Margaret Elizabeth DeCoste was the daughter of David DeCoste, a Canadian sea captain lost in the Bay of Fundy.
She was born in October 1870 in Havre Boucher, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada. She married Francois Napoleon Bernier. They moved to the U.S., and had children, Napoleon Mark Bernier and his younger sister, Oldna Elizabeth Bernier.
Margaret was nearly10 years younger than her husband. However, everyone who remembers her says that she’d rise nearly an hour before her husband, each day, to put on her makeup so he never saw her looking less than her best.
She was also a stylish woman. According to stories, she and her daughter Oldna used to take their clothes out every few months, and compare them with fashion magazines from Paris. They’d take the clothes apart and reconstruct them — sometimes with additions like fur trim (cut from coats that were being refashioned, too) or lace — so the Bernier women always looked like they had new, very fashionable clothes. (Margaret did the same with her son’s wardrobe, too.)
Margaret was known as the first woman to drive a car in the Somerville/Cambridge area. When she’d drive past men — who didn’t conceal their amazement to see a woman at the wheel — she used to thumb her nose at them. According to the stories, it was one of her favorite ways to spend a Sunday afternoon.
Then — after getting through the flu epidemic –Francois Napoleon Bernier died at his sister-in-law’s flat in New York state.
Margaret survived on the income from the rental properties she and her late husband had owned.
After Oldna died, Margaret DeCoste Bernier invited Oldna’s widower — Harold Daykin — to move in with her. According to the stories, they had a boat, and went to lots of parties. At the time, it was a bit of a scandal. They didn’t care, and lived very happily until Margaret had a stroke and needed someone around the house, full-time. So, Margaret moved in with her son (Napoleon Mark Bernier) and his family.
My grandmother (Margaret’s daughter-in-law, Margaret Tormey Bernier) said that when Margaret (“Mum” to everyone) moved in after the stroke, everyone expected gray roots to show up as Margaret’s black hair grew out.
It never did. Apparently, she never got gray hair, ever.
She died in Somerville, Middlesex, MA on 20 August 1937.