A Tribute To Lou Bernardo
When you ask me to describe my father, words escape me. It is nearly impossible to capture in words the love, support and strength my father gave his 10 children, the last 5 of whom he raised alone.
Raising one child is hard. Raising 10 seems nearly impossible. We have all seen that family of 5 kids running around and thought “how do they do it?” Now imagine that family is one man and that man has 10 kids. And besides raising his family alone, he is also a partner at one of the largest architecture firms in D.C. His ability to do all this truly amazes me.
My father has inspired us, his children, by his words, his actions, his humor and his immense love for each one of us. When my mother became very sick with a mental illness that limited her ability to raise us, my father took on the challenge on his own. Working until 6pm every night, he would go to Safeway, buy groceries, and then cook a delicious, homemade meal with vegetables, meat and (as with any good Cuban) bananas for us to share together as a family. No matter how tired he was from his demanding job, or how sad he was about my mother’s illness, he always came home every day with a smile on his face, happy to see and love his 10 children eagerly waiting for him at home.
Not only did he raise us alone, he also raised us with laughter, with joy, with happiness and with love. He inspired each and every one of us to treat others with respect, to care for the needy, to make the world a better place anyway we saw fit. Even with 10 hungry children to feed, he always gave 10% of his salary to charity and encouraged us all to do the same.
My father’s passion, drive and strength in this lifetime are beyond me. As a Cuban immigrant with little knowledge of English when he arrived to these shores, my father studied, worked, and achieved more in this country than most can achieve in a lifetime.
When I see my father, I see courage, strength, and love that are unmatched. And I see a fun, funny man, who everyone who has ever met him, immediately loves.
I love you Dad with all my heart. Thanks for being an inspiration to us all.
The youngest child of ten, Cristina (La Beba) comes from a loving Cuban-American home in Washington, DC. Her parents' escape from a terrorizing dictatorship inspired her from a very young age to fight for social justice. After attending UNC Chapel Hill and obtaining her Masters in International Development at the London School of Economics, she now works for a social enterprise that trains responsible leaders through social impact consultancy projects in Peru, Brazil and South Africa (www.emzingo.com). She loves her family immensely and credits her father for inspiring her to create a better and more inclusive society for all.