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Pieces of Eight

Arthur Bernard
Arthur Bernard sits on the steps of ECU’s Christenbury Memorial Gymnasium, where he shares infectious smiles with everyone he encounters while completing his duties as the building’s housekeeper. (Photo by Joy Holster)

Bernard is 'Shining Star' at ECU's Christenbury Gym

In coordination with the Recognition and Rewards Committee of the ECU Staff Senate, the Pieces of Eight series honoring exceptional ECU staff members recognizes Arthur Bernard.

By Judy Currin

The folks who work in Christenbury Memorial Gym are fortunate to know Arthur Bernard. A member of the ECU Housekeeping Staff for 16 years and the sole caretaker of Christenbury for the past six years, he shows up for work early every morning with a smile on his face and a good joke to share.

“I take life for what it really is,” Bernard said. “It’s about the beauty of just living, enjoying the things you have, and really looking and taking in your surroundings.”

Most days, he’s up at 4 a.m. administering medication to his wife, Teresa, who suffered kidney failure and partial brain damage eight years ago. He helps her get dressed before the aide arrives to transport her to her thrice-weekly dialysis treatment. Bernard’s position at Christenbury allows him to be home with her in the evenings.

“I enjoy my work and when I’m here I think I do a pretty good job,” Bernard said.

“People don’t believe me when I tell them I’m having fun.”

Maintaining the hardwood court in the old gym is one of Bernard’s most satisfying tasks.

“When I see the old floor after it has gotten dirty and I clean it and I know it’s as clean as I can get it, well that’s just a great feeling,” he said. “I love to see it shine.”

Jason Denius, director of ECU’s Volunteer and Service-Learning Center, located on the lower level of the building, sees Bernard regularly.

“Every time I see him he is either smiling or moving or both. He has the most positive attitude, and more energy than my 3-year-old son.”

Denius said during last year’s hurricane season, Christenbury would flood after every hard rain. Bernard had the difficult task of cleaning up the water as well as removing mold that subsequently grew on the walls. “Because of his hard work and dedication, everyone in Christenbury enjoys the cleanest and safest working environment, and for that I’m thankful,” Denius said.

Bernard is more humble about his contributions.

“I just do what needs to be done,” he said. “My Dad taught me to do that. His line of work was similar to mine.”

Bernard grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y. His father, Arthur Bernard Sr., was an area supervisor for the city’s housing authority for 20 years. In 1975 an injury on the job brought Bernard Sr. and the family back to their native Greenville.

Nineteen-year-old Bernard followed his family to N.C., then promptly enlisted in the Army. He served his country from 1977 to 1979.

“The Army certainly trains you how to keep everything clean,” he said.

After returning to Greenville, Bernard took a housekeeping job with the Hilton, further honing his cleaning skills. Before his wife’s illness, he was on the night housekeeping staff at the Brody School of Medicine.

While Bernard acknowledges that cleaning is “his thing,” he’s also trained as an auto mechanic, a body man and a mason.“The only problems with those lines of work was that I couldn’t stand to get dirty,” Bernard said. “My boss said ‘I can’t keep paying you if you’re going to spend so much time in the bathroom cleaning your hands.’”

He is also a musician.

“I play guitar and drums, write music and sing,” Bernard said. In 2003 he recorded a Christian CD called “I’m Ready.”

Bernard leads a full life. He attributes his positive attitude to his strong belief in God and family. His 79-year old mother, Doreatha, a minister for 60 years, serves food to the homeless every month and cares for 78-year old Bernard Sr., who suffers from diabetes.

Bernard Jr. is proud of his son’s accomplishments. Their eldest, Alvin Moore, is the regional manager for Ruby Tuesday’s restaurant chain. Their youngest son, Tuwond, is a 2005 graduate of Virginia Tech. He enlisted in the Navy last month and aspires to become a nuclear submarine officer.

“They’ve learned that if you want to do things in life, you can do it,” Bernard said. “No matter what the obstacles.”

This page originally appeared in the July 15, 2005 issue of Pieces of Eight. Complete issue is archived at