Life Story / Obituary
If you were fortunate enough to know Bernadine J. Zaborney you knew a woman who cared deeply about her family and her friends. A woman who saw the beauty and wonder of life itself and who genuinely believed in the goodness of doing whatever she could to make life better for all those she cared about. She was particularly skillful in how she went about it, too; being strong and independent she had her own ways of doing things and will long be remembered for her strong sense of responsibility.
Bernadine’s life began on September 28, 1931. Yes, a gallon of gas was only 10 cents in 1931 but times were tough then as it was right in the midst of the Great Depression. Born in Detroit, Bernadine grew up in a strong Polish-American neighborhood on the near east side. Her parents worked hard to make ends meet with her father, John Webber, working as a delivery driver for Crowley, Milner & Co. As time went by, he went on to work for United Parcel Service and eventually retired from there. He was a proud Teamster, always. Her mother, Anna (Samull) Webber worked at Bull Dog Electric for a while but was mostly a homemaker, keeping house for young Bernadine and her sister, MaryAnn, in their home on East Canfield Street and later on Chene Street.
Bernadine had a broad upbringing amidst family members of multiple generations. This meant that responsibility was taught and expected from an early age. Caring for her younger cousins, doing household chores, and running errands were very much a part of her childhood routine. Perhaps this is what led to her being so strong and capable as her life journey continued. She learned about discipline not only at home but also in school, having shared stories later in life about the stern approach of some nuns she remembered from her school days. Bernadine loved to read and to learn. She had a natural curiosity about how the world works or doesn’t work. But she made it clear the nuns’ harsh ways did not appeal much to her! Some of the best times of growing up were the excursions to Belle Isle —“out the island”— as she liked to say, along with the get-togethers and jolly music-making with her father’s siblings.
Bernadine always enjoyed her walks home from St. Josaphat High School and especially stopping at the wonderful and delectable Mary’s Confectionary. And then there was Lendzion’s, a neighborhood variety store where she worked as a teenager. About this same time Bernadine considered going on to Wayne State or even enlisting in the military. Instead, she went to work at Dodge Main and became a comptometer operator. She made some great life-long friends during this time, through work of course, but also by joining the YWCA downtown and going to dances at the G.A.R. building. She met a lot of people this way and learned a lot about the experiences of life. She liked telling about her eye-opening vacations to Florida and South Texas. In Florida, she saw flamingos and enjoyed the synchronized swimmers at Weeki Wachee. She was captivated by the art deco architecture in Miami Beach on Collins Avenue. The first time she had grits was in Galveston. She also witnessed the inequalities of the Jim Crow South—separate water fountains, restrooms, accommodations, and bus seating. Having had her eyes opened, so to speak, she asserted her independence by teaching herself to save all she could from what she earned so to buy her own furniture and clothing, stylish clothes to be sure. She also took up cooking and baking for herself—again asserting her independence.
During her lifetime, besides being a terrific homemaker, Bernadine worked as a lunchtime aid at Emerson Elementary School in Detroit, completed her associates degree at Shapero School of Nursing, worked as a nurse’s aide at Grace Hospital in Detroit, and from 1978 to 1992 as a licensed practical nurse at Sinai Hospital in Detroit.
Bernadine’s life changed forever when, on October 26, 1957, she married the love of her life, Paul Zaborney. She and Paul met at the wedding of Mimi and Buddy—Rosemarie Webber and Frank Hawkes. Mimi was a first cousin of Bernadine’s. Bernadine stood up for Mimi and Paul stood up for Buddy. Yes, that’s how they met! Paul was in the National Guard then with Frank.
For their first date, Paul took Bernadine to see Lady and the Tramp. And the rest is history, as they say! Bernadine’s and Paul’s son, Mark, was born in November 1958, followed by their daughter, Paula, in February 1961, daughter Ann in August 1963, and son Eric, in January 1966.
As the family grew there were great family vacations to visit Paul’s family up north along with side trips to Mackinac Island, Sleeping Bear Dunes, and other exciting places. They also had good times at Burroughs Farms near Brighton. Bernadine saved her nurse’s aide earnings to take the whole family to Disney World in 1975. She booked the flights and accommodations and planned the itinerary herself by phone. There were two more trips to Disney and two to Hawaii. Also a Caribbean cruise. And a trip to Tennessee with Paula to visit a new great-grandson which included a stop at Graceland. The family also saw performances of Grease, Fiddler on the Rood, and Evita, by various touring companies. Bernadine and daughter, Ann, saw two performances by the trio II Volo and marveled at their vocal talents and charm.
Exercise was always important to Bernadine, even when the children were small. Reading too; she especially liked biography and history. Plus, she liked crossword puzzles, keeping up on current events, theater, music, the latest splash on TMZ, docudramas about the Royals, TV comedies like Seinfeld and the Big Bang Theory. And yes, she played the lottery, diligently keeping track of the winning numbers, and insisted she’d share the jackpot with everyone else in her family!
Bernadine Zaborney will be greatly missed but remembered forever by her family and friends. Bernadine was absolutely outstanding as a wife, mother, grandmother, great grandmother, and friend to many. There wasn’t a moment in her life when she couldn’t be counted on for her generosity, her caring and strength, her famous sayings like “Do your best”, “Jezus kochany!”, “You’re being ridiculous”, “Dammit!”, “You’re nuts!” “What a life”, and, “Well, that’s about it”, and even as a voluble raconteur! She will be deeply missed.
Bernadine J. Zaborney, 87, passed away April 29, 2019. Beloved wife of the late Paul. Cherished mother of Mark, Paula, Ann (Mary Kline) Zaborney and the late Eric. Dearest grandmother of Erica Cuneo, Elaine (Shawn) Cates, Chelsea (Wil Nosseck) Bylsma, Nina Zaborney Kline, and Chloe Zaborney Kline. Loving great-grandmother of Justin Shamblin, Jacob Cates, Robert Cates, Zachary Cates and Brayden Lawson. Adored sister of MaryAnn Weber. A visitation will be held Saturday, 12-7 pm with a Funeral Service 7 pm at Neely-Turowski Funeral Home, 30200 Five Mile Road, Livonia. The family will be having a Time of Sharing after the funeral service. Memorial donations may be sent to St. Bernard Soup Kitchen 322 W. Chisolm St., Alpena, MI 49707.