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Bernice M. Moonen, 99

Bernice Marie (Pouliot) Moonen, age 99, of Delano, died Friday, Dec. 2, 2011.

She was born Aug. 19, 1912, at her home in Loretto, Hennepin County. Bernice was baptized Sept. 7, 1912, in Corcoran,

She married Bernard Henry Moonen June 6, 1933, at SS Peter & Paul Catholic Church in Loretto.

Bernice was patient, gentle, and generous. She had a sense of humor that grew with her age, and was a fine example of aging with grace. She was a lady that enjoyed the fullness of life, her faith, her family, and her friends.

Bernice came from a large family. She was the sixth of 12 children born to loving parents

In April of 1926, when she was 13, diphtheria hit the area. Her sister, Mabel, age 12, and her brother, Raymond, age 4, both died. Bernice survived, but the disease affected her eyesight and she wore glasses ever since.

Growing up, Bernice more often helped her father and brothers with outdoor farm chores than indoor household chores shared by her mother and sisters. She attended a one-room school that had no electricity and no running water, and went to school through the sixth grade.

She went to work away from home, caring for children and keeping house for families that could afford to hire help. She went to dances.

She was encouraged by her family to become a nun in the Catholic church. Bernice didn’t hear the calling, but kept her faith.

At 20 years old, she married a man that she met while he was a hired hand on her uncle’s farm. As they left the church as Mr. and Mrs. Ben Moonen June 6, 1933, they held their vows sacred. For 56 years of marriage, they continued to live the promise they made.

Bernice and Ben had eight children; five boys and three girls. Whenever a baby was born, Bernice’s sisters, Elsie and Dorothy, would ride the train from Minneapolis to Watertown and come to help with meals, laundry, and cleaning on weekends. Years later, Bernice would recount how she and Ben always shared all the chores. She worked alongside him, but he would wring and wash diapers when her eczema was bad.

Their life together started on a farm in St Michael. After two years, they moved to farm northwest of Watertown, where they spent a majority of their children’s’ growing up years. In 1952, a tornado destroyed the barn, which prompted a move northeast of Watertown, where they stayed for six years.

In those early years of her marriage and family, Bernice saw hard times. She told of the days of no electricity, no running water, and no indoor plumbing. Wood-burning stoves were used for heat and for cooking, and Bernice cooked three meals per day on a woodstove, summer and winter. She helped Ben in the fields and barns often, with small children placed in cardboard boxes so she could keep an eye on them.

Her children will always remember her for the love of their Dad, along with the guidance and leadership that she gave them. Bernice frequently opened her home to friends of her children when they need care of any kind. Another plate was never a problem at the dinner table.

In 1956, Bernice went to work at Tonka Toys in Mound on the night shift.

They moved to Loretto in 1957, just a few short miles from the home she was born in. Ben continued to farm and Bernice continued to work for Tonka Toys in Loretto (located in the old creamery), until 1967.

In 1964, they moved to Bridge Avenue in Delano. When the flood of 1965 covered all access to their home, Bernice would walk the railroad tracks and cross the river and the flood waters on the railroad trestle to catch her ride to work on River Street.

Retirement years in Delano were filled with chores in a big yard and garden.

Bernice worked full time for the school district as a kitchen aide during lunch hours. She also helped out at the Delano Senior Center up to her 90thbirthday, often serving younger seniors and then staying to wash dishes.

Bernice loved making quilts, crocheting pillow cases, and making baby and doll quilts. Her grandchildren and great-grandchildren benefited from these talents. She also liked to garden and be outdoors.

Even after her husband died, Bernice stayed active in her yard and garden. She gave up driving long before she needed to – just to be safe. She liked the exercise that walking to church and volunteer activities gave her.

Bernice kept busy and passed time by watching game shows, doing jig-saw and Search puzzles, playing cards, and listening to old tyme music.

She often commented that her life was good due to her wonderful neighbors. She treasured their care and help. Bernice felt very blessed to have daughters-in-law and sons-in-law that she cared for. She often would tell people she would meet that her sons- and daughters-in-law treat ed her very well and that they were the best.

Her wish was always to be able to live in her own home and be well enough to avoid a nursing home. She got her wish.

About the time that Bernice would no longer be fully able, or want to live alone (2002), her daughter, Marlene found herself able to move in with her mother during the week, to give Bernice more years of independence. Marlene retired in 2008, and at that time, Bernice decided to move to The Crow River Villa in Delano. In 2009, a move to Angel Haven in rural Delano gave her comfortable home-like living with excellent round-the-clock care.

In addition to her husband, Ben, Bernice was preceded in death by her parents, Roman and Alma (Pepin) Pouliot; her brothers and sisters-in-law Arthur (in infancy), Elair (Frenchie) and Edna Pouliot, Lloyd Pouliot, and Raymound Pouliot; sisters and brothers-in-law Grace and Andrew Muchenhirn, Doria and Edwin Cavanagh, Irene and Frank Klaers, Mabel Pouliot, Lorraine and Ed Charles, Elsie and Paul Chicoine, and John Schraut; also brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law Lorraine and Fred Seiberlick, Veronica and Sidney Herd, Raymond Moonen, Alvina and Jacob Bueche, and Albert and Lucille Moonen; two great-grandsons, Brandon Moonen and David Fischback; and a son-in-law, Willard Baumann.

She is survived by sons and daughter-in-laws LeRoy and Marie (Weibel) Moonen, Kenneth and Bernice (Kotilinek) Moonen, all of Delano, Gilbert and Gayle (Wetherille) Moonen of Sturgeon Lake, Gerald (Jerry) and Cheryl (McCloud) Moonen of LaPorte, and Marvin and Nancy (Wright) Moonen of Delano; daughter and sons-in-law JoAnn Baumann of Watertown, Marlene and Marvin Doboszenski of Hillman, and Margaret (Margie) and Tom Bigalke of Rochester; 34 grandchildren; 61 great-grandchildren; five great-great-grandchildren; and two step great-grandchildren.

Bernice is further survived by a sister, Dorothy (Pouliot) Schraut of Peirz; sisters-in-law Lorraine (Gresen) Pouliot of Minnetonka, and Lou Moonen of Shakopee; and many nieces, nephews, cousins, neighbors, and friends.

A Mass of Christian Burial took place Saturday, Dec. 10 at 11 a.m. at St. Peter Catholic Church in Delano, followed by interment at Calvary Cemetery in Delano.

Arrangements were by the Iten Funeral Home in Delano.