Berniece Holt Via

Berniece Holt Via, loving mother and grandmother, passed away last week at Kaiser Hospital, Walnut Creek. Surviving are her sister, brother-in-law, daughter-in-law and four grandchildren. She was predeceased by her husband, son, a granddaughter, and two sisters.

Funeral services will be held at Callaghan Mortuary, Livermore, Calif., on Nov. 7, with viewing from 10 to 10:45 a.m., and funeral service at 11 a.m., with interment to follow at Sierra Hills Cemetery in Sacramento, Calif.

Berniece spent her first years in Burkburnett, Texas. In 1938, she moved with her family to California where they settled in the little town of Brawley. On May 5, 1941, an earthquake destroyed the town, demolishing the schools, library, town hall, hotels, grocery stores, and some homes. “There was no school until November,” she recalled, “and then we had little huts for each grade.”

In 1942, the family moved to the Sacramento area where Berniece attended Sutter Junior High School. Later the family was able to purchase a small farm in Yolo County. Berniece then attended and graduated from Clarksburg High School. She was always proud of the fact that she completed the four-year course of study in three years, graduating a year early.

Berniece’s first job took place during World War II as part of the support-the-war effort, where she worked in the vegetable fields, mainly cutting onion heads. Her second job was as a part-time soda jerk for W.T. Grants (downtown Sacramento), after school and on Saturdays.

The family didn’t have money to send Berniece to college, so her piano teacher lent her the tuition necessary to attend Heald Business College. During the time she attended the college, she worked part-time as a parts-clerk at Earl Smith Motors in downtown Sacramento. Upon graduating, the first thing she did was get a full-time job. The second thing was to pay back the loan. She never forgot the kindness of the piano teacher, and her having trusted that a 20-year-old would, indeed, pay back the money.

In 1950 Berniece became a bookkeeper for Bank of America, where she worked until 1957. It was also where she met her future husband, L. Richard Via, Jr. The two were married in 1952. Their son and only child was born on Thanksgiving day 1958.

In 1957 she moved to Crocker-Anglo National Bank. During her eight years at the bank, she worked her way up from bookkeeper to teller, and then to internal auditor.

In the 1960s, Berniece’s husband took a position at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and commuted from Sacramento to Livermore daily. It didn’t take long for them to realize the necessity of relocating closer to the lab. In 1965 the family moved to Livermore. It was then that Berniece went to work for the Livermore Unified School District as a clerk-typist. In 1968, she and Sylvia Moon started up the Data Processing Department for the school district. Berniece recalled that the computer took up an entire room from the data-entry point to the printout point. In time, Berniece returned to her accounting background, and retired in 1992 as the Accounting Technician for the school district.

Even though Berniece was not able to attend a four-year college or university at the time she graduated from high school, she never flagged in her pursuit of learning. When she read a word she didn’t know, even when the context suggested the meaning, she would look it up in the dictionary. When she ran across a reference to a historical event she knew nothing of, she would look it up in the set of encyclopedias that lived in the bookcase by “her” chair. She continued taking classes, asking questions, learning new things, pursuing new interests, until by the time Berniece retired, she had accomplished a number of educational milestones. She had: graduated from Sacramento City College and Heald Business College, graduated from the American Institute of Banking, obtained an AA degree from Chabot Junior College in Livermore with emphases in data processing, computer programming, history and real estate, attended DQ University, Davis, California - American Indian Studies, and attended Hayward State, where she took music classes (major instrument – organ).

Berniece was active in the Baptist Church from an early age. Riding the bus for transportation, she took her younger sisters to Sunday School, carrying the youngest, who was under three, and towing the other (under age six) along by the hand. She made sure they attended every Sunday, even in bad weather. When she was 14, she began teaching Sunday School at the First Baptist Church in Broderick, Calif. Every Saturday evening, she made sure all their Sunday clothes were freshly ironed or pressed, and their shoes freshly polished. And she diligently made certain the younger girls knew their memory verses and behaved during church. She remained faithful to the teachings of Jesus throughout her lifetime, even when it became impossible for her to attend church services. At the time of her death, she had been a member of the Cedar Grove Community Church (previously Cedar Grove Baptist Church) for many years.

Berniece’s hobbies and interests included: American history (a real history buff), Bible history, sewing, knitting and other handcrafts, gardening, reading, ceramics, playing the organ, and traveling.

Berniece was socially active in the community, and was a member of a number of organizations, such as: American Federation of Police Officers Wives, Las Damas, Danebod No. 16, Siretts #121, Starlighters, Menzaleh Temple No. 16, Daughters of the Nile, Palm Shrine No. 32, Order of The White Shrine of Jerusalem, Semper Fidelis Chapter No. 135, Order of Eastern Star, Past Matron 1993, Past Matron Association of the East Bay, Mary Meixner Association of the East Bay, and Rebekah #154 (now joined with Odd Fellows).

Floral tributes may be sent to Callaghan Mortuary, 3833 East Ave., Livermore, California 94550.

Callaghan Mortuary is honored to be serving the Via family. An online guestbook is available for condolences at www.callaghanmortuary.com.