Sun Lakes Writers’ Group

Bernice, A wonderful, talented woman and a legend in her time

Jacqueline Ruffino

I am honored to write an article about our friend Bernice. She has touched the hearts and lives of everyone who knew her.

When I first walked into the Sun Lakes Writer’s Group about 6 years ago I was greeted by Bernice. The Chairlady of the Club, who held the coveted gavel as chair for many years. She welcomed me and gave me a great big smile and invited me to sit beside her. I didn’t know anyone in this club and was a little nervous as to what we all were doing there. The group seemed very friendly and also welcomed me.

She was my inspiration. My mentor so to speak and I tried to copy her passion in her writing abilities.

Please follow me as I write about our dear friend Bernice:

Thanks to her lovely daughters, Mindy and Judy I am able to read and hear all about a woman who left such an impact on many folks during her many years she walked this earth and lived an interesting life.

“Bernice was born almost 96 years ago in the small town of Berkeley Springs W. VA, but she was a city girl at heart. When she was 20, she bravely traveled by train on a solo journey to Washington, D.C. to begin her adult life.

“In 1947, Bernice married the love of her life, Seymour, in D.C., where he was stationed during the war. They raised 3 daughters and spent their free time exploring the treasures of the nation’s capital together as a young family, from museums, parks and art galleries, to concerts, festivals and ballets.”

What was her greatest loves? Her daughters, Mindy, Susan and Judy.

“She loved their kindhearted dad, and her hard-working parents.

“Her devotion to her family never wavered.”

Only knowing Bernice a short time, I found her good sense of humor and she loved to laugh. She complimented others generously.

She loved learning and studying and had 2 college degrees she earned in her 60s.

“Bernice believed in and practiced a healthy lifestyle. She was ahead of her time, a pioneer and an early practitioner of yoga, meditation, eating and walking for health, and studying for self-improvement.”

An honest message was quoted by her lovely daughters. Bernice inspired to fulfill her potential and become a better person. In her home, she displayed a sculpture of a man with his fist under his chin as if in deep thought, a replica of The Thinker by Auguste Rodin.

“Every time she passed The Thinker, she said, he reminded her to think more carefully, to ponder more deeply, to stay focused and to make better decisions.

“Being creative brought Bernice much joy. In her early years as a mother, she used her hands to knit, crochet, sew, create recipes, cook, and do fun arts and crafts activities with her children.”

After reading her memoirs, provided to me by her lovely daughters, it was mentioned she and her husband Seymour loved to dance together. And danced quite frequently.

“Later on, Bernice discovered a creative outlet through her words.

“For 25 years, writing was Bernice’s passion and she wrote a story a week. Today, more than a thousand of her stories – many autobiographical – have been compiled into 10 volumes, entitled The Joy of Words.

“The books are a priceless gift to her children, a legacy they will always cherish.

“Bernice loved her life in Sun Lakes, where she lived for 30 years.”

To her daughters, she was a loving, caring, encouraging and supportive mother.

“She held a special place in her heart for her writing friends in the Sun Lakes Writers Group and was thankful for their encouragement, support and laughter during their weekly meetings.” On her 93rd birthday, we lavished her with attention, gifts, cards and a beautiful cake. We made her feel very special, as she was in our eyes and hearts. She was so happy and felt special…that she declared the day… “One of the Best Days of my Life.”

“I’m pretty lucky. I’ve had an amazing life,” she quoted. Yes, Bernice you had an amazing life and we, at the Sun Lakes Writer’s Group are Blessed to have known you and shared your delightful stories.

Personally, Bernice I want to thank you for your stories, your encouragement in my writings, the lunches we shared outside of our group. Oops. And your gracious smiles. You will never be forgotten. May you rest in peace.


Don Stevens

Mark Twain said, “Golf is a good walk spoiled.” In most cases, on most days, he was probably pretty accurate. However, on those days that it turns out that you manage a score that is decent and does not climb into the double digits, the walk or drive in the golf cart, is a pleasant one. For this golfer, those days are far and few between.

The game of golf can always be looked at as the great equalizer. I know that a lot of things come with that label, depending on what we are doing. A hammer for example, when something is just not moving, like a nut on a bolt, a hammer can make everything right. Or a big club or baseball bat is often referred to as an equalizer, albeit in a totally different light. The game of golf, however, has a magic about it that can equal everything out between who two men are. If, for instance you are playing in a company tournament and you see that your supervisor or even the “big” boss is doing just as bad in the round as you are, you suddenly become equals. Better yet, you may be playing one or two under par and they are not, now you are their better! A word of caution here though. They may see that your score is better than theirs, but I wouldn’t necessarily point it out. That could hurt you bad the next day at work, in fact, it may be for you, the last day at work. Not worth it. It is enough that in your heart of hearts, that game, that day, was yours. Enjoy it while remaining gainfully employed.

If you have never experienced the feeling you can only get from being on a golf course, you should really try it. You don’t have to play, go with someone you know that plays and drive the cart. The open feeling, the free feeling you get standing on the tee, looking down the fairway is like nothing else. The carpet of green laid out in front of you, the trees lining the path to the hole. Even the so-called hazard traps, water and sand, all together, make up a magical landscape that either all comes together with a good drive, down the center of the scene, or all falls in crumbles as your ball slices or hooks and ends up off in the rough grass somewhere.

After an initial outcry of some unprintable words, and maybe even a gesture, depending on how bad the hit, you stand back and the tranquility of the day comes back. And so it goes for the rest of the day. Way out of bounds drives, really nasty divots in the fairways, over shot greens, narrowly missed putts, and tons of sand and gallons of water devouring your golf balls. In other words, a pretty average day on the golf course for many of us.

The game itself is under some dispute of where it actually originated. Several countries claim that it happened with them. The first recorded game that even resembles what we play today comes from Scotland. The first documented game was in 1497 in Edinburgh. There it was played by the nobles and kings. Eventually it spread throughout the British Empire and down to today’s modem courses where men and women shaped it into a way not only to have fun, but to make a living at.

Over time, the rules have changed, things added, things taken away. I doubt that in 1497 “mulligans” were offered to the players. However, the kings of the day probably were the first to use the phrase, “I want a do over.” Consequentially, out of fear of losing their heads, their fellow golfers most likely would not have said, “No way. Play it where it lies.” Equalizing was not in the equation at the time.

If you have never played and have even been dissuaded of doing so by watching golf on T.V. you are missing out on one of the most relaxing, and at the same time, most exhilarating four hours of your life. Give it a try. Go to one of the beautiful golf courses in Sun Lakes on any given day and let them know you are there for the first time. You should know though, the pros in the clubhouses are very strict about tee times, shotgun starts and pre-sign ups. You might want to check those out first. There’s way more to this game than chasing that white ball around the grass. That’s only half the battle and one quarter of the rules. Once you have all of that red tape of golf down though, you will be greeted with enthusiasm in the pro shops, and will have the time of your life. You will transport yourself into a world that will awaken all of your senses and emotions. Enjoyment, frustration, meditation, comradery, competition and excitement. Get out and golf… and don’t forget to yell fore! Your fellow golfers will appreciate the heads up as your ball flies towards them over on the fairway that isn’t on your side of the trees. 


George Stahl

Several years ago, a man and his family decided to come to the Kern River Valley. It was 1976, and the man was a strong, talented construction worker from Southern California. Originally from Texas, he was a veteran of World War II and determined to make a good home for his family in the valley. The couple found a lot in an area in the Kern River Valley near the Bodfish Post Office and construction on the house began.

By the time the man completed the house, having done the majority of the work himself, it was just over a year from when he struck the ground with a shovel. The couple, however, wasted no time in getting to know their few neighbors and the lay of the land.

For the next 25 years, the man and his family turned the house Otis had built into a home. Otis Clark and his wife Hazel found themselves alone in the house as time flew by, like it does, when their daughter got married and moved away. By then, Otis walked with a cane and wore hearing aids in both ears. He wasn’t moving like that young man who poured concrete, hammered nails into 2×6’s and roof rafters, but he still managed to get around very well. Their neighborhood had grown too, and as more and more houses went up, families moved in and the block filled up with laughter and other neighborhood noises.

Hazel got involved with local organizations and found herself on the board of most of them. This made her feel like more of a part of the community she and Otis had fallen in love with, and that’s where most of her time was spent.

Otis had a passion for his yard. Ground cover and evergreens covered most of it, but as a bonus in an adjacent lot, which they purchased before building the house, a huge patch of yellow California Poppies stretched upwards to grab the sun and warm themselves. Otis dropped everything he was doing and went over to the field when the flowers came to life. He looked at the blend of colors and was overcome with awe and inspiration. As a good Southern Baptist man, he couldn’t help but recognize God’s hand in the creation of such beauty. So, he then determined that he would take care of this patch of gold in his yard. The first thing he did was design a water system that would reach the poppy field so he could easily water his new friends. He kept the weeds down in the lot as well as around his house, and he cared for the poppies with a feeling that they were entrusted to him. Giving them everything they needed to have long and happy seasons.

Otis’ work did not go unnoticed, and as a tribute to what he had been doing (the poppies were growing and expanding), Otis was featured in the local newspaper, The Kern Valley Sun, along with a picture of his field of yellow flowers and how he had been nursing the poppies all of this time. Otis and his field of poppies had become pretty well known around the valley and people would drive by his house just to get a glimpse of the field of “love” as they were called.

One of Clark’s neighbors was a couple from Bakersfield who had bought the home across the street as a weekender. Every Saturday they would come up and Otis and the man would get together to talk carpenter talk. Otis decided that the man was someone who would appreciate a good workshop, so one day, he invited him to come over and see his. When Otis opened the door, Otis saw the look in the man’s eyes. It was like a kid walking into Santa’s workshop. The man saw what appeared to be a cabinet shop with every woodworking tool imaginable, a separate gardening shop and a machinist shop. There wasn’t anything that couldn’t be made, modified or fixed in Otis’ truly magical shop.

“I have something for you,” Otis told the man. As the man watched Otis move through the area with gardening tools and pots on tables, he saw in Otis, a man, who, at one time in life could do anything. Otis made his way around the tables, holding onto his cane in one hand and bracing himself on the table with the other. He laid his cane on a workbench and picked up a flat of flowers. They were poppies. “Here, I want you to have these,” Otis told the man, handing him the flat. The neighbor looked at Otis and smiled really big. “Thanks, Otis. I know right where I’ll plant them so you can watch them grow too,” the man said.

Every year, the poppies came up in the neighbor’s yard, and Otis would comment on them and give the man pointers to help them grow. Then, a few years later, Otis passed away. Believe it or not, the day after Otis passed away, the field of poppies in his yard disappeared. They never grew back. On the day Otis left the neighborhood, the man had lost a mentor and a friend, but whenever I clean the yard and cut the weeds from out front, I see Otis’ poppies in my yard now and just smile, seeing in those yellow orange flowers, the legacy of a good man. 

A loaf of

Dolly Redner

One sunny morning my husband went to get a loaf of bread. He came back one hour later, very excited, with no bread but with the explanation that he had just bought us a car! Come and see! So I went to look at that wonderful purchase. Needless to say, I was not impressed. The car had been in an accident and one of its “eyes” lights was hanging out. It looked pathetic like a child that had been neglected for a long time. Our friend, the mechanic assured us he would have the car in pristine shape and good running order. We left it to him to finish the job.

Two weeks later we picked the car up at the garage. It was not pristine but it was running and both headlights were working which was a small miracle. (I should have taken a picture before.)

Then Passover came around and we were invited to a Seder to some friends who lived up a hill in Montreal. Our friend, the car, did not like hills, so we had to push it up and up. It was quite a job and we were very tired when we finally arrived at their home.

Then in spring we were driving to Ottawa to see my cousin who is a furrier and to bring my fur coat for storage. The car started to smoke really bad and I was scared we would be bursting into flames. Luckily there was a garage across the street, the mechanic came over to check the car over. He finally discovered what was wrong, there was no floorboard, the carpeting was laying on the exhaust pipe and when it got hot it smoked and could consume the car. He gave us a sheet of metal to cover the pipe and that stopped the smoke. On the way home from Ottawa the car seemed to pull to the left and I asked my husband what he was doing? He said “I am not doing anything, the car is doing it.”

On a quiet sunny evening, after having been to a restaurant for dinner, the car decided, it had enough. It settled down and would not move. The mechanic, our friend, was with us, so he came to see what was wrong. He had our baby towed to the shop. There it was discovered that the axel had been broken and wrongly welded together, that is why the car was pulling to the left. Well that mystery was solved. Now we had to get another car. But that is another story.