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Luis Bernardo (1936-2021): he helped build Portuguese identity in Bermuda

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A top architect who became president of the Vasco Da Gama Club has been praised as a champion of Portuguese and Azorean culture.

Luis Bernardo, who died last month, came to Bermuda from the Azores with his family in 1949, aged only 13, and adopted the island as his home.

Mr Bernardo, with close friend Eddie DeMello, went on to play a major role in the promotion of Azorean culture on the island.

He returned to the Azores in his retirement and also spent time with relatives in the US.

Mr Bernardo’s service to others during his time in Bermuda won him awards from two governments.

In 1979, his commitment to Portuguese people in Bermuda earned him the Commander of the Order of Infante D. Henrique from the Portuguese government in 1979.

The knighthood, in honour of the 15th-century ocean explorer Prince Henry the Navigator, was bestowed in recognition of Mr Bernardo’s service to Portugal and its culture.

He was appointed a Member of the British Empire for services to the community in Bermuda in 1986.

Mr Bernardo preceded Mr DeMello in sharing Portuguese culture and traditions in radio and TV broadcasts.

He was known for devoting long hours to the creation of the Vasco Da Gama Club’s Bermuda Heritage Day parade float.

Mr Bernardo joined the club in 1970 and served as its president from 1984 to 1986.

Richard Ambrosio, the chairman of the Portuguese Cultural Association of Bermuda, said Mr Bernardo channelled his architectural skills into award-winning floats throughout the 1980s.

Mr Bernardo started out in the parade of 1979 as a musician, accompanying the Vasco Da Gama Folklore Dancers.

He masterminded an ambitious float in 1987 that was a replica of the Golden Rule, the ship that brought the first major influx of Portuguese immigrants to Bermuda in 1849.

Mr Bernardo’s seventh Heritage Day creation in 1989, which took first prize, paid tribute the seaplanes that serviced Bermuda in the 1930s.

Taking Flight: Vasco da Gama Club’s prize-winning Heritage Day parade float from 1989, a meticulous replica of one of the 1930s seaplanes that called on the Azores as well as Bermuda (Photograph supplied)

Mr Bernardo told the Mid-Ocean News that the float, which took the club team a combined 2,000 hours to create, had a special double meaning.

He explained the planes stopped at the Azores as well as in Bermuda on their way across the Atlantic.

A spokesman for the club said: “Mr Bernardo was a hard-working and humble leader within the Portuguese community.

“On behalf of the Vasco Da Gama Club, we extend our sincerest condolences to his entire family."

A Vasco da Gama Club Heritage Day float of Luis Bernardo’s design. Mr Bernardo can be seen at the front of the truck, wearing a hat and sunglasses (Photograph supplied)

Mr Ambrosio’s father, George Ambrosio, the Vasco Da Gama Club president from 1998 to 2001, was a folklore dancer and told how Mr Bernardo accompanied the group on piano from the back of a flatbed truck.

He said Mr Bernardo was steeped in club life and in the lives of Portuguese people on the island.

Mr Bernardo started out as a surveyor for the public works ministry.

He later trained as an architect and joined the firm of Smith & Marshall in 1962.

Mr Bernardo formed a successful architectural and civil engineering partnership with Ralph Marshall, an MP for the former United Bermuda Party.

He was also president of the Sandys Holding Company and was chairman of the Warwick Academy board of governors.

Mr Bernardo became the chairman of the UBP in the late 1970s and was a member of the Marine & Air Board, a transport advisory committee.

Mr Bernardo was married to Eduarda, who predeceased him, and had four children – Allen, Patricia, Dolores and Richard.

He was devoted to St Joseph’s Catholic Church in Somerset and did stints as president of its men’s association and as deputy chairman of the church council.

• Luis Manuel Bernardo, MBE, an architect and prominent member of Bermuda’s Portuguese community, was born on August 21, 1936. He died in September 2021, aged 85.

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Published October 25, 2021 at 12:03 pm (Updated October 25, 2021 at 12:03 pm)

Luis Bernardo (1936-2021): he helped build Portuguese identity in Bermuda

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