Both Bernie and his father were known for their dancing skills, especially the polka. Bernie’s father asked Frances to dance, and she said he had to escort her to her seat after all “the spinning.”
“He told me to ask his son to dance, which I did,” Frances said.
They dated for a year and a half before they got engaged, and married a few months later on Jan. 21, 1950, at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Hagerstown.
Joanie (Michel), their oldest of three daughters, was born in April 1953. A year later, the family moved to its Maugansville home, where they raised their family, building an addition in 2000 to accommodate family gatherings.
In the end, that addition allowed Bernie to stay at home during most of his medical decline from chronic pulmonary obstructive disease, emphysema, congestive heart and kidney failure. After 70 years of smoking, Bernie smoked his last cigarette Aug. 14.
Before that, Bernie was involved with Disabled American Veterans Chapter 14 and American Legion Post 42, and was a past president and past member of the Maugansville Ruritan.
“He was very civic-oriented — DAV, Ruritan, 4-H camp,” daughter Teresa Swain said.
Ted said Bernie also fixed up the sign at the Western Maryland 4-H Education Center in Garrett County.
“It was rusty. He didn’t like that,” said Annette, adding that she and her sisters and two of the four grandchildren went to camp there.
Bernie’s family said his community commitment was born of his appreciation for this country.
“He was so proud to be an American,” Frances said.
That pride included the right to vote.
Joanie said her father used to make his daughters hand out candidates’ flyers near polling places on election day. Annette remembers their father having the girls make phone calls to remind people to vote and ask if they needed a ride to the polls.
Besides the Bargiel’s three daughters, there were four grandchildren who called Bernie PopPop and three great-grandchildren. He looked forward to family vacations at Deep Creek Lake, a tradition for the past 16 years, always over Father’s Day weekend.
The family gathered to make pierogies, a Polish specialty, each with a job to do. It took 5 pounds of onions and 25 pounds of potatoes to make enough for the family.
Frances said Bernie always wanted to own a home at the lake, but that never happened. His final resting place, though, is in the lake view section of Rest Haven, which gave the family peace.
“He always wanted a house at the lake. He’s got one now,” Frances said.
Bernie never got a son. Instead, they named their male dog — half Labrador retriever and half Cocker spaniel — Jasiu, which is Polish for John, the name they had chosen had they had a son.
“Those two would go to Hardee’s for their hamburgers or Red’s Twin Kiss,” Frances said.
Both Bernie and Frances could speak, read and write in Polish. When the girls were growing up, the couple would “break out the Polish” when they didn’t want their children to know what they were saying, Ted said.
Bernie occasionally baked chocolate bundt cakes for the ladies who worked at the post office, CVS, the bank and Earl’s Market, and he always gave them Russell Stover chocolates at Christmas. He also loved feeding the animals that passed through his backyard.
“He was an original. There was only one Bernie. He did it his way,” Ted said.
As he was dying, Teresa sang “The Beer Barrel Polka” for her father. Polka music played softly in the background at Bernie’s viewing.
“We do have great memories,” Frances said.
Editor’s note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail runs “A Life Remembered.” Each story in this continuing series takes a look back — through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others — at a member of the community who died recently. Today’s “A Life Remembered” is about Bernard F. Bargiel, who died Oct. 16 at the age of 87. His obituary was published in the Oct. 17 edition of The Herald-Mail.