Floral 16

Bernice Emily (Nerva) Genereux

December 19, 1923 ~ September 13, 2023 (age 99) 99 Years Old


Bernice Emelia (Nerva) Genereux, 99, of Willmar, died Wednesday, September 13, 2023, at Brookdale Assisted Living in Willmar.

Mass of Christian Burial will be at 11:00 a.m. Thursday, September 21, at the Church of St. Mary in Willmar and will be streamed at https://www.ourlivingwater.org/berniceg.html.  Interment will be at 1:00 p.m. Friday, September 22, at St. Anthony Cemetery in Terrebonne.  The visitation will be 5:00-7:00 p.m. Wednesday, September 20, at Harvey Anderson Funeral Home in Willmar and will continue one hour before Mass on Thursday.  In lieu of flowers, memorials are preferred to Rice Hospice or a charity of your choice.

Five children survive her: Michael (Heidi)Genereux of Wahpeton, ND; Patrick (Susan) Genereux of Waukee, IA; Emily (Michael) Heglund of Willmar, MN; Paul (Laurie) Genereux of Minnetrista, MN; and Mary (Anthony) Amon of Willmar, MN; 17 grandchildren; 25 great-grandchildren; two great-great-grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews.

Bernice was preceded in death by her parents, Matthew Nerva and Lydia Kela; three sons, Thomas, Donald, and Peter; her brother, Melvin Nerva, and her sister, Eunice Koskela; and a great-grandson, Noah Jacob Heglund.

Bernice’s life reflected her values of love of family, caring for others, service to the community, and sharing her gifts.

Mom’s grandfather immigrated to America from Finland in the late 1800s when her Dad, Matthew, was a baby. Her parents farmed near Plummer, Minnesota.  She was born on December 19, 1923, in the house her father built. Mom attended a country school before graduating from Plummer High School in 1942. She wanted to study chemistry at the University of Minnesota.  However, her father sent her to the teacher’s college in Red Lake Falls instead. As was common in those years, there weren’t many options for young women but to obey their parents.

Mom taught in a one-room country school before moving to California during WWII, followed by her marriage to Marine Sgt Arthur Genereux of Terrebonne in 1944. After the war, Mom and Dad returned to Minnesota and moved to Warren, where Michael, Patrick, and Emily were born. They moved to Bird Island in the early 1950s, where Thomas, Donald, Paul, Mary, and Peter were born.

Mom tirelessly cared for our three brothers, Tommy, Donnie, and Peter (all three had Hurler’s Syndrome), while raising the rest of us. She would sew, bake, garden, and can.

Mom’s caramel rolls and mocha bars at Christmas are legendary in the family.

While in Bird Island, Mom returned to teaching and taught at St. Mary’s School.

One of Mom’s gifts was as an accomplished seamstress. She began sewing after her father bought her a sewing machine.   Mom was so well known as a seamstress that in the early 70s, she was commissioned to sew for several Miss Minnesota queens.

In 1978, Mom, Paul, and Mary moved to Breckenridge, where she worked as a financial aid worker for Wilkin County.

Mom also found time as an active volunteer in the community. While living in Bird Island, she and her friend, Marge Baumgartner, founded the ARC and DAC of Renville County. After moving to Breckenridge, Mom, and friend Mavis Schuler founded the Lake Agassiz chapter of Compassionate Friends.

 In 1986, she received both the McKnight Award in Human Service and the Minnesota Social Service Association Distinguished Service Award presented by then-Governor Rudy Perpich. In 1991, Mom received the prestigious Jefferson Award for Public Service. She also received community recognition for her work with Hospice, the Prairie Rose Carousel, the Community Education and Recreation Board, and St Mary’s Church Social Justice and Concerns Committee.

During this period, Mom did the things she hadn’t time to do before.  Mom enjoyed painting and needlepoint, especially Hardanger and Brazilian Embroidery. She took swimming and tennis lessons and was able to travel with friends. She took great pride in caring for her yard and the red-colored cottage in Breckenridge, which she renovated.

Mom moved to Willmar in 2008.  Mom remained as active as she was able, attending her grandchildren’s school and sporting events, local theatre productions, and making new friends.

Bernice Emelia Nerva Genereux lived a fullness of life to the best of her ability, sharing who she was where she could. We, her family, can only hope that our lives reflect that fullness in how we live, remembering the lesson that “what we do, not what we say,” is what really matters. The presence of our mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, aunt, and friend will be profoundly missed.

To send flowers to the family, please visit our floral store.

Funeral Service

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September 20, 2023

5:00 PM to 7:00 PM
Harvey Anderson & Johnson Funeral Home
1000 19th Ave SW
Willmar, MN 56201

September 21, 2023

10:00 AM to 11:00 AM
Church of St. Mary (Willmar)
713 12th Street SW
Willmar, MN 56201

Mass of Christian Burial
September 21, 2023

11:00 AM
Church of St. Mary (Willmar)
713 12th Street SW
Willmar, MN 56201

Video is available for this event

September 22, 2023

1:00 PM
St. Anthony Cemetery
State Highway 92
Terrebonne, MN 56750


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