Therese Bernier Patala
Therese Genevieve Bernier Patala (Terry), long-time resident of Brevard County, died on August 10, 2022, at the age of 92. Born on March 2, 1930, in Potsdam, New York, to Marguerite Sullivan and Alvin Joseph Bernier. The third of five children, Therese grew up in Ogdensburg, New York. A high achiever, she graduated from Ogdensburg Free Academy as the class Salutatorian. She attended Ithaca College, graduating with honors with a Bachelor of Science degree in Music Education in May of 1952. Upon graduating, she taught music at Saratoga Springs High School. In 1982, she graduated with her master’s degree in Counselor Education from the University of Central Florida.
In November of 1948, while attending Ithaca College, Therese met Gregory Peter Patala during an Ithaca Newman Club event. They were engaged in December of 1951 and married on July 4, 1953. They moved to Rome, New York where they started their family. Greg worked in Personnel at Griffiss Air Force Base and Therese taught music at Fort Stanwix Elementary School. In 1958 Greg transferred to Patrick Air Force Base in Brevard County, re-locating their young family to Eau Gallie, Florida, where they raised their five children. While the children were young, Terry continued her passion for music, teaching piano lessons in their home.
She and Greg were founding members of Ascension Catholic Church and School in Melbourne. When the children were older, she worked for years at Ascension School serving as an elementary school teacher, music teacher, guidance counselor and Director of Youth Ministry. At the same time for more than 25 years, she volunteered her services as the Ascension parish organist covering weddings, funerals, directing the children’s choir and playing weekend Masses on Saturdays and Sundays. A former girl scout, Terry served as a Girl Scout leader while her daughters were active in Brownies and Girl Scouts.
A community servant, determined to help others, Terry was a frequent blood donor, reaching the gallon donor mark multiple times. When she retired, she volunteered at the Eau Gallie High School childcare center, served as a volunteer usher at the King Center while also assisting at the Ascension Food Pantry. Comfortable with technology, she enjoyed her Apple products beginning in the eighties with her Macintosh and most recently using her iMac. Until 2020 she calculated her own taxes using Turbotax. An avid reader, Terry was a passionate proponent and advocate of “education for all,” actively supporting causes for those less fortunate.
A devoted sports fan, Terry followed Gator basketball and football closely even participating in the March Madness NCAA brackets. She loved watching PGA golf and professional tennis, and more recently had become a fan of the Tampa Bay Rays MLB team. Family knew not to call her during her daily appointment with the Jeopardy show, and anyone visiting loved to watch it with her!
As parents, Terry and Greg spent countless hours supporting their children’s varied activities including science fairs, recitals, choir and piano concerts, graduations, award ceremonies and sporting events. Extending that support to her grandchildren’s sports and activities, they could always count on her enthusiastic presence in the stands. She taught her children and her grandchildren to sing while she played the piano and played songs to help them go to sleep at night.
As a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother Terry’s love of family was her greatest joy. She especially loved being with the babies and would relish every moment she was able to spend with the little ones. She enjoyed taking care of her grandchildren in her home while they were young.
An excellent seamstress, Terry made all her daughters’ prom and homecoming dresses, dance recital costumes and many of their bridesmaid dresses with her sewing machine. An antique lover, she taught her children to value history and in doing so, the love of vintage furniture and relics from the past. She loved to spend time stripping and varnishing treasures discovered at garage sales and antique shops which she shared with her family.
A woman of deep faith, Terry was steadfast in her devotion to the Lord. She looked forward to spending eternity with God and the loved ones that went before her, especially her husband.
Therese was preceded in death by her husband of 41 years, Gregory Peter Patala, her parents Alvin and Marguerite Bernier, siblings Joseph Bernier, Mary Ashley SanSoucy, and Elizabeth Bernier, mother and father in-law Mary and George Patala, her dear sister and brother in laws, Rose and Raymond Patala, Eleanor and Jack Godfrey, Joyce Bernier (Joseph), Cecil “Teedy” Ashley (Mary), Eugene “Souie” SanSoucy (Mary), and former sister-in-law Mary Tripp Bernier.
She is survived by her five children: Katy Swiderski (Richard) of Summerfield, Florida; Peggy Dargan (Richard) of Cocoa Beach, Florida; Tina Hart (Mike) of Jensen Beach, Florida; Betsy Armstrong (Tom) of Melbourne, Florida; and Paul Patala (Pat) of Melbourne, Florida; her brother James Bernier (Jane) of Fernandina Beach, Florida; former brother-in-law Richard Connors (Elizabeth) of Arizona; 13 grandchildren; 11 great grandchildren and two on the way; and several much-loved nieces and nephews. She will be greatly missed by her family, friends, colleagues, neighbors and all who love her.
A visitation will be held on Saturday, August 27 from 12:00 – 1:00pm followed by a Funeral Mass at 1:00pm at Ascension Catholic Church, 2950 N. Harbor City Blvd., Melbourne, Florida 32935. Arrangements are under the direction of Brownlie-Maxwell Funeral Home, 1010 Palmetto Ave. Melbourne, Florida 32901.
In lieu of flowers please consider a donation to VITAS Hospice Health Care, 4450 W. Eau Gallie Blvd. STE 250 Melbourne, Florida 32934, or Ascension Catholic School, 2950 N. Harbor City Blvd., Melbourne Florida.