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ALEXANDER, Bernice Patricia
January 17, 1931 – March 5, 2024

Eight years ago, before dementia took hold, Bernice Alexander urged her youngest grandchild to try several things in life to “round you out so you have different likes and dislikes.” She lived by such words of wisdom for much of her 93 years, embracing eclectic personal pursuits and tackling many roles after a childhood of criss-crossing Canada. That rich life has now come to an end. Bernice Patricia Alexander, nee Robbins, died on March 5 in Burnaby, B.C.

She leaves behind daughter Thérèse Alexander (Ravi), son Doug Alexander (Jenn), grandchildren Ryan Hira (Maria) and Robin Hira (Amelia) of North Vancouver and Rachel Alexander and Jordan Alexander of Toronto. She was predeceased by son Steven in 1998 and husband Wally Alexander in 2021.

Bernice was born January 17, 1931 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, the middle child of Edith and Arthur Robbins. As the daughter of a Royal Canadian Air Force officer, she learned to adapt to living in several communities across Canada – Bernice was proud to say she attended 13 different schools in 12 years.

After the Second World War, the Robbins settled in Vancouver and Bernice spent her final high school years attending John Oliver. There, her 1940s-era Hollywood starlet looks caught the eye of Wally Alexander, a track star who also happened to be Black.

That didn’t matter to Bernice. They married in March 1952 – a time when racially mixed marriages didn’t happen. The trailblazing couple built a home in South Burnaby and had three children: Steven in 1956, Thérèse in 1958 and Doug in 1968. As a parent, Bernice was always supportive and encouraged her children and grandchildren to do their best, seek out experiences and chase their dreams – no matter what obstacles lay before them.

Bernice’s zest for variety extended to everything in her life. She held jobs at BC Tel, Sears and worked for community organizations doing outreach to new immigrants, seniors and vulnerable members in her community. She did volunteer work reading to the blind and welcomed cruise ship tourists at Vancouver airport well into her golden years.

Bernice had a broad range of interests. She was a talented seamstress, making many of her clothes from the latest Vogue patterns. Her fashion sense was impeccable. She attended fashion and makeup courses at Blanche Macdonald, the preeminent beauty school in Vancouver at the time. Always maintaining her slim figure, she could rock a leather miniskirt and animal print well into her later years.

She loved the arts, theatre and ballet, taking dance classes into her fifties. She was an avid reader and loved travel – particularly on cruise ships from where she and Wally saw much of the world.

Bernice loved her cats, often showering them with preferential treatment to others in her household. She enjoyed baking – but not cooking – and had a voracious sweet tooth. She saw dessert as a reward for enduring dinner.

Bernice and Wally spent their final years together in a condo in New Westminster – at the former site of her favorite department store, Woodward’s. That lifestyle reached an abrupt end in December 2015, when signs of dementia emerged – forcing the couple apart months before their 64th anniversary.

Bernice spent her last eight years at Carleton Gardens care home in Burnaby, where she outlived her husband and the pandemic before succumbing to declining health this month. The family is grateful for the excellent and compassionate care she received throughout.

Her wonderful spirit of kindness, love, support and acceptance will live on in our cherished memories of a graceful woman who touched the lives of many.

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