club went on for some years during which Bernie honed her skills for the big challenge to come – duplicate bridge. The years that followed brought many bridge honors into the house at 402 Vine. Cabinets in the living and dining rooms were brimming with trophies won at Austin, Owatonna, Faribault, the Twin Cities, and places farther a field such as Tuscon, Ariz.,Z and Davis, Calif. These awards would accumulate into master points- 300 of which translated to the ultimate of accomplishments – the Life Master. Bernie, however never achieved that coveted status- our best recollection is that she reached 200 Master Points. Not bad for a woman raised on the farm, keeping a home, raising two kids, and riding herd on a couple of side-line businesses.

Bernie and Clement celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary October 1984 at St. Theodores.

Clem retired from Wilson’s in 1968 and they spent the retirement years – summers in Albert Lea and winters in a rented apartment in Tucson, Ariz.

Clement died in 1992, and Bernie remained in Albert Lea for a few years until she joined Paul and Audrey near their homes in California.

Bernie is survived by her daughter, Audrey Vinck Hastings and her husband Richard of Davis, Calif., and daughters: Hilary Hastings of Makawao, Maui, Hawaii, and Jocelyn Hastings of San Jose, Calif.; and her son, Paul Vinck and his wife Roberta Vinck, and daughter, Elena Vinck.

The family suggests memorial contributions be made to St. John’s Alzheimer’s Unit, 901 Luther Place, Albert Lea.