MINOOKA – To those who knew him, Bernard “Bernie” MacNichol of Minooka was an interesting gentleman, a giant among men and best known for his sense of humor.
“Bernie had the ability to deal with 2 year-olds and 102-year-olds,” said Dr. Michael Wood of Lansing, Bernie’s son-in-law. “He was about as good a guy as you could imagine. He did anything he could to make people’s lives better.
“He was the kind of guy that if you were fishing with him in a boat and it was raining and one of the seats was dry, he’d give it to you. He could not control everything, but when he could control something, he tried to make or break it in your favor. Bernie gave – and then some.”
Alex McKanna of Bloomingdale, Bernie’s grandson, said Bernie raised him as his own son and was supportive of anything Alex wanted to do, whether it was playing sports during his formative years or his decision to attend medical school.
“Whenever there was a problem, he’d sit down and talk it out with you and finish that conversation with a smile,” Alex said. “It’s just how he handled things.”
For the 20 years Bernie worked as a school bus driver in Minooka – his retirement job after 35 years with ComEd – Bernie only wrote up two kids because he, again, had his own way of handling situations, as in the case of two brothers that wouldn’t stop hitting each other.
“He made them hug each other for the rest of the trip and they never fought again,” Alex said. “He had creative ways to teach you a lesson and to make you realize what is right and what is wrong, to enjoy life and be proud of who you are and what you’ve done.”
But as Michael said, Bernie was known for his sense of humor and could spin quite the yarn, especially around kids, and he loved to feature cows in those stories.
“He always had a story,” said Dana Wood of Lansing, Bernie’s daughter and Michael’s wife. “He was the kind of guy that talked to anyone and had great stories. He always made you feel comfortable.”
Overnight guests in the winter would wake in the morning to find their cars cleared of snow, and it never mattered to Bernie how many cars he had to clean or how much it snowed, Dana said.
“Even when he was out on his job, he tried to help people keep their electricity on or fix a problem they had or tell them who to call,” Dana said. “He cared about people. He was the extreme of that. He was a great man.”
Like many couples, Bernie’s wife, Connie MacNichol, said she and her husband had their share of tough times, but they always worked through them. During the years that they raised their grandsons, Alex as well as his brother Andrew, they traveled all over the country with the boys’ various sporting events, Connie said.
After the boys grew up, Bernie missed that interaction with the kids and became a bus driver, Connie said. Part of his job meant transporting preschoolers with special needs, and Bernie was proud to do it.
“One of them was so tiny, she could barely get up the steps,” Connie said. “He had recently found out that she had died and that really upset him.”
Bernie was 74 when he died Oct. 6. Michael said he plans to carry on Bernie’s ideals, to do more each day to serve the people around him.
“It made me a better person to have known him,” Michael said. “Unfortunately, the world is less of a place now that he is gone.”
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