Jan. 8, 1927 to April 25, 2019
Our beloved father, Al went to be with our Lord the afternoon of April 25, 2019 at his home in Green Valley, AZ at the age of 92.
Al was born in Firebaugh, CA to Joe and Yolanda Bernardi, and spent his early years growing up in Merced, Le Grand, and Madera, CA.
When Al was 17 years old he lost his father, and he was responsible for raising the family tomato crop in Madera. After moving with his Mom and sister Nettie back to Merced, he did a variety of jobs over the years including selling cars, driving delivery trucks, meat butcher, and working with local farmers.
He became very involved with the Italian Catholic Federation in Merced, learning to cook and organize large events. He met his first wife, Esther Vizzielo, at a Saturday night dance in Merced, and they were married in 1949. They were married for 34 years and raised 5 children together until Esther’s passing in 1984.
During the late '50s and early '60s, Al farmed around the Merced area, eventually partnering in Tuttle Farms. After a couple of lean years, in 1969 he was asked by a Florida buyer to open a buying office in Nogales, AZ. That started a partnership in a brokerage firm, Ledlow-Cole-Bernardi Inc. Al continued to farm in the summer until 1972 when the partners sold the farmland and packing shed and Al would begin his semi-annual move with his family between Merced, CA and Nogales, AZ.
Al loved the Arizona desert and loved the fast pace of the quickly growing produce business in Nogales. He loved to organize large fundraisers, serving thousands of people chicken and rigatoni dinners for Sacred Heart Church and the NHS band. He also organized many BBQs for the Rio Rico and Green Valley fire departments.
In 1985 he remarried. He and Joan Durniat were married for 27 years until Joanie’s passing in 2013. During their years together they traveled extensively in their RV all over the U.S. and Canada visiting family, friends, and produce customers.
They opened an art gallery and Christmas shop, Galleria Bernardi, in Tubac as a retirement hobby which quickly became a full-time job for both of them in 1990. They sold the art gallery in 1995 and moved to Green Valley to enjoy their retirement. They continued to travel everywhere in their RV, entertain in their Green Valley home, hold informative produce seminars wherever they traveled, and enjoy their friends and family. He helped to open the first branch of the Italian Catholic Federation in Arizona and cofounded the National ICF RV Club.
They moved to the La Posada retirement community in 2007 and continued to give back to the community and entertain friends. His La Posada friends and staff, Mangia Mangia Club members, and ICF members were all friends that became family.
He is preceded in death by wives Esther and Joan, his son Tom, and his granddaughter Kayla. Al is survived by his son Allan (Carolyn) of Pescadero, CA, daughter-in-law Lee Curzon of Petaluma, CA, daughter Susan Bollinger (Bruce) of Ooltewah, TN, daughter Lori (Mark) of Atwater, CA, and son Joe (Cathie) of Turlock, CA. Stepdaughters Henriette Frisbie (Bert) and Jeannie Schultz (Tom), sister Nettie Pollicita of Merced, CA, plus many grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and nieces and nephews.
Funeral Services to be held at Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Church in Green Valley, AZ on June 11 at 10 a.m.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Kayla Bernardi BEE Positive Foundation, P.O. Box 307, Turlock, CA 95382, or The Italian Catholic Federation Scholarship Fund Branch 39, P.O. Box 3693, Merced, CA 95344.