In University City, Barry Bernstein, a third-term president of UCCA, may not face wartime, except for the uncivil war over the Regents Road Bridge, but he may ponder a fourth term after all he's accomplished in the first three terms.
Bernstein lays claim to Philadelphia as his original home until his parents packed up the family and headed west to Tucson, Ariz. He was only 3 when they moved, but he maintains a loyalty to the Phillies and can quickly recall the 1950 Phillies baseball team, dubbed the Whiz Kids, for their youth.
"They lost four in a row to the Yankees in the World Series, but they beat the Dodgers to represent the National League. Richie Ashburn played center field. Del Ennis was in left," he remembered as if it were yesterday.
Baseball is still a passion for Bernstein. He still plays senior softball in a La Mesa league a couple of times a week. And he's hung with the Padres through thick and thin for many decades as a season ticketholder. However, ahead of baseball are his family, his community volunteering, and his dog Lucy, who accompanies him to some outdoor meetings at the local coffee shop.
Bernstein played baseball for the University of Arizona. "I was not a star but a utility infield player." He did, however, get picked to represent U of A in Fairbanks, Alaska, the summer between his freshman and sophomore years when he played with other U of A teammates on the Gold Panners at the Midnight Sun games.
"We played Army and Air Force teams. It was a wonderful summer. Red Boucher, a friend of JFK's, was the contact and coach," he reminisced.
Six years ago when Barry and his wife went to Alaska, he went to see Boucher after all those years. "Boucher was bedridden, but he said he remembered me."
Bernstein is known for his kindness to people like Boucher. Barry takes care of his UCCA board and when illness strikes, he visits and phones and not just once. His genuine concern about others is a nice characteristic of a community leader. His volunteering is never about ego; it is all about doing good.
Jacque, his supportive wife, and he met in Arizona and eventually ended up walking down the wedding aisle in her hometown of Phoenix in 1966. He was on Army leave for 18 days between duty in Camp Casey in Korea for 13 months and Davis, Calif. for the remainder of his two-year military commitment as an ROTC lieutenant.
A retired elementary school principal whose first assignment was Torrey Pines Elementary in the mid-80s, Bernstein and his wife started their teaching careers in Santa Ana. San Diego, a weekend getaway for them many times, drew them as permanent residents.
Their Edmonton Street home was built and they moved into it in May of 1969 after a couple of years living at U.C. Pennant Village. Leslie, their daughter, was born in 1970 and Stephanie was born in 1971. Both girls attended Curie, Standley, and UCHS. Dad coached them in softball and soccer. Now the Bernsteins point with pride to their grandchildren: Jake (11) and Avery (8), Leslie's children, and Sam (5), Stephanie's son.
Bernstein came on board to UCCA around 2006 after retirement from his distinguished career as teacher and administrator for San Diego Unified. AS UCCA vice president, he became acting president after the untimely death of Peter Burch, president. Bernstein has served his three terms as a 24/7 worker bee for the community. He doesn't like the spotlight and defers to others for their contributions, but his fingerprints are all over the success stories in the community.
UCCA meetings on the second Wednesday of the month are much more relevant and attract some heavy hitters in the city under Bernstein's guidance. He has built a liaison with the police and fire representatives who share their stories at meetings. Local residents know that if they have a complaint, they can have a sounding board at UCCA meetings.
The monthly newsletter has grown in scope and is a source of information for the U.C. 6,000 residents who receive it. Editor Jemma Samala and Distributor Valerie O'Neill get kudos from Bernstein who regularly attends the U.C. Planning Group meetings to keep a finger on the pulse of the building going on, the trolley coming to UTC, the changes that U.C. residents face with increased traffic.
Public safety has been a goal for him too with first responders and even Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. He is proud of the Buy Local program and upgraded website and credits Diane Ahern with its success. U.C. is a safe community with one of the most active Neighborhood Watch programs in San Diego. Bernstein readily reaches out to applaud its chair, Barbara Gellman.
He saw a need for another organization to help improve the community. Improve U.C. and Imagine U.C. 2020 were born with the help of Greg Zinser and Dr. John Lee. Evans. Recently the rec council voted to support the plans to upgrade Standley Park. Having a new competitive pool for U.C. High swimmers and water polo teams as well as the community, a jogging path around the perimeter of the park, a pavilion for outdoor use at concerts and school events are examples of some of the dreams for the near future. Bernstein is part of the planning team behind these improvements.
Bernstein didn't set out to lead UCCA, but when called to action, he answered that call. Whether he decides to run for a fourth term or hand the gavel off to another board member, he has left his mark on this community, so much so, that at intermission at a summer concert in U.C. Council President Sherri Lightner presented him with a proclamation that made July 31, 2016 Barry Bernstein Day in San Diego.
He was surprised, to the least, but he didn't miss a beat when he honored many volunteers who deliver the newsletters and serve as Neighborhood Watch captains. Looking out for his UCCA team is just what he did for his baseball team and just what he does as a loyal Padres fan and season ticket holder. Bernstein is a guy you'd want on your team.