Poet and artist Bernice Kuenzig Cervone died on June 28, 2020, at her home in Haverhill, MA, after an extended illness, surrounded by her immediate family and her pastor.
Born in Munhall, PA, on November 20, 1930, Bernice Mary Clare was the first child of Herman John and Alma Catherine (Steiner) Kuenzig. After graduating from St. Agatha’s High School in Meadville, PA, she studied art for several years at Divine Providence Academy, Allison Park, PA, where she also taught younger students. The family retains several of her fine paintings from this period. She later worked as a secretary, serving at Talon Slide Fastener Co., Allegheny College (Meadville, PA), and the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, IL.
In addition to writing poems, she provided words for music, including two operas, composed by her husband, D. Donald Cervone, to whom she was married on September 26, 1959, in Meadville, PA. By means of a Ford Foundation grant the two of them were part of a project to study opera production at New York City Opera, she as a librettist and he as a composer. Two more Ford Foundation programs took them to Billings, Great Falls, and Missoula, Montana, and then Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where her husband was composer-in-residence for the public school systems. They later lived in Rochester, Brockport, and Spencerport, New York, before moving to Haverhill.
Bernice was a loving, intelligent, articulate, and caring woman, meticulous in whatever she set her mind and hands to. She loved people and especially children, and was mom to many who loved her and were nurtured by her, from neighborhood children to the family’s foster children in India. She enjoyed gardening, too, as well as birds and animals, and saw beauty in nature and in people around her. Design was another strength and interest, as was organizing and making things happen. She researched and documented the family’s genealogy. She wasn’t afraid of hard work. Her love for her family — near and far — was unbounded, as was theirs for her. She is greatly missed.
She was preceded in death by her parents, and is survived by her husband of sixty years, their children Gian Carlo Cervone (Rochester, NY), Davide Piero Cervone (Presha Niedermeyer; Morgantown, WV), Maria Anina Cervone (Reading, MA), and Cristina Maria Cervone (Memphis, TN); brother Daniel Kuenzig (Barbara; Erie, PA); sisters Marian Kuenzig (Rochester, NY), Carol Kuenzig (Rochester, NY), and Monica Winston (Jay; Watertown MA); and many nieces, nephews, and cousins.
Her funeral and interment were July 6, 2020, at St. Agatha’s church and St. Brigid’s cemetery in Meadville, PA.
O Lord, make me
I have said it little mattered
Whom I loved
So long as I loved;
What I am
As long as
But I have never been
good at pretending
I do love;
And it does matter.
—— © Bernice Kuenzig ——