In July 7 IssueBy Derek AaronTimes Journal Editor
Russell County has lost another local icon. Kenneth A. Bernard, 92, the longtime owner and operator of Bernard Funeral Home in Russell Springs, passed away July 1 at the Russell County Hospital.
Bernard, who was well-known for wearing his signature black hat, oversaw thousands of funerals in his 57 years at the funeral home on Main St. and left a legacy of serving the people and putting families first, right up through his final days.
Bernard founded the funeral home in April of 1954, along with his wife Eula Mae Bernard, but had been in the funeral business eight years before founding his own home. Following active duty in the U.S. Army during World War II, Bernard attended the Kentucky School for Embalming and first worked in the western part of the state before coming home to start the family business.
"He was good to work with as a father-in-law," said Noel Godby, who has 36 years experience and will now oversee the funeral home alongside his brother-in-law, Jimmy Matney, who has 18 years experience at the home. Both Godby and Matney married Bernard daughters. Godby is married to Barbara Ann while Jimmy is married to Johnna.
"He was very meticulous," Godby said of Kenneth. "He wanted everything a certain way, the Bernard way," Matney added. "He wanted his I's dotted and his T's crossed, meticulous about everything that involved a funeral service," Godby said.
He said Bernard always put families first and foremost above anything else.
"They were his number one priority," he said. "When Kenneth died we had four families (to serve) and we all know that if Kenneth could've spoken to us he would've said 'boys, take care of these other families, take care of me when you get to me.' He was that type of man; he was that type of person."
Bernard was known as a discreet but generous man who helped many people financially and in other ways in their time of need. Not only did he go out of his way to help people he also had a deep love for his family and was especially fond of all his grandchildren.
"He was doing what he loved," Godby said of Bernard, who worked up until his last days. "That was his life; he was doing what he loved. He is going to be missed extremely by all of us, the community and even though he is not here in body, he is definitely here in spirit."
During his service Monday, Kenneth's spot on his pew was reserved and left empty, with only his hat and a ribbon commemorating the longtime service and his memory there. During Kenneth's committal service, the rains poured down and reminded Godby and Matney of the many times they had been out with him during services in the rain, it seemed almost scripted, they said.
"The sun came out as we finished," Godby said. "A chapter of a long life of funeral service has been closed and now a new chapter has been started and we're going to do all we can to continue the tradition, I can assure the community that."
His wife of 66 years, Eula Mae, said she was going to continue on with her role at the funeral home, vacuuming and tidying up the home following each service.
"She is very instrumental in providing the needs too and making sure the place is clean and ready for the next one," Godby said. "First and foremost, Kenneth put other families before his own and we're going to continue to do that. They'll never know the difference other than he's not here setting in that one pew that he always sat in, where he greeted every person that cam e by him."
The family assured that the transition would be a smooth one with no change in the way funeral services are done.
"We, as a family, are committed to carrying on the legacy he has established in funeral service to the community and meeting the needs of our community's people and we are not going to change a bit," Godby said. "We're not going to miss a lick. We're going to continue on to the best of our ability the groundwork and tradition that he's laid before us to provide superior service to meet the needs of the people of our community."
The family requests memorials to the Russell County Hospital Building Fund and these can be made at the funeral home. Kenneth A. Bernard's full obituary can be seen in this issue of the newspaper.