Another of Patagonia’s bright stars went dark on November 17, 2021 when, at age 98, Bernice Pomeroy died peacefully at her home with daughters MaryAnne and Ruth Ellen by her side. 

Born March 17, 1923 in Wakarusa, Indiana to Nelson and Iva Holdeman, Bernice was, for all practical purposes, a life-long Arizonan, her family having moved to Solomonville when she was five for her mother’s health.

Bernice became a devoted and admired teacher after graduating as valedictorian from Arizona State Teachers College (now ASU). It was in her freshman year that she met the love of her life, Talmage Pomeroy, whom she married two days after graduating. 

The couple had five children. After her children started school, Bernice began her teaching career in Tucson where Tal also had secured a teaching position. The couple taught there for some 30 years before retiring to Patagonia where their good friends Doris and Don Wenig had also taken up residence.

Bernice and Tal bought a house on Pennsylvania Avenue and renovated it extensively over the years. For nearly four decades, it was a place of refuge and creativity where she tended a garden that reflected her colorful character and where she practiced, perfected and offered her twin competencies of playing and teaching piano. 

Bernice’s interest in music took root in her early childhood years when she became fascinated with the pump organs and player pianos enjoyed by members of her Mennonite extended family. Although she always played for her personal enjoyment, it wasn’t until she retired to Patagonia that the piano became a dominant force in her life and her mastery of it one of the community’s cultural gems. One beneficiary of her musical talent was the Methodist Church where she played the organ every Sunday morning since 1984 as well as special recitals. 

Bernice loved to dance. She would dance whenever and wherever she had the opportunity. Dancing was so important to Bernice that for years she went to La Roca restaurant in Nogales, Sonora every Sunday after church to dance to the music there. Not surprisingly, the restaurant staff came to embrace Bernice, eventually dubbing her “La Reyna.” Although very weak from Merkel cell carcinoma, the rare disease that was claiming her life, just two months before her death Bernice went to La Roca for what would be her last time. Unable to climb the stairs, she was carried up by the restaurant staff to the dining room who, recognizing the inevitable, joined Bernice and her party in a joyous celebration of this dancing queen.

Though small in stature, Bernice was a huge force for good in the community. No stranger to adversity, she truly cared for others, especially those less fortunate than she. She gave generously of her self, her possessions and her musical gifts to lighten burdens, lift spirits and quietly spread joy wherever she went. She practiced not random, but uniform acts of kindness and those who were privileged to know her will miss the warm, cheery countenance she brought to everyday life in this community.

Bernice was preceded in death by her husband, Talmage, son Robert Nelson Pomeroy, infant son William Grant Pomeroy and sister Lucille H. Meyers. She is survived by her sister Gene Stapley of Glendale, daughters MaryAnne Pomeroy-Fulton of Savannah, GA, Ruth Ellen Frost Snedecor of Wales, UT and Nita K. Pomeroy, of Delano, CA.

She is also survived by six grandchildren: Isaac Obezo, Joseph Obezo, Layla Crosby, Stephanie Jones, Michelle Goodman, and Patrick Fulton; 15 great grandchildren and 1 great-great-grandchild.

Bernice loved this community and endowed it with gifts. Following her wishes, in lieu of flowers, those who wish to honor her life with a contribution are encouraged to donate to Community Homes of Patagonia (CHOP) P. O. Box 1063, Patagonia, AZ 85624.

A memorial service in Patagonia is planned for next March 17, 2022 on which date Bernice would have celebrated her 99th birthday.