June 22, 2020

Up Close with Resident

Bernice Martin

Always cheerful, easygoing and laughing, Bernice enjoys socializing, and sharing a good joke. We truly enjoy having Bernice as part of our family and are delighted to share her fascinating life story.

Bernice Elaine Martin (affectionately known as ‘Niecy’ to her family, and ‘Bern’ or ‘Bernie’ to her friends) was born Bernice Elaine Muse on December 5, 1934 in Hightstown, NJ, a small town just outside of Princeton.

The youngest daughter of John and Effironda Muse’s seven children, Bernice suffered from rickets in her legs. This disorder limited her movement and mobility and as a result she couldn’t run or play like other children. However, with dedicated daily leg massages using liniments made by her mother and sitting in front of a warm oven, she was able to overcome this affliction and help her siblings on local farms, picking fruit to support the family income.

Bernice was an extremely social and active student in school clubs and sports. After graduating from Hightstown High School, she went to live with her Aunt Gertrude in Philadelphia and attend Berean Institute of Business where she completed a two-year degree in Business Administration. Following her graduation from Berean, Bernice took the Government Test and started working for the Navy at the Aviation Supply Office (ASO) in Northeast Philadelphia. Her first assignment was working at Fort Dix Military Base as an Office Assistant.
During her stay at Fort Dix, she met her first husband, Richard Martin, who also worked for the government, and married him on May 6th, 1961. The couple decided to make Philadelphia their home to raise their daughter, Alicia (also known as Lisa) who was born in July 1963. Ultimately, however, changes with their careers put a difficult strain on their marriage and they eventually divorced in 1965.

Hardworking and determined, Bernice continued to work full-time at the Aviation Supply Office (ASO) and at times held part-time jobs to help supplement her income and care for Alicia as a single mother. She worked as a waitress at Hot Shoppes Restaurant and at Parkview Hospital as a clerical assistant in the evenings, continuing to advance within the ASO organization. She took on extra training classes and traveled to boost her rank and salary, eventually becoming Head Buyer/Purchaser of Navy planes and jets.

When she wasn’t working, Bernice loved spending time with her daughter doing mother-daughter activities. She also enjoyed being with friends, dancing and having parties, playing pinochle, and bowling. An excellent cook and baker, family and friends always requested her smothered cabbage, mac-n-cheese, and many different kinds of cakes.

Bernice eventually retired from ASO in 1990 after 38 years of service, and focused on helping to raise her two grandsons, Jamie and Julian. In 1996 she decided to go back to work part-time at Wendy’s Restaurant for 10 years. While she never remarried, Bernice had a loving, long-term relationship with her boyfriend, Marshall Rucker, for 32 years until his passing in 2002. During their time together they traveled to many places including the islands of Hawaii, California, and Las Vegas.

In her leisure time, Bernice enjoys watching movies (especially Westerns), dancing and listening to jazz, gospel, and R&B music. She loves spending time with her family and grandchildren, including her great-grandson Samuel. Her only pet was a cat named Midnight whom she adored and looked after for 18 years.