BY GABE LICHT
DELANO, MN Bernice “Bernie” Kittock, who passed away Christmas day, was passionate about many things. A love for her country and those who served in the military was prominent on that list.
“I feel she really had what I would call a patriotic soul and loved her country,” said Gail Sinkel, who grew up knowing Kittock and got to know her better through Kittock’s involvement at the Delano Senior Center, which Sinkel directed for 30 years.
Kittock was a member of the Delano American Legion Auxiliary for 63 years and served as 10th District president for the ’98-’99 term. In 2000, she received the Veterans Affairs award for best overall national field service during her tenure as president.
She attended 34 district conventions, 31 state department conventions, and 10 national conventions, at which she carried the colors.
She lived along the 4th of July parade route and always Legion and Auxiliary members to watch the parade and have a picnic in her yard adorned with red, white, and blue flowers.
“She was very dedicated to her Legion and Auxiliary friends,” Sinkel said.
“She always said American Legion is my true family,” added Pam Hoshel, who first met Kittock through involvement with the Auxiliary at the state level before moving to Delano herself.
Her father, Vincent, was a World War II veteran who served in France. Kittock proudly wore the ring he was given upon honorable discharge from service.
Kittock was also a cancer survivor and supported those battling cancer in any way she could.
“Anyone with cancer was important to Bernie,” Jeanie Pilarski said. “She was involved in the Relay For Life, I don’t know how many years. She called me and Glenn while we battled cancer. She really cared.”
The Pilarskis had a standing joke with Kittock.
“She saved Glenn and my marriage because she stored all the Relay supplies in her garage,” Pilarski said. “She loved telling Glenn that she saved our marriage. Glenn would just shake his head.”
Volunteerism was important to Kittock.
She was an avid volunteer for the Parish of St. Maximilian Kolbe. She served as chairwoman and director of the state bowling team for the Catholic Order of Foresters and the official photographer for bowling competitions. Her membership in the Catholic Order of Foresters spanned at least 55 years, and she received the Legion of Honor pin from the order in 2003.
Other committee involvement included the Rosary Society, St. Hedwig Society, and funeral choir.
Outside of the church, she volunteered with the General Federated Women’s Club of Delano, Delano Royalty Organization, Delano Helping Hands Food Shelf, Catholic Aid, Meals on Wheels, and Ridgeview Medical Center; drove seniors to doctor appointments; volunteered at the senior center; called bingo at what was then Golden Living Center; and coordinated Girls and Boys State nominations for Rockford and Delano schools.
She was named a Minneapolis Aquatennial Honorary Commodore in 2001, received the 2007 Prudential Cares volunteer grant for services at Ridgeview Medical Center, and was named a 2015 Wright County Outstanding Senior Citizen, for which she was recognized at the Minnesota State Fair.
History and her Polish heritage were important to her, and she kept family photos, laminated articles, and especially enjoyed debating the spelling of her last name.
She was a proud member of the Delano High School 1951 graduating class and participated in many reunions.
Her family and friends, and the community at-large, were important to her.
“When her parents died, she kind of made the community her family,” Sinkel said.
The closing line of an article that appeared in the March 24, 2008, edition of the Delano Herald Journal said it well:
“As you meet Bernie for the first time, her distinct voice stands out, but when you get to know her it is her big heart and compassion for others that sets her apart from the crowd.”