She lived a full life – almost 93 years. She died in her sleep at home as she had wished. Although she had lost her oldest daughter 2 years before, at the end all her remaining children were nearby. What more can any of us ask?
Rita Joan Martinelli-Bernardin was born in Philadelphia, PA on July 3, 1924. She was the youngest of 12 children born to a happy Italian immigrant household where everyone had a task, everyone knew their place and everyone knew they were loved. She had more than her share of boisterous, mischievous, kind-hearted brothers whose stories would make all of us laugh – especially brother Tom - and five older sisters who all thought they were her mom. Rita remembered all the smallest details of life in their Philadelphia row home. How they would wash their clothes by hand in the basement, how the peddlers would ply the streets in horse drawn carts selling fruits and vegetables and all sorts of paraphernalia and how her mother raised a garden in the back yard among the chicken coops and filled the basement with jars of beans and squash and jellies and how her father and his brothers would buy grapes and smash them with their feet and make wine for celebrations and Sunday dinner. And how her mother would make her rounds to the local baker and butcher shops to collect scraps of stale bread for the chickens and dogs and how sometimes those scraps would help fill out the meal for the family during the Great Depression. And how her mother was generous and kind and how everyone in the neighborhood loved her and how she knew of medicinal plants and their uses. And how hard her father worked to keep food on the table and clothes on the backs of his family and how everyone would gather for Sunday dinner with wives and husbands and friends and laugh and enjoy the homemade wine and the joys of family.
At the age of 16, Rita was a beautiful young woman and she caught the eye of one of the more handsome young men in the neighborhood - Robert M. (Bob) Bernardin. Bob was 2 years older and like most of the young men in the neighborhood he joined in the war effort early on to train as a pilot. They were married in October of 1944. Their first child (Joanne) was born on January 28, 1946 in Philadelphia. Daughter, Michel was born on February 9, 1951. First son Robert was born December 26, 1954 and her youngest Stephen was born November 17, 1957. Rita was the stay at home mom. Husband Bob built a long and distinguished career at NASA as a lead technician in the Life Support Systems making spacesuits and lanyards and various tools and appliances. He was relocated to Johnson Space Center in 1961, purchased a house for his family in Baytown and there was home for Rita and her family until her passing. She was deeply loved by her family and will be missed by family and friends alike.
She was proceeded in death by her parents and all 12 of her siblings, her husband and her eldest daughter Joanne Bernardin Heard and she is survived By Joanne's husband, Nolan Heard, grandchildren Julia Heard and Kyle Heard, grandson-in-law Philip Reed , great-grandson, Cooper Heard Reed, granddaughter-in-law Brooke Howsley, and great-granddaughter Pepper Giovana Heard, all of Austin, Texas; daughter Michel Fraley of Baytown, Texas; son Robert (Bob) Bernardin and his wife Helen , granddaughter Leanne Bernardin-Harmon, husband Chad, and great-grandchildren, Alexander, Kaleb, and Makenzi Harmon, all of Mont Belvieu, Texas; grandson Robert (Robbie) Bernardin, wife Jessica, and great-granddaugher Juniper of Bastrop Texas; and her youngest son Stephen Bernardin, her grandsons, Keegan and Torrin and their mother Natalie Camino all of Sandpoint Idaho.
Her family will receive friends Monday, May 8, 2017 at the Navarre Funeral Home, 2444 Rollingbrook Dr., Baytown, Tx 77521, From 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. There will be a funeral service will be Tuesday, May 9, 2017, at 2:00 p.m. In the Navarre Chapel, Father Khanh Ho will be officiating. Burial will follow at White Cemetery in Highlands, TX.
In Lieu of Flowers the family would like you to make a donation in her name to a charity of your choice.
To view the online obituary or to post a tribute for the family, go to www.navarrefuneralhome.com
Arrangements are under the direction and personal care of Navarre Funeral Home & Cremation Services, 2444 Rollingbrook Dr., Baytown, TX, 77521 (281) 422-8111.