Thursday, February 26, 2009

R.I.P. Florence Bernard

I only met Re/Max Royal Jordan agent Florence Bernard once, but what a memorable meeting. I was still The Gazette's real-estate columnist when she called me up out of the blue and invited me for a chatty lunch at a very nice Italian restaurant on the West Island.
We talked about all the changes she saw over the course of 37 years in the business.
"Back when I started, I was often the only woman in the room. The broker was a man, the banker was a man, the notary was a man, the seller was a man and the buyer was, too," she said.
Times sure did change. Florence became one of the West Island's most successful and recognizable agents. Her face, all mischief and confidence and bouffant blonde hair, grinned out from lawn signs from Dorval to Ile Perrot.
During that long, wine-fueled lunch, Florence told me about helping a doctor find the perfect house. He wanted to get her a thank-you gift. (That's a switch. It's usually the agents who get the clients gifts!). For some reason, Florence got the idea in her head to have a full-body MRI, because she had read about people doing this in the U.S. as part of their annual physical exams. You can only imagine how long the waiting lists were in Quebec for such things. Somehow, the doctor finagled an appointment.
What was supposed to be a lark, quickly became deadly serious. They found cancer. The tumor was so small that if might have gone undetected for a long time but it was a serious and malignant thing.
She underwent aggressive therapy and battled back. The experience gave her a new zest for life. She traveled more and savoured her friendships more. She had found the man she'd always been looking for in Ed.
Sadly, Florence Bernard died on February 22, after a recurrence of cancer.
I don't pretend to have known her, but I enjoyed that lunch so much and felt I'd made a friend. I always thought our paths would cross again. I'm sure I'm not the only person in her wide circle of clients, colleagues and acquaintances who feel she was taken too soon. God rest Florence . May the angels sing you home.
Visitation is today from 3-9 p.m. at the Collins Clarke MacGilllivray White Funeral Home on Highway 20, Pointe Claire and again tomorrow from 10-noon. The funeral is Friday 2 p.m. at the Beaconsfield United Church.

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