A simple request by Bob Bernard of the Mexico High Pintos football team in the 1930s and '40s turned in to a rare opportunity for a family member to spread good cheer this holiday season.
In early December, John Bernard received a call from a nurse at the Togus VA Medical Center in Augusta. The story was simple: She had a patient from Rumford who played football and inquired about obtaining a video of the Mountain Valley football victory in the state championship game.
Bernard, the high school's athletic director, informed her that video recordings of the game were available through the local cable access channel and a commercial television station.
During the conversation Bernard's curiosity was piqued and he asked who the patient was that wanted to see the game. The nurse's answer? "Robert Bernard."
“You can imagine the surprise to both of us when we realized that the gentleman was my Uncle Bob,” John Bernard said, referring to his father's — Andrew (Gump) Bernard — youngest brother.
Bob, who turns 89 in January, was a star for Mexico in the late 1930s and early 1940s.
“So, the wheels started to turn and I moved this up to the top of my pretty extensive list of 'to-dos,'" John Bernard said. "I asked her if I could call her back. That night, I was able to get a copy of the game.”
The next morning John Bernard took a small movie poster from the documentary film the "Rivals," which tells of the MVHS rivalry with Cape Elizabeth, to Mountain Valley's head football coach, Jim Aylward.
Alyward agreed to write a nice message on it for the former local star. In his note he mentions how he values the storied football history of the River Valley area, of which Bob Bernard played a role in his day.
“I then took the video, poster, and the (the 2010 state championship) gold ball and began my trip to Augusta to surprise my Uncle Bob,” Bernard said. “You can imagine his surprise when I walked into the room he was in with the gold ball in hand. I read the messages that Jim and I had written on the back of the poster, and we both had to hold back the tears.”
The nurses also brought a large picture to share. It was a very large and well preserved framed photo of Bob carrying the ball during a game in Rumford during his heyday.
The younger Bernard was able to ask a lot of questions of his uncle and his era and share with him the exploits of the 2010 Mountain Valley team.
Bob was also able to answer a question that John had involving a trio from the River Valley area.
John had known that his Dad and two other young men had made a trip to Auburn University to try out for the football team there in the 1930s. In recent years it has been told that one of the men was Chet Bulger. The football field in Hosmer Complex bears his name now.
Bob believed the other man who made the trip was John Yarnush, another very good player from the era.
“I really didn't do this for any other reason except that I could,” John said about making the trip which turned into an emotional visit. “In fact, I was probably the only person who was in a position to do this, and it was total coincidence and fate that the nurse called me. I feel blessed to have been able to do it and I will treasure that visit forever.”