In Memory

Samuel Bernardi VIEW PROFILE

Date of Death:   January 1, 2013

Place of Death:   Valparaiso, Indiana

Family:   One son, Sam III;  three daughters, Caty Sickles; Colleen Ochs; and Angie Carroll; 12 grandchildren


Sam's Life:

He was the ultimate "guy's guy," the one his buddies turned to for leadership when it was time for fun.   Want to go to the Rec and shoot hoops?  Butch was ready, and had a decent jump shot.   Want to play 18 holes of golf somewhere?  Butch's dad was a club pro and he could get you in anywhere.  Want to play some poker, accompanied by banter and scathing insults from others at the table?  Butch's house was the place to go on Saturday afternoons.

He was always ready and willing to lead a foray into an adventure of some sort.  Apparently, he stayed that way the rest of his life, according to the memories of friends he met in his adopted home of Indiana.  One wrote on the memory page of his obituary website, "Good-by to one of the nicest, happiest men I ever had the privilege to know."   Among Indiana pals he was universally known as "Sambo."  

Sam got his bachelor's degree from Miami of Ohio, then went to the Notre Dame law school.  Upon graduation he joined a highly respected law firm in Valparaiso, Indiana, where he rose through the ranks to become a partner.   He remained at the same firm for 40 years, and became a leader in the Indiana bar.    He was elected president of the Defense Trial Counsel of Indiana in 1983, and was named a diplomat of that organization in 1984. At the time of his death he was treasurer of the state bar association.   But he never let the law get in the way of football.  When Notre Dame played in a bowl game anywhere, Sam would lead the Irish alums from Valparaiso to the stadium, no matter how distant.

When his son was named an assistant football coach at Valparaiso University, Sam became a de facto member of the football staff, boosting morale by bringing watermelons and popsicles to practice and making everyone on the team feel good about themselves.   Valparaiso didn't have a big-school athletic budget, and Sam volunteered his time, and sometimes his cash, to make things run.   His HPHS friends will relate to the war cry he would shout at athletic department administrators on the practice field:   "Hey, what can I do?"   Sometimes it meant chatting up a player who was down on himself; sometimes it meant doing some menial chore to free up the coaching staff for more important things.  Sam and his Indiana buddies would often travel to Valparaiso away games at their own expense.

 On game day -- at home or away -- Sam would roam the sidelines, right behind his son, keeping up with the line of scrimmage, reeling and unreeling the communications cables that connect the coaches on the field to those in the press box.   When the wires got tangled, Sam untangled them.   Not lawyer's work, but a labor of a father's love.   He was also assigned the job of policing the "no go" zone six feet from the sideline which players and coaches are not allowed to encroach.   "Walking and barking orders, he often sounded like a coach himself, and he held the respect of the players," remembered Merel Nelson of the Valparaiso University staff, adding, "Knowing Sam, you know we never had a penalty"  for violating the sideline rule.

On the night before away games, the coaching staff would sometimes go for a cold one at the bar after the team was bedded down.  Sam would always be there with a story and a smile.  And no one else would ever see the check.  The morning of each game Sam would deliver pep talks to individual players, firing them up.  After each game he would shake hands with other fans, often telling them that watching his son coach from the sideline was the greatest thrill he had ever experienced.  

As the son of a teaching professional golfer, Sam caught the golf bug as a child and played all his life.   As his 70's approached, he retired from his law firm and started spending half of each year in Bradenton, Florida, where there were plenty of courses, bright days and friends.   In 2010 he shot a hole-in-one.  He would doubtless want all his classmates to know that it was a 153-yard hole, and he was using a 7-wood.

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07/15/13 07:54 PM #1    

John Scornavacco

Sam "Butch" Bernardi was a great friend, teammate, and fun loving person. Very affable and welcome in any circle of classmates. He always had a smile on his face and something positive to say in the way of encouragement. On the football field he was a hustling hard-charging undersized lineman. On the golf course he was a skilled and an accomplished golfer. I had the pleasure of being dragged around some of the best courses in the area as part of Sam's guest list. Sam became a 40 year attorney in Valpo and my loss that we seldom saw him in HP after college.

John Scornavacco

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