Michael Bernique ’61

BerniqueMichael R. Bernique, 72, passed peacefully in his sleep on Thursday, March 18th at 3:06 AM at UCSD Thornton Hospital in La Jolla CA.

Michael was born on December 26, 1943 in Fall River, MA the only child of Therese and George Bernique. Michael spent some of his early years in New Bedford, MA with his grandparents Elise and Lucien Bernique. Because of this, his first language was French and a life-long love of France and all things French ensued. Michael lived in a number of cities during his childhood including Karlsruhe, Germany, and Washington D.C. After attending several prep schools, in June 1961, he graduated from Williston Academy (now Williston Northampton School).

He went on to Notre Dame for his undergraduate studies earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in June, 1965. During his Notre Dame years, he spent a year in France and in June, 1964 earned a Certificat D’Etudes Politiques from “Sciences Po”, The Paris Institute of Political Studies.

Upon graduation from Notre Dame, Michael joined the U.S. Naval Officers Program. He earned the rank of Lieutenant JG, and after destroyer duty in the Atlantic, was posted to Vietnam. He served in the Riverine forces as a Swift boat Skipper earning a Silver Star for his heroic deeds on October 14, 1968. Admiral Elmo Zumwalt Jr., Chief of Naval Operations, afterwards named the Rach Giang Thanh River of that battle, “Bernique’s Creek”. Michael is a legend in the Swift boat community and a number of books about the Vietnam era write of him and the subsequent change in Naval operations his actions brought about.

After honorable discharge from the Navy, Michael went on to earn his Master of Arts in Social Sciences (International Relations) in December, 1970 at the University of Chicago. Michael began his business career at IBM and quickly moved up the management ladder at IBM. Always aspiring, he moved on to higher executive management positions in such companies as Exxon, Federal Signal Corp, Northern Telecom, Motorola, DSC, and locally in San Diego as President of General Instrument.

During his retirement he served on several boards including CPS Technologies and RFMI. Michael possessed a prodigious intellect, incisive wit, commanding presence, deep voice and hearty laugh. His French accent and understanding of the French language, linguistics and idioms was so impeccable that the French assumed him native French. He was a fervent Notre Dame football fan and forever passionate about watching their games. His other loves included French and world history, art and antiques, travel, fine dining, French wines and cognacs, and golf. He is a former member of Bent Tree Country Club in Dallas, played golf regularly at Golf du Cognac while he lived in the Poitou-Charentes region of France, and is a member of La Jolla Country Club and La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club.

Michael married Diana Lynn Prull on May 26, 1972 and they were happily married until her death May 1, 2010. They resided in a number of cities including Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, La Jolla and Saintes, France. On November 1, 2011 Michael married Michele “Mimi” Bonvillain Ellingsen and they resided in Dallas and now La Jolla.

Early in 2012 Michael was diagnosed with Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Face and thus began a prolonged and brave battle against the disease. Never separated in spirit or in person Michael and Mimi fought to overcome his cancer. Many thanks go to the doctors and medical personnel at UCSD and UCSD Moore’s Cancer Center. Their excellent medical attention and never-ending caring support provided great help and comfort to Michael and Mimi throughout their entire journey.

Michael will be missed by those family, friends and fellow military whose lives he touched but, most especially and deeply, by his wife Michele (“Mimi”). He will be buried with full-honors at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC (date pending). Graveside services will be held at that time.

2 thoughts on “Michael Bernique ’61”

  1. I am sorry to learn of the death of Mike. I do not think I have seen him since we graduated but have fond memories of our time together at Williston. He was one of the good guys in the class, not showy or pushy, but more than competent, someone who mixed with a wide range of classmates, fair-minded always, helpful, and somebody you could trust, the definition of a friend.

  2. Mike and I used to play chess all the time – he always won – except the last we ever played on a train to NYC. Interesting though after all those hours together I never knew of his French heritage or interest in French things. Wish I had known he lived in France as I spent almost three years there and would have loved to continue our chess games. He was a really fine guy with an incredible intellect.

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