As I’m going through papers in my files, I’m scanning a few that may interest Papa’s descendants. The first of these are kind of morbid, since they’re from when he died, but those are the papers that include references to some of his accomplishments.
He was Napoleon Mark Bernier and he died at age 65 after many heart attacks. (He documented each of them in his journal. If there was a Guinness Book record, he might have qualified.)
Here’s his obituary from the Boston Herald (newspaper), 23 Nov 1959.
- … he holds numerous patents on building materials and equipment.
- He was noted for the development of the first successful acoustical plaster and also of the first latex paints produced in New England.
- He had also received a patent on a resilient asphalt used for playgrounds. [My note: I think this was the same surface used on tennis courts, worldwide, including all U.S. embassy tennis courts.]
- Structures on which some of his new materials are in use include the John Hancock Life Insurance Co. building here and Riverside Church in New York.
- He founded California Products Corp. (as California Stucco Products) in 1926.
- He was a vice-president and director of the Vermiculite Association, Inc., of New York.
Remember, he didn’t finish sixth grade. He was a self-educated man.
Here’s a letter sent to my grandmother after Papa’s death. (Almost everyone called him “Leo,” but my grandmother and family members usually called him “Nap.”)
And, here’s a letter from Papa’s business partner, Bob Caldwell, on California Products letterhead. (Weirdly, months after my grandfather’s death, Bob still used the title of Executive Vice President.) The letter mentions Papa’s patents.
That letter was sent to my grandmother at 39 Dean Street in Belmont. That’s where my family lived. She moved in with us after selling her house (99 Louise Road, Belmont), and then bought her own home near us on Chilton Street. That didn’t work out. I think living alone kind of worried her. (It didn’t help that people — probably kids — kept stealing her underwear off the clothesline in her back yard. Just the underwear, nothing else.) She sold that house and moved into a two-family home at 6 Payson Road, near Cushing Square, Belmont.
A couple of memorial cards from Papa’s death:
The memorial card from his funeral mass.
And, typical of that era, a Jesuit Seminary Guild memorial card. It’s the kind of thing that gave families comfort.
Next: I have Papa’s personal journal, or one of his journals, anyway. A lot of his notes were about cooking, travel, and health.
He took a lot of pride in creating his own recipes, and grew most of his own ingredients in his backyard, in his greenhouse (attached to the dining room), or in his basement under special lights. If he hadn’t been an inventor and artist, I think he might have been a chef.
Here are some notes from his second trip to the Caribbean, in 1950. On that journey, he went to Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, Haiti, Jamaica, and Cuba before returning to Miami and then flying back to Boston.