Bernard Chason Edenfield of Maitland, Florida, 98, passed away on May 12, 2022, following a brief hospitalization. Bernard was born in 1923 in rural Gadsden County near Greensboro to Ivey and Corrie Edenfield, both members of pioneer families. He grew up in north Florida during the Great Depression, working as a laborer on tobacco crops and at his family's service station.
He attended Gadsden County Schools, never missing a day, and won a Perfect Attendance Award. He was the Greensboro High School Class President, scoring the highest rating in the State of Florida on the College Placement Exam. After graduating in 1941, he attended the University of Florida, leaving there for military service in World War II in 1943.
He served in the Army for three years, most of this time in the infantry. He was sent to the European Theater as an Infantry Replacement. He was assigned to Company A, 116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Division, which had been almost wiped out on D-Day, as a Sergeant Squad Leader. After the end of hostilities, he was reassigned to the 56th Quartermaster Base depot in Giessen, Germany, as Transportation Sergeant. He was awarded the Combat Infantryman's Badge and the Bronze Star.
He was discharged in April 1946 to his home in Panama City, Florida. In May 1946, while attending a church service with his family at First Baptist Church Panama City, a choir member with a beautiful smile caught his eye. Following the church service, Bernard was introduced to Mary Frank Grimsley, and their lives were changed forever. In his words, Bernard fell "totally in love" with her over that summer.
In the fall of that year, Bernard used the G.I. Bill to re-enroll at the University of Florida in Gainesville while Mary Frank enrolled in the Florida State College for Women (FSCW) in Tallahassee. Fortuitously, Bernard was one of about 500 men offered the option of attending classes at FSCW. He seized the opportunity to transfer from Gainesville to the new Tallahassee Branch of the University of Florida (TBUF) taking classes at FSCW, which became Florida State University (FSU) in 1947. They were married in September 1948, in Panama City, during a hurricane, and spent two glorious years as married students at FSU. Bernard was awarded his A.A. from the University of Florida in 1947 and his B.S. (Sociology and Political Science) and M.S. (Sociology) from FSU in 1948 and 1950 respectively.
Following graduation, Bernard was offered a job with the Social Security Administration and found his life's work. Over the next 30 years, he worked in Pensacola, Dothan, Tallahassee, St. Petersburg, Atlanta, Orlando and Melbourne. He retired as District Manager, Melbourne. After retirement, he attended FSU Law School for a time, taught in a Melbourne junior college, and worked at Sears part-time from which he also retired. Bernard and Mary Frank moved to Maitland in 2005 to be near one of their daughters.
Bernard loved to travel throughout his life. At 16 years of age, he made his first trip to a big city to attend the 1939 New York World's Fair. He later took his young family to the 1964-65 New York World's Fair. In their retirement years, Bernard and Mary Frank enjoyed traveling with friends and family throughout Europe and North America and visited 48 states, missing only North Dakota and Alaska. One of his fondest memories was taking the entire family on a 10-country European tour. Bernard made two trips to Edenfield, England, where he struck up a lasting friendship with the vicar and the town historian. Bernard kept in touch with many friends around the world that he met during his travels and continued to revisit cherished places via Google Earth.
Bernard lived a very full, healthy, and independent life. Throughout his nearly 99 years, Bernard never stopped learning, reading, and writing. He thoroughly enjoyed his frequent visits to the library to check out as many books as allowed. He read the newspaper front-to-back and worked the crossword puzzle every day. He was a student of history; as a fourth-generation Floridian, he loved Florida and was an expert in Florida history. He enjoyed collecting antiques, cut glass, books, and maps. He often had fruit trees and vegetable gardens; in recent years he specialized in growing hot peppers. He was an excellent cook and was especially known for his thick "sandwich gravy."
Bernard was a lifelong Baptist, active in his church in each place he lived. During the 38 years that he attended Eau Gallie First Baptist Church in Melbourne, he served as a Deacon, taught Adult Sunday School classes, and held many leadership positions. After moving to Maitland, he became a member of First Baptist Winter Park. A man of unquestionable integrity, Bernard epitomized the character and values of the Greatest Generation. He was a devoted son and dedicated husband. As a father, he was caring, understanding and patient. He was warm and welcoming to his daughters' friends; even after his daughters had moved away, many of their friends continued to drop by to visit with him or take him fishing. He was beloved and cherished by his friends and family, and the many people he helped through difficult times. He will be remembered as a kind and good man who never met a stranger and could carry on a conversation with anyone. After the death of his beloved Mary Frank, he found companionship and friendship with a circle of friends and neighbors that considered "Mr. Bernie" their honorary father, grandfather and great-grandfather. These precious relationships brought great joy and deep meaning to him. Bernard enjoyed texting and messaging his many friends and sharing his clever wit, keen observations, and thoughtful musings.
Bernard is survived by daughters Mary A. Edenfield (Anthony Ricardi) of Maitland and Martha J. Edenfield (William Clayton Newton) of Tallahassee. He was preceded in death by his wife of nearly 62 years, Mary Frank Grimsley Edenfield, and by his father and mother.
A memorial service was previously held at First Baptist Winter Park. A graveside service with military honors will be held at 11:00 am on September 10, 2022, at Evergreen Memorial Gardens, 3733 U.S. Hwy 231 North, Panama City, Florida.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to First Baptist Winter Park, 1021 N. New York Avenue, Winter Park, Florida, 32789, or The Institute on World War II and the Human Experience, Florida State University http://give.fsu.edu/ww2.