Old Town High School alum Bernie Yvon decided early on he was going to be an actor. It’s the type of career choice that often doesn’t pan out, a career where one ends up waiting tables, working at a convenience store, or whatever else it taskes, to make ends meet.

But Bernie had a vision, and believed he could make it, proving himself to be one of the most talented and respected actors in his adopted home of Chicago, until his life was cut short at age 50 in an automobile accident in August.

That life will be celebrated this Sunday, Oct. 26 from 1-3 p.m. in a memorial celebration at Old Tow High School. And his mother and father, Bernie and Gail Yvon, will be honoring their son’s memory by establishing a scholarship fund for others who want to pursue careers in the performing arts.

Bernie grew up on Middle Street in Old Town, graduating from OTHS in 1984. When he first decided he was going to be an actor, his father wasn’t initially impressed, saying actors were a dime a dozen and sugesting he go to Northwestern. The younger Bernie was undeterred.

“He said, ‘Somebody’s got to make it, so why not me?’” recalled his father.

Bernie went to Northwestern, one of the country’s more expensive schools, and while his parents were able to help out some, they couldn’t so anywhere near enough with Bernie’s too siblings in college at the same time. So her worked his way through school, and he studied acting determinedly, being one of the better students at Northwestern during his time – and, as was quickly evident, one of the better actors. Just six months out of college, he earned his Equity card, and made a career as an actor.


Well, not just an actor. Bernie was described in a story after his death as an old-time song-and-dance man, gifted at both. His versatility and talent kept him working, in a wide range of roles over the years, both lead and supporting, with a long list of credits – “Cabaret,” “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” and so many more.

Bernie’s career primarily was in Chicago, although he also performed on Broadway. And he never let his success go to his head – he stayed in touch with friends from childhood and his family, coming home on many occasion, including one trek about ten years ago to take part in a play in Bar Harbor put on by lifelong friend Rebecca Cook, also of Old Town.

The Yvons want to give other performing artists a chance to have a life like their son did, and they’re starting a scholarship fund with $50,000 in seed money, with scholarships to go to a student annually, anywhere in the country, pursuing an education in performing arts.

“He might not have been the very best actor, but he was good at just about anything,” said his father. “He was pretty much an All-American person, playing a wide variety of character. He had a happy life, and he made many other people happy. We want to give others the opportunity to do the same.”

The public is invited to Sunday’s celebration of Bernie’s life.

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