Bernice Ayres, beloved mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, sister and aunt, died peacefully on Sunday morning, October 2, 2022, at the home of her daughter, Patty Ayres and son-in-law, Ed Kweskin, in San Clemente, CA where she lived for 36 years. She was 97. Her death was announced by her daughter who attended to Bernice with help from family and Bernice’s long-time friends along with home hospice caretakers. The cause of death was old age.
One of those friends, Lydia Voight, called Bernice “the sweetest, kindest person to ever work with. She was like a mother figure to the entire staff at Dana Hills H. S.” where she worked for 20 years before retiring at the age of 79.
Bernice found it necessary to go back to work for herself after her husband of 36 years died suddenly in 1984. Her professional history prepared her well. After graduating from high school in her South Side neighborhood in Chicago, she worked as a secretary in the Divinity School of the University of Chicago preparing papers for the faculty and the dean. At the University of Chicago, she met her future husband, Robert B. Ayres (RB) who was also born on the South Side and recently returned from service in WWII as a meteorologist in the Pacific theater, pursuing a degree utilizing the GI Bill. Bernice’s only sister, Marjorie, also worked at U of C and set up the introduction via a double date.
After marriage to RB in July, 1948, Bernice worked in downtown Chicago for the magazine publisher, Condé Nast. A highlight was when she and her husband were photographed in their cozy home in suburban Evanston, Illinois, with fireplace blazing, evening attire all around for a feature in House and Garden Magazine on how young married couples entertained at home.
Bernice was born December 21, 1924 in Chicago to James Volkoff and Alexandra (Bracha). Her father worked in the steel mills on the South Side and her mother worked as a seamstress and when her two daughters, Bernice and Marjorie, were older Alexandra worked at a General Mills factory. She was born in Poland and came to the United States at the start of World War I. Bernice’s father was born in Bulgaria and fled before WWI to escape being drafted into the Russian army.
Bernice is survived by her four children and their partners, Patricia (Ed Kweskin), Robert Ayres and Piy Sirisamran, Deborah and Robert Slaby and Douglas and Sandy Ayres along with her grandchildren, Sam, Ben, Alex and Sophia Kweskin, Jennifer and Nick Fox, Steven and Spenser Ayres and their partners and 10 great-grandchildren. In addition, Bernice is also survived by her sister, Marjorie, and a nephew and nieces.
A Memorial Service will be held on Saturday, November 12th at 11:00 a.m. at the San Clemente Presbyterian Church where Bernice was a member for 35 years. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in her name to the church or the San Clemente Animal Shelter or a charity of your choice.
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