My Second youngest sister, Bernie passed away on 4th July, 2013.
She was 52 years old, mother to Erin, aged 14, beloved and cherished wife of Steve Doneathy, adored daughter of the late Tommy and Maureen Nolan, sister of Tommy, Anne, myself, Maureen, Brian, Linda and her younger sister Coleen, plus, countless nieces, nephews, great nieces and nephews, cousins, and a beloved niece herself, especially of Aunty Teresa.
She had an incredible zest for life that never waned. From the time she entered a room till the time she left, you would remember her presence.
She was the smallest born in the family and remained so throughout her life, but had the strongest personality to make up for it.
As a baby we were very close. I was her chief babysitter. She was like a little doll, and loved
everyone and they in turn loved her.
I thought she might have grown up to be a teacher as she liked nothing better then playing at being one. I would hear her each day in the bathroom telling her pupils off. Come to think of it, it's probably best, she, instead became an entertainer as I only ever heard her
giving lines and detention and even the cane to pupils in her imaginary school. They never seemed to be learning anything!!
If I had one reason to resent her as a child, it was when she was two, ( yes, I said two) , we both entered a talent competition. I was 11. I never got past the preliminary rounds, she won it!!! She was dressed in a trouser outfit and a bowler hat and sang 'Strollin'. Word perfect and perfectly in tune!! Her prize was a gold watch. She was not impressed with this, however, and gave it to my Mum for 5 pence. Money for sweets was far more important to a two year old, than a watch!!!
As an adult, she did like a drink or two and at many a party I would try and creep off to bed totally done in and rather inebriated at about 4am, only to hear her voice telling me to get back and dont be such a party pooper. In fact, the only time I ever heard her sing badly was at a family karaoke after a few vodka's, it never seemed to matter, then.
She was an incredibly loyal friend and gained many friends over the years, and they in turn remained loyal to her throughout her life. That is the measure of the person she was.
Her talent of course, is history. But, I do remember the one time I thought she had pushed it too far and would embarrass us all, was on Popstar to Operastar. I was prepared to cringe as our Mother was a incredible soprano and when she was ill, it was I or Anne took over for her. I never knew Bernie possessed that voice. Should have known.!!
She never once did anything in showbiz that wasn't amazing and continued to make us all so proud in her chosen profession.
Two days before we lost her, the cast and musicians from the musical Chicago, the show she enjoyed touring with so much, turned up at her home in Weybridge, to surprise her, and came into the room singing Razzle Dazzle Em, and stayed to perform several songs for her. I said to her the next day, one thing you have to know, is how much you are loved.
Even in indescribable pain and discomfort, she could still make us laugh, she would crack jokes about how gorgeous and sexy she was, and still kept apologising, kept calling herself a dick whenever she made a text mistake or repeated herself. (WITH A BRAIN TUMOUR as well as her other cancers, VERY UNDERSTANDABLE!!!)
She never gave up and made plans for her own birthday in October. The words 'Never Say Die' were written for her!!!
Now she has been taken from us. The tour de force that she was, has gone. We can only keep our memories of her alive in watching her numerous TV shows and family videos and photos and in her proudest achievement her beloved daughter, Erin.
She always said, "No matter what happens I have had an amazing life" and her husband Steve must play the major part in that. he made her very happy. I have seen her suffering first hand and his incredible ministering to her needs in the past few months was inspirational. Although there will be times when he will think that he should have done more, - that is inevitable, and a part of the grieving process - he has nothing to reproach himself with, she sang his praises every chance she got and he probably was instrumental in her hanging on as long as she did.
To Erin, how she loved you. She was a great Mother and the best way for you to thank her for that will be, for you to be the best person you can be. Make her and your Dad proud and that alone will have made her life worthwhile.
If Bernie had ever questioned how successful her life had been and I'm sure she didn't,
There's a quote in the classic James Stewart film, A Wonderful Life. (A favourite of Bernie and Steve's) it says,
'No man, (or Woman in this case) is a failure, who has friends.'
As We've seen in the past few months, Bernie, you had no need to worry.
The Official Bernie Nolan website is still operational. It has video and audio files of Bernie as well as a brief biography. You can view exlusive Bernie Pictures and read the webmaster's personal tribute. As the site is not responsive we advise that you visit it when you are on a wi fi connection or that you have sufficient data on your mobile device. There is an annual Bernie Nolan Charity Ball held at Towchester. We will post details of the 2018 Ball as soon as they become available.