Bertha (Sis) Wernert

FEATURE ARTICLE from The Morning Journal, 10-21-01, By DARLENE BROWN, Morning Journal Correspondent

AVON -- When questions arise about Avon, many people look to Bertha ''Sis'' Wernert for answers that are probably somewhere in her scrapbooks filled with the community's history.

Wernert, an 87-year-old widow, keeps a busy schedule. She's all over the town on a daily basis -- exercising, walking, attending meetings, taking care of the sick and serving at her church.

''Most people don't even know my first name,'' said the spry, peppy and energetic Wernert.

The scrapbooks reveal much of her family's history. The oldest scrapbook she has was given to her by her late aunt, Grace Pickering.

''I get them out in the winter,'' said Wernert, as she flipped through some of the pages. ''I put up a card table and reread some of the articles.

''Just the other day, I had a 92-year-old friend over and she spent time looking through them and reflecting on some of the history.''

Wernert was born in Avon, one of seven children of Harry Hubbard and Edna Wilcox Hubbard. Her father built the family home on 11 acres of farmland on Hale Street. When Wernert and her husband Elton married, they built a home next door to her parents, where she has lived for 60 years. Her husband died six years ago.

Her schedule would tire out most other people. She chauffeurs some of the town's senior citizens to the Autumn Rebels meetings, the second Tuesday of every month. The members, 50 and over, meet for lunch and are entertained by guest speakers and musicians.

''I've had an interesting and busy life,'' she said with a chuckle. ''My husband and I have a son, Alan, who lives here in Avon, so it wasn't as if I had a lot of children to take care of. I was from a fairly good-size family and my husband was from a family of 10.

''As a young girl, I went to Elyria High School where I could participate in sports. They didn't have sports for girls here in the Avon schools then. I graduated in 1931, when I was 16 years old. My brother Eugene used to drive me to school every day because he worked in Cleveland.

''I went on to become a beauty operator, graduating from White Cross Cosmetology School in Cleveland. My dad fixed up my bedroom into a salon and I did hair at home. Then I worked in Lorain at Maurice Beauty Salon, up over Style Center, around 1935 or 1936,'' she said.

To show how busy she was, even as a young girl, she named several other places of work.

''Of course, as kids we worked the two farms dad had. I also worked at the old Telephone Exchange Company on Detroit Road (Avon). Those were the days when you had to plug the cords into the switchboard.

''Mrs. Gilbert owned a grocery store and I would often replace my brother when he couldn't make it to work at the store. One day she had to leave me alone in the store, and she specifically told me not to open one specific item unless I had to. Well, being curious as most young people are, I opened it up and it was Limburger cheese. When she returned she said ÔOh, you sold some of the cheese,' and I had to explain to her what happened. I often laugh about that incident to this day.''

When Wernert's parents were up in years and ailing, she volunteered to take care of them because she lived next door. When a neighbor was ailing, she made herself available to do whatever was necessary.

''I was at so many of the homes where someone was sick, the doctor got so used to seeing me that he taught me how to give shots. I always felt that I had to help when someone was in need.

''I did all of these things besides operating my beauty salon, which my husband built for me in our home. After I turned 80, the state wouldn't allow me to renew my license unless I went back to school.''

Wernert, BerthaWernert

Bertha ''Sis'' Wernert and two of her many scrapbooks about Avon. (JIM BOBEL)

Wernert said her husband was a pattern maker and pointed out many lovely items he made for her -- several small living room tables, one with a glass top for displaying pictures, and wooden serving dishes, plus the beautiful woodwork throughout the home.

Her home and her parents' home were once situated in a rural setting. A small old school house, that she as well as her father, attended stood nearby.

''My dad said there were no grades in that school when he went,'' said Wernert. ''Once you graduated to the upstairs classes that meant you had completed the required schooling.''

The 11 acres her father once owned are now clustered with lovely modern homes.

''Times have changed,'' she said with a smile. ''At the edge of my backyard are new homes. I still enjoy my yard. My husband planted a beautiful ginkgo tree when it was a mere twig, that now stands taller than the house. Kids in the neighborhood come and get leaves from it.