Napoleon Mark Bernier – Obit and Notes

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.

wNMB-obit1Things to note about him, as described in the obituary:

  • … 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.









Detail from that memorial card (yes, they spelled his name wrong):





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.


William Bernard Morey (1871 – 1943)

William Bernard Morey — or Bernard William Morey, depending on the records — was born on 11  Aug 1871 in Brighton, Suffolk Co., Massachusetts to Cornelius Morey and Anna J. Maloney Morey, both from Co. Cork, Ireland.

Here’s a photo of Cornelius Morey and his son — my grandfather — on his knee.

My grandfather, William Morey, on his father's knee.

My grandfather, William Morey, on his father’s knee.

William — called “Billo” by the family — was described as a good kid whose dad, Cornelius, died when Billo was 10 years old. Suddenly, Billo’s mom was a widow with six children.

After that, Billo had to help take care of the family.  As Cornelius and Annie’s oldest son, Billo worked at a variety of jobs, and became good at defending himself and his family.

According to my uncle Ted (Edward Morey), when Billo was older, he went to work in New York City where some of his cousins lived.  Billo was a conductor on the street cars, and some passenger tried to pick a fight with Billo.  Ted said that there were big, wooden mallet-type pieces that the conductors used to get the street cars to go in one direction or the other.  Billo pulled one of those out and beat the unruly passenger pretty badly.  After that, Billo had to leave New York in a hurry and didn’t go back.

That’s one of the few stories Ted told me about his dad.

Here are some photos of Billo in his youth:


I’m not sure which one is William “Billo.” Back center or (especially) middle right are most likely. Photo was marked to indicate that he was in it.


Another party, and I think Billo is the man in the front row, on the right side. In that photo, he looks a lot like my dad when he was young.


Ted said his dad had worked for the gas company.  Billo was kind of a daredevil, and he was really bright.  So, he’d go into buildings where a gas leak was suspected.  Billo would close the line that was leaking, and then administer emergency first aid to revive any victims.

Here’s Billo in later life, with his wife, Mary Ann Loretta Boyle (1880 – 1960).


William B. Morey, Sr. with his wife, Mary Ann.

"Billo" Morey and his wife, Mary Ann.

“Billo” Morey and his wife, Mary Ann.

And, here’s a photo of Billo with his sons.


William Bernard Morey, Sr., and his three sons. (The boys, left to right: John “Jack” Morey, Edward “Ted” Morey, and William “Bill” Morey, Jr.)

According to Ted, his dad (Billo) came to the dinner table one evening in May 1943, and complained about not feeling quite right.  A few minutes later, he fell over, dead. It was an aneurism.  According to Ted, it looked like his dad never felt a thing.


Margaret Elizabeth DeCoste (1870 – 1937)

MargElizDeCoste1Margaret 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.