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Group Writing: Making Connections
“Beware the enlisted man. He is stupid, but crafty.” Those words were first spoken to me by Bernie, my teacher, mentor, and friend.
I met Bernie in 1972 when he was a teaching assistant, and I was a college freshman. My composition teacher had suffered a heart attack, was out for the rest of the semester, and Bernie was pressed into service as the instructor for our Honors English course. He was impressive to our eyes even then. Huge. Bearded. Wise. Always a bit disheveled. Always wearing the same suit, but always with a different tie. I’ve never known a man with so many ties. I’m not sure they ever repeated. And yet, when Bernie passed away in 2012, and Mr. She and I paid our respects at the funeral home, Mr. She and Bernie were wearing identical ties for the day (the “Chaucer” tie), and one of Mr. She’s proudest possessions today is one of Bernie’s ties. Bernie was a dear friend, and a kindred spirit. I miss him.
Bernie was, in every sense of the word, a Renaissance man. There was no area of life, no realm of knowledge, no part of existence in which he was not interested, and which he did not pursue. He was a voracious reader: Facts and information stuck to him like glue, and were likely to be dredged up, given the “Bernie” spin, and delivered at exactly the right moment to shed enlightenment on the topic at hand. There was nothing he did not know something about, there wasn’t anything about which he could not weigh in with authority and vigor and humanity. One ignored Bernie’s advice at one’s peril, whether it had to do with the best way to route a picture frame, the most efficient method of digging a hole, the quadratic formula explained, or how the postmodernists always get it wrong. He knew almost everything about almost everything. I miss him.