Bernadette Marie Stridick
(6/25/1951 – 10/10/1976)
For the sixteenth day of Women’s History Month, I’m remembering a woman I never met, but have come to love as a sister. I imagine she would have been a good friend and sister-in-law, had she lived long enough to celebrate my wedding to her brother. In October 1989, soon after I began dating Paul, he dropped out for a couple of days. When we reconnected, he told me that the anniversary of the day his sister had been killed by a drunk driver affected him greatly. That was when I learned of Bernadette, whose birthday was six months ahead of my own. She was the first of Walt and Gloria Stridick’s five childen, and their only daughter.
Her mother describes her as a quiet, motivated young woman. Bernadette graduated from St. Mary of the Angels Academy, Haddonfield, in 1969 and went on to earn her Bachelor’s Degree from Duquesne University in 1973. During her high school years, she served as a page for Congressman William Cahill, and she won the first writing contest sponsored by the Walt Whitman Association. More than thirty years later, in 2002, the family initiated the Bernadette M. Stridick Poetry Prize. Each May, the top winner of the High School Poetry Contest receives the award at the Walt Whitman Birthday Party in the poet’s restored home and garden in Camden, New Jersey.
The Christmas after Bernadette’s death, her parents received her last handmade gift. She had stitched a mountain scene, and most of an Emmet Fox quote that begins, “There is no difficulty that enough love will not conquer.” She had penciled the script in her own handwriting, and finished stitching all but the last few lines. Her friend Pat Smith retrieved the unfinished gift and embroidered the rest of the quote by following Bernadette’s penciled words. Pat then had the piece framed and wrapped, and gave it to the family for Christmas. I’d admired this lovely, thoughtful piece in their Merchantville home, but only learned the story as I checked facts to post this tribute. I fought back tears as Gloria pointed to the word at which her daughter’s hand had stopped.
In photos, needlepoint samplers, and book jackets I find evidence of Bernadette’s dedication to her faith, her community, and her family. I wish I could sit and have a cup of coffee with her, but her beautiful spirit blesses my life and I know there are many others who remember her fondly, with gratitude.
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