William (Bill) Jacob Bernhardt, 90, passed away at his home on September 4, 2020, from complications after sustaining a fall.
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Bill was born on a farm in Laurel, Montana, on Labor Day September 1, 1930. He was the second of seven children of Amelia (Weil) and Jacob C. Bernhardt. He attended elementary through high school in Laurel, and he graduated from Laurel Senior High School in the Class of 1948. Following graduation, Bill farmed alongside his father and brothers. He was a life-long member of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Laurel where he was baptized, confirmed and married.
Bill said that he hit the jackpot when he married his love, Gladys Lorraine Walter, on August 4, 1951. Just weeks after tying the knot, they received word that he was being drafted into the Army to fight in the Korean War. He was able to put off leaving for basic training until the majority of the fall crops were harvested, then he was sent to Korea where he served in the Army on the front lines from 1951 to 1953. While Bill was in Korea, Gladys gave birth to their son, Steve. A few years later, came their older daughter Pat and then their younger daughter Kerron. His children never heard him speak of his time in Korea but, as time passed, it became almost therapeutic for him to share his experiences of those days with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. They enjoyed hearing his stories, and our family has always been very proud of his bravery and contribution as a U.S. Veteran.
In the 50’s, Bill and Gladys purchased their own parcel of farm acreage (plus some) from his father, south of Laurel. Gladys and their children worked alongside Bill to create a successful farming operation. Farming was Bill’s true passion in life. His other passion was sharing his love of farming with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who often spent their summer breaks on the farm helping him and Uncle Steve creating many memories of farm life that they will forever cherish.
Bill was known to be stubborn, strong-willed and opinionated, but he also had a rare tenacious work ethic. A work ethic that he taught and passed on to his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, all of whom he was fiercely proud of.
The last couple of years, with his health declining, proved hard for him to continue doing the work he loved on his properties north of Billings but, even last week, Bill still wasn’t willing to admit that he had “retired” quite yet.
Bill was preceded in death by his parents and brothers Robert and Jim.
He is survived by his loving wife of 69 years, Gladys, and their three children: Steve, Pat O’Leary (Bob) and Kerron Route (Dave); three grandchildren: Kristen Etchechoury, Kyle O’Leary (Julie) and Katelyn Lollar (James); four great-grandchildren: Ethyn and Peyton Etchechoury and Rayna and Rayden Lollar; three sisters: Darlene Bromenshenk, Dorothy Henry and Donna Perrigo; and his brother Don Bernhardt.
The family would like to personally thank the doctors, nurses, cna’s and support staff of the 3rd Floor at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Billings for their care, compassion and kindness shown to Bill in the past couple of weeks. It is appreciated beyond words.
Donations in Bill’s memory can be made to St. John’s Lutheran Church in Laurel, MT.
Services will be held on Wednesday, September 9, 2020, at 11:00 a.m. at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Laurel.