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Gold ball helps provide Christmas cheer
REGION -- A simple request by Bob Bernard, who was a member of the Mexico High Pintos football team, turned into a rare opportunity of a lifetime for a family member to spread good cheer during this holiday season.
On Dec. 2, John Bernard received a call from a nurse at the Togus VA Medical Center in Augusta. She had a patient from Rumford who played football and inquired about obtaining a copy of the Mountain Valley football state championship game.
Bernard, the MV athletic director, informed her about WABI and WVAC recording the game and what the process would be for her to get a copy. During the conversation Bernard asked who that patient was, and she said it was Robert Bernard.
“You can imagine the surprise to both of us when we realized that the gentleman was my Uncle Bob,” said Bernard, referring to his father, Andrew's (Gump) youngest brother.
Bob, who will turn 89 next month, had starred for Mexico in the late thirties to early forties.
“So the wheels stated to turn and I moved this up to the top of my pretty extensive list of "to do's." I asked her if I could call her back. That night, I was able to get a copy of the game.”
The next morning, Bernard took a small ‘Rivals’ poster to (MV coach) Jim Aylward, who graciously agreed to write a very nice message; in which he mentioned that he valued the history around football in the River Valley area.
“I then took the video, poster, and the gold ball and began my trip to Augusta to surprise my Uncle Bob,” said Bernard. “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 letter, 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 at Hosmer Field. The caption on the photo read, "Nov. 11, 1939. Mexico 6, Rumford 6."
The younger Bernard was able to ask a lot of questions of Bob’s about his era and share with him the exploits of this year's Mountain Valley team.
Bob was also able to answer a question that John had involving a trio from the River Valley. 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. In recent years, it has been told that one of the gentlemen was Chet Bulger, the football field in Hosmer Complex that bears name. 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,” said John, regarding the 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.”