In Memoriam : Thelma Hamerslagh

Thelma Bernice "Bernie" Hamerslagh - age: 87
(January 26, 1928 to February 06, 2015 )
Resident of Exeter, California

Visitation Information:
A Memorial Service will be held on Friday, February 13, 2015 at 12:30 PM at Evans Miller Guinn Exeter Chapel. Burial will private in the Exeter District Cemetery. Condolences may be sent to the family at Services entrusted to Evans Miller Guinn Chapel.

We lost one of the good ones today. On Friday, February 6th, Thelma Bernice “Bernie” Hamerslagh passed away peacefully in her home with the warm hands and loving hearts of many family members by her side. Bernie Sawyer was born January 26, 1928 in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, Canada. Her father, Raymond Sawyer was an Indian agent for the Canadian government. Her mother, Mary Sawyer was a homemaker—caring for Bernie and her 5 siblings (Les, Mervin, Doreen, Calvin, and Art). Growing up free in this somewhat untamed environment on the reservation may have been at the root of her independent spirit, no nonsense attitude, and compassion for others that was woven into her life. If you wanted to hear the truth about something, just ask Bernie! She might have remained in Canada and had a different story—instead, her sense of adventure, fun, and probably a little bit of the troublemaker took her on a nickel’s bus ride over the border to Detroit, Michigan—where she met, dated, and married her partner for life, William (Bill) Hamerslagh. Together they set out on a life full of unknown promise and peril that began in Oak Park, MI. There the couple struggled, built homes, and began to fill beds with kids. Bernie once told Bill she wanted seven kids, however, the final tally came in at 5: Bonnie, Dale, Leanne, Chris, and Greg.
It was not too many years before economies changed and they left Michigan behind looking for newer and better opportunities—next stop, southern California. Setting down roots in Camarillo, Bernie and Bill worked together building businesses around the booming construction industry of the ‘60’s. By the mid-‘70’s it was time to find another greener pasture, perhaps one with oranges. This led them to California’s central valley and the small town of Exeter where they “retired” to a life of ranching, mini-storages, and assorted other business ventures (which meant that they never really retired). If Bernie believed what the ‘experts’ told her, she would have had a very short life. Early on, in her 20’s, she had breast cancer and was told her time would be limited. There were a number of other medical hardships that she would face over time—however, if you knew her, you know that she wasn’t ever a quitter. For her, life was to live—and she did! Whether she was flying cross-country and navigating for Bill, or navigating their businesses and home front, she made her presence known. She was funny, flamboyant, a quiet almost invisible donor to numerous charities, and a force to be reckoned with. Bernie’s laugh and humor were infectious to those lucky enough to know her. She was always first with the quip and one-liner; she collected and told the best jokes. Though never a big woman (she claimed have been all of 5’ 2”at her tallest!), you didn’t want to be on her “bad list” as she could and would put just about anyone in their place if she felt they needed direction. Everyone knew that Bernie was at the epicenter of the Hamerslagh clan. She gave advice and counsel, mended hearts and fences, commented on plans and dreams, evaluated potential boy and girl friends, and she listened. Bernie was genuinely interested in you and your life. If she asked you about your friends or their family, you knew she cared.
Her lasting legacy will, of course, be her family. She is survived by her husband of 66 years, William; children: Bonnie (Kelly) Leonard, Dale (Shelia) Hamerslagh, Leanne (John) Brownfield, Christopher (Cindy) Hamerslagh, Gregerey (Terri) Hamerslagh; grandchildren & great-grandchildren: Holly Grooms and son Adyn, Jessica Hamerslagh and son Jaylen, Jennifer (Patrick) Nalley Boyd, William (Katherine) Hamerslagh and son Lane; & Mary Kate Hamerslagh. Surviving Bernie as well is her sister Doreen Dilly, her brother Art Sawyer, and abundance of relatives and friends that meant very much to her who are scattered over the US & Canada.
Bernie looked forward to Christmas each year as a gathering of family as well as the chance to hear from all of those far away each of whom will continue to benefit from her gifts of strength, laughter, and character. The family greatly appreciates all the care given by all Bernie’s doctors and their staffs, especially Dr. Lawrence Ginsberg.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to: American Heart Association, American Cancer Association, Humane Association, or one of your own choosing.

Rita Olson - February 18, 2015Contact this person Contact this person
Bonnie and family I'm so sorry for the loss of your mom. I have fond memories of her as well as the whole family...high school and college years were a long time ago but good memories survive. I'm sorry I was not in the area to attend the service. Prayers to you all. Rita Kuonen Olson