James H. Bernard, 91, of Kansas City.
When and how he died:
Feb. 8 of a stroke.
Jim Bernard was a lifelong resident of Kansas City and practiced with the firm of Slagle, Bernard Gorman and its predecessors for 62 years until he retired in 2010.
“He always worked hard and was generally a seven-day-a-week lawyer,” said his son, Jim Bernard Jr. “He loved the practice of law and his clients, law partners and staff. He was often a quiet man, but when he spoke, people always paid attention. His clients became his friends, and they trusted him fully.”
Jim Bernard Jr. said his father was not mechanically inclined.
“My sister (Susan) and I often joked that he didn’t know which end of a screwdriver was the business end,” he said. “However, he loved an intellectual challenge.”
When his law firm got computers more than 25 years ago, Jim quickly taught himself how to create Lotus spreadsheets and ended up writing complicated programs to handle intricate estate planning and tax calculations.
A long and close marriage:
Jim and his wife of 66 years, Marjorie, attended Second Presbyterian Church on East 55th Street, where he served as an elder. The couple enjoyed traveling around the world, including a dining trip to five-star restaurants in France.
The two also enjoyed the Kansas City Symphony, of which Jim was a board member.
Marjorie died in September. Jim Bernard Jr. said his father never recovered from not having his lifelong love at his side.
A man of character:
Mary Kay McPhee knew Jim for decades and called him a builder of relationships.
“He was a man of ethical behavior and strong moral fiber,” McPhee said. “I don’t think there was an ounce of vanity in him. He did what he thought was right and he did it well. He was resolute and honorable. He did things with sincere generosity of self and of time and of treasure.”
“He was very warm, very genuine and very caring,” said Dick H. Woods Jr., a former general counsel for the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City who got to know Jim in the 1970s. “I would take him out to lunch after he retired, and one of the first things he would say in the car was that I needed to lose weight. I always kind of chuckled, but it was a genuine concern on his part for my health.”
As a young lawyer, Jim worked with client Long Bell Lumber Co. and came to know R.A. Long’s two daughters, Loula Long Combs and Sally Long Ellis, and their descendants. Jim was legal adviser on the creation of the R.A. Long Foundation, which continues.
Jim also was a director and vice president of Ozanam and a director of the Elmwood Cemetery Association, where his and his wife’s ashes are interred.
Jim received the Donald Chisholm Award from the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation for his philanthropic leadership and guidance of his clients’ charitable planning.
His son and daughter.
Final thought: “If Jim Bernard was a friend of yours, he was a friend for life,” Woods said. “You could always count on him.”