Bernice Frances Bruckman Johnston

January 23, 1946November 9, 2013
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Bernice Frances (Bruckman) Johnston, aged 67, passed away surrounded by the love of friends and family on November 9, 2013. Bernie was born in Grand Rapids in 1946, the third child of William and Nita Bruckman. Bernie graduated from Marywood Academy in 1964, then enrolled at Michigan State University, where she studied journalism. It was at MSU where she met the love of her life, Everett “Rhett” Johnston. After graduating from MSU, Bernie became one of the first women ever hired as an intern at the Kalamazoo Gazette and then Saginaw News. She married Rhett in 1969 at St. Alphonsus Parish in Grand Rapids, the same church where she was baptized and received the sacraments. When Rhett landed a job as chief of staff to State Sen. Jerry Hart (D-Saginaw) they moved to Lansing, where they started a family. Bernie spent several rewarding years raising their three children before returning to work as the director of events and publications at the Michigan Petroleum Association (MPA). Bernie and Rhett shared their Catholic faith, their love of MSU and many epic camping adventures with their children. Rhett and Bernie also were the traditional hosts of Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations for the Johnston and Bruckman families. Bernie was a talented writer, traveling the state to tell the stories of small business owners who were members of MPA. After Rhett was diagnosed with brain cancer, she cared for him with the help of family and friends until his death in 2003. It was during Rhett’s illness and his stay at Mother Teresa House in Lansing that Bernie discovered a passion for caring for those needing care near the end of their lives. She became a regular volunteer at Mother Teresa House until she moved back to Grand Rapids in 2006 to be closer to her mother and other family members. Upon her return, Bernie embraced life with new vigor, caring for her grandchildren and mother, while volunteering at the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park and working at J. Milito & Associates. Bernie is survived by her children, Amy (Chris) Knape, Kevin (Anna) Johnston and Katherine (Paul) Hegele; beloved grandchildren Benjamin, William and Timothy Knape; Kyle Johnston; and Caroline and Owen Hegele and their unborn brother (due Thanksgiving); siblings Donald (Cathy) Bruckman, Janet Barnes and William (Debbie) Bruckman; sister and brother-in-law Diane (Stuart) Leslie and Richard (Chris) Johnston; and many cherished nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her husband, her father and mother, mother-in-law Elizabeth Johnston, father-in-law Wesley Johnston, her brother-in-law Thomas Barnes, and sister-in-law Angela Johnston. The Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 11am on Tuesday, November 12, 2013 at St. Alphonsus Parish with Rev. Lamar Partin, C.Ss.R. as celebrant. Please join the family for visitation at Reyers North Valley Chapel on Monday, November 11, 2013 from 4-8pm with the Rosary at 7pm. One hour additional visitation will be held at church before Mass on Tuesday. For those who wish, please consider memorial contributions in memory of Bernie to St. Alphonus Capital Campaign, All Saints Academy or The Co-Redemptorists Association with envelopes available at the funeral home.


  • Visitation Monday, November 11, 2013
  • Rosary Monday, November 11, 2013
  • Visitation Tuesday, November 12, 2013
  • Mass of Christian Burial Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Bernice Frances Bruckman Johnston

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November 13, 2013

We are so sorry for your loss. Your mom was always so warm and friendly. May special memories comfort you during this difficult time. Love, Sue and Mike Keil

Rebecca Sweer

November 11, 2013

Words can't express how sorry and sad I am to hear about your mom. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. I am thankful that your were able to move to Michigan and be able to spend time with her and that your parents will be together again. Their legacy lives on through you, both sound like such special people. It shows through how natural being a mom comes to you and your dedication to the teaching you did in Chicago. Never forget how proud they are of you.

Erynn Viinanen

November 11, 2013

We are so very sorry for your loss. You are all in our prayers and thoughts. I remember the times I saw her and how she was a wonderful mom and a great grandmother. Love, Erynn and Veli

Ricki Levine

November 11, 2013

Amy, I am so sorry for your loss. Your Mom sounds like she was an amazing person.I wish you and your family only the very best memories of her.

November 11, 2013

Amy and Chris our thoughts and prayers go out to you and your family during this difficult time. Love, Lance and Amy Camarote

Mary Ellen Novakoski

November 11, 2013

I went to grade school at St Alphonsus with your mom and so enjoyed re-connecting at our 50th 8th grade class reunion. She was a "determined" student in grade school...and sounds like she carried that on throughout her life. That good Catholic education foundation we received at St Al's has carried us all far. May your mom now rest in God's peace and may you be comforted with wonderful memories. Continue her legacy!

Kylee Paul

November 11, 2013

Dear Kerry and family, we are so sorry to hear about your mother and will be thinking and praying for you all this week. She is in a better place and will most definitely be watching over you and the baby from heaven. Take care.

Don Eichberger

November 11, 2013

Dear Amy, Kevin and Kerry,
I knew your dad since our freshman year at MSU. We were roommates the next two years and enjoyed some very good times together, especially some great parties at Riverside East apartments.

In the fall of 1967 I moved into Burcham Woods apartments, and your mom was living next door. What a great neighbor! We could always kid with each other and we enjoyed having a "cold one" together on a few occasions that year.

I went to your mom and dad's wedding just before being drafted. Sally was teaching in St. Ignace at the time. Then your folks went to California with the Vista program. When Rhett and Bernie came back to Mi., as did Sally and I, they started having annual MSU football gatherings at their house. We watched you all grow up from babies to adulthood. Your parents did an incredible job raising you! Their pride was obvious.

This may not be the right thing to say, but I can't stop thinking that in the case of both Rhett and Bernie, their passing seems so unfair to me and I miss them very much. On a happier note, maybe your mom and dad are dancing together tonight, and if Rhett has his way it will be to the Four Tops or the Temptations.
Don and Sally

Kristy Stites

November 10, 2013

So sorry for your family's loss... .knowing Amy and Kerry through the Junior League, I have seen two amazing, smart, strong, caring, wonderful women who exemplify everything a Mother could hope for in her grown daughters. They are both a true legacy to the obvious love and care that went into raising them. I am praying for your family as you deal with the loss of your much loved Mother, God Bless you all. Best wishes, Kristy Stites

Ashley Sheehan

November 10, 2013

A friend of Kerry's, I was so very saddened to learn of her beloved mother's passing. Kerry always spoke so fondly of her mother, and I know she will be terribly missed. Prayers and comfort for the entire family during this time. I'm so very sorry.
Ashley Sheehan