Bernard P.'s Story
Bernard P. Gerstner, 91, renowned Gloucester artist, passed away on Monday evening, May 1, 2017, at the Seacoast Nursing & Retirement Center. He was the husband of the late Shirley (Francis) Gerstner.
He was born in Rochester, New York on July 6, 1925, son of the late John and Ida (Brown) Gerstner. In kindergarten, his teacher told his mother that Bernie was going to be an artist. Even during the desperate days of the depression, the doting aunts and uncles of an only child kept him supplied with crayons and paint so that he could do what he loved. Bernie was also a natural at geography. He was proud that he knew the capitals of every state. He loved history, and he loved to watch and read western novels. He describes his favorite activity as a child as after collecting pieces of copper along the railroad tracks, or getting a quarter from an aunt or uncle, he'd spend his Saturdays at the movie theaters watching cartoons and movies all day long. He also describes a club/gang he was part of during the depression called, “The Fruitarian Raiders.” He and his buddies used to enjoy running around to neighborhood gardens stealing and eating fruit off the neighbors trees. He remembers the owners coming out and yelling at them while they all scattered and ran off with their fruit collection in different directions to fill up on the sweet treat.
At age 17 Bernie enlisted in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He spent three years aboard the U.S.S. Hornet in the Asiatic Pacific. He served as the ship's artist and painted the stripes and numbers on fighter jets. He was particularly proud of painting the scoreboard of enemy fighters shot down in battle. The original scoreboard he created can still be seen at the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida. Bernie’s memories of being aboard the Hornet at age 17 were how tight and confined the ship was. In order to find some breathing room, Bernie created a bed for himself among the brushes and turpentine in the paint room. There he could think and paint, and write letters home in peace, away from the rough and tumble enlisted men. He was smart and always found a way to get along with whatever life threw his way. Bernie often told us about how frightened he was during raids when he would have to keep watch on deck all night. He described how cold and tired he’d get and then just in time, one of his mates would come by with hot black, coffee and chocolate bars to help keep them awake. He remembered how good that felt to him to just get that boost in a fearful time with bombs flying overhead. He said he thought that he would never see his mother again. When Bernie’s tour of duty ended, he was dropped off in California with a few dollars in his pocket, and he described how he was worried and didn't know what to do. He saw a sign with a simple message that said “Get Going,” and that is what he decided to do. He bought a ticket home, boarded a train, and made his way back to his overjoyed parents. He described the reunion as one of the most wonderful feelings of his life. After the war Bernie graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology and later from the Phoenix School of Design in New York City. He worked for Case-Hoyt Printing Company in Rochester for many years and taught painting at Eastman Kodak as well as at various other venues in upstate New York and in New England. He met his beloved wife of 52 years, Shirley, while on a painting trip to Cape Ann with a good painting buddy. The minute his buddy pointed her out walking down Broadway in Rockport, he fell head over heels for Shirley (Francis). After only two weeks he asked her to marry him. (He was aware of competition from other artists.) She said yes, and they were married at St. Joachim's Church in Rockport on June 6, 1954. They moved back to Rochester, N.Y., had four children and looked after Bernie's mother until her passing. They summered in Gloucester and permanently moved to Gloucester in 1976. He opened his art gallery on Rocky Neck in the early 1970s and had a prominent spot on the corner of Art Alley. He made many wonderful friendships with the artists of the area over the years. He also spoke of meeting several entertainers like Tony Bennett, and Billy Joel who came looking for art in his gallery, while docking and dining at Rocky Neck. Bernie kept a winter gallery with his son, Wayne in Lanesville where they spent long hours bonding. He was a local character in the small community. Between his winter gallery there and his long walks through Lanesville's wooded roads looking for natures inspirations, he developed friendships with Walker Hancock, Paul Manship and many other Lanesvillians who appreciated his unique qualities. Bernie also kept a winter gallery in his home throughout the years, until they all closed after the summer of 2010. Bernie became well known as a watercolor teacher on Cape Ann. He taught painting to children and adults for many years at the Rockport Art Association. He also taught summer workshops to aspiring artists who would join in year after year, and as the years progressed, they were nursing him through the heat of the summer, and his progressive diabetic reactions, hoping he would continue to impart his painting skill onto them. Of course, they became true and life long friends. Bernie was a member of many art associations including, the Rochester Art Association, The Rochester Suburban Art Club, the Northshore Art Association, The Salmagundi club in New York City, N.Y., Whiskey Painters of America and the Rockport Art Association. He was written up in many magazines, and won many awards, trophies and ribbons for his expert and beautiful paintings.
Bernie was a devoted family man. He was a wonderful loving husband and father. He was a role model to his children and all who knew him. He was funny and didn't mind being the butt of a friendly joke so long as all of his children and grandchildren were having a good time. He was a wonderful provider, and launched all his children, provided for their educations and so much more. Bernie made the world a much better place. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him. He is survived by his four children, Wayne Gerstner of Gloucester, Kurt Gerstner and wife, Jane of Newton, Paige Waldron and husband, Russ of Gloucester, Bernadette Cruz and husband, Asdrubal of Gloucester; grandchildren, Kevin Gerstner of Gloucester, Torrie Smith and husband, Billie of Florida, Shane Stephenson of Manchester, N.H., Chad Gerstner of Gloucester; Kurt’s children, Erik and Jenny Gerstner; Paige’s children, Tom Waldron and fiancé, Toni Armstrong, Kathleen Maiorana and husband, Salvatore, all of Gloucester, Andrea Waldron of Tulsa, Okla.; Bernadette’s children, Nathan and Alexis Cruz of Gloucester; great-grandchildren, Marika Maiorana and Tristan Francis Waldron of Gloucester; sister-in-law, Sandra Munroe and husband, Ken of Essex; and cousin, Helen Nieberle and husband, Ernie of Maine.
His Funeral Mass will be held on Tuesday, May 9 at 9:30 a.m. in St. Joachim’s Church, Rockport. Extended family and friends are cordially invited to attend. Visiting hours will be held on Monday, May 8 from 5 to 8 p.m. in the Greely Funeral Home, 212 Washington Street, Gloucester. The burial will be held in Seaside Cemetery, Lanesville, Massachusetts.
For online condolences, please visit greelyfuneralhome.com.
Published on  May 4, 2017