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June 6, 2006 > A wonderful life

A wonderful life

The story of Bernice Weber Voorhees, wife, mother, business woman and local community booster.

Philip Weber was born in Boulay, France in 1803. He married Julia Lorraine, became a wine blender and grape expert and brought his family to Berkeley. When son, Harry, was 11, Philip was killed by a train. The family relocated to a ranch near Livermore where Harry grew up and attended local schools. He earned a degree in electrical engineering from the University of California, via correspondence courses.

Harry met Louise Volponi when they worked at Cresta Blanca Winery. They were married in 1913 and moved to Mission San Jose in 1915 where Harry was a foreman of the Mission Electrical Station. Daughter, Bernice, was born there in 1918.

PG&E moved the power station to the Newark substation on Weber Road in 1920 where Harry was a supervising foreman. At that time Newark was the largest power pool in the world. Harry was also in charge of individual area stations which he visited regularly, including a small power station at Calaveras Dam. Bernice recalled going there with her dad when she was a child.

Always interested in his community, Harry worked with the Centerville Chamber of Commerce and was the public relations representative for Glenmore Gardens. He was a member of the Elks Club for over 50 years, received five plaques and was chosen "Elk of the Year."

Bernice rode daily to Irvington Elementary School with Mrs. Edith Aubrey, who taught at Mission San Jose School. After graduating, Bernice traveled by bus to Washington Union High School where she enjoyed a very active four years, graduating in 1936. She regularly attended St. Edward's Church in Newark.

Following graduation from Washington Union High School, Bernice enrolled in Munson's Private Secretarial College in San Francisco for two years. She lived with her aunt and sometimes went home on weekends. Her first job was as manager, secretary and accountant in the Centerville office of Hansen Lumber Company. She later worked in the water district accounting office for Morris Hyman and Judge Allan Norris. In addition, Bernice prepared insurance policies for Cardoza Bickard Insurance Company.

In 1941, Bernice married Karl Nordvik, who also worked for PG&E. They moved into a house on Oak Street in Centerville, built for them by Randy Griffen. It was one of only three houses on Oak Street at that time. Son Michael was born in 1943 while Karl was serving in the Army during WWII. Michael was six months old before his father first laid eyes on him. During those war years, Bernice worked for awhile at PG&E in the General Construction Office in a portable building at the station. She commuted to work there and sometimes stayed with her parents. Grandma Louise cared for Michael while Bernice was at work. A second child, William, was born in 1948. Nine years later, Kurt was born.

After the war Karl and Bernice became very active in the Centerville community. Karl was in the Men's Club and the Masonic Lodge. Together, they persuaded a local plastics manufacturer, Visqueen, to furnish land for a Little League baseball field that eventually became Nordvik Memorial Park.

Bernice was part of the Washington Township Business and Professional Women Association serving as their second president in 1943-44 and was honored as Woman of the Year in 1970. She served as chairperson of women's activities at a fall conference of the National Association of Accountants and was a regular in the local PTA. Bernice has been a member of the Country Club of Washington Township for the past 60 years.

Their busy life of juggling games, work, home and children ended suddenly with Karl's death in 1961. Bernice continued to work at the Little League snack bar for about 20 years and received a silver platter commemorating her years of service to baseball. She witnessed the dedication of the park in 1991.

For a second time, Bernice married in 1966 to Raymond Rayfeld. They moved to a house on Mattos Drive where Bernice still lives. Two of Bernice's boys lived at home and Raymond had two as well, forming a family of four. Raymond was head accountant for U.S. Pipe and Foundry in Union City. Bernice and Raymond were married for 31 years before Raymond died in 1997. This was a lonely time for Bernice. She filled her days with gardening, flower arranging, club work and bridge.

Then in 2001, Bernice married Clyde Voorhees a retired teacher and administrator. Clyde had taught in Hawaii and at Menlo Park Jr. High before he came to Washington Union High School as a coach and history teacher. He was the first principal of Irvington High School and served in the district office of Fremont Unified School District as assistant superintendent.

Clyde and Bernice are enjoying their senior years attending theatre productions, baseball games, symphonies, and reminiscing about their past. Because their children grew up together attending school and birthday parties, they enjoy being together on many family celebrations. Bernice says her life is wonderful.

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