Gene Bernardi Presente!
December 25, 1928 to November 16, 2019

Jane Welford
Sunday December 01, 2019 - 10:58:00 AM

Gene was born on Christmas Day in 1928 in Berkeley. Her father, Theodore Bernardi was a well known local architect largely responsible for the design of Stern Hall. Gene's mother died early and her father remarried to Beatrice Boot.

Gene's loving and fighting spirit goes back a long way. She went to school all the way up through UC Berkeley where she graduated in 1951 with a B.A. in Psychology and then a Masters Degree in Sociology in 1964.

From 1964 to 1967 Gene worked as a research associate with the City of Oakland, researching anti-poverty programs.

She then was hired by the U.S. Forest Service in 1968 as a research sociologist for the Pacific Southwest Forest and Range Experiment Station in Berkeley which specialized in fire prevention. She worked there until 1975.

Gene filed a class action lawsuit in 1973 against sex discrimination for all women in the Department of Agriculture under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which was resolved in 1979 when the Forest Service agreed to a consent decree, approved by the district court in 1981 which gave Gene compensation and a raise in classification. 

She held the titles of Federal Women's Program Coordinator and Equal Employment Opportunity Counselor. There was a lot of fight back against letting women into the Forest Service as equals. 

All of this information can be found online in Forest History Society in Durham, North Carolina. 

After leaving the Forest Service in 1976 Gene worked as a Social and Economic Committee consultant to the State Social Welfare Board. 

In 1982 the National Tritium Labeling Facility (NTLF) was built in Strawberry Canyon in Berkeley. 


During the next three years Gene was working very hard to finalize the adoption of her son, Martin. He was finally allowed to join Gene in Berkeley in 1985. He was 8 years old. 

By the 1990s the public were becoming aware of the NTLF. Two employees of the Lawrence Livermore Lab, Dr. Leticia Menchaca and Ms Susan Monheit tested the ground water, air and eucalyptus and found much higher levels of Tritium than initially believed. They made their information public and in 1996 both women were laid off. 

Being aware of all this, in 1996 Gene worked with the Committee to Minimize Toxic Waste (CMTW) to shut down the two NTLF Tritium stacks which were found to be contaminating the area around the Lawrence Hall of Science where thousands of children come each year. In 1998 the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) performed a Superfund reassessment of LBNL concluding that “Based upon a preliminary Hazard Ranking System score, US EPA has determined that LBNL is eligible for the National SuperFund Priorities List” for cleanup due to tritium in air, soil, groundwater, and surface water. In 2001 the facility was shut down. (

In 2003 Library workers in Berkeley were beginning to feel intimidated for speaking out about the installation of 3M Radio Frequency Identification Devices (RFID) for an automatic check-out system like those used at Home Depot. Concerns were about health, privacy and the replacement of workers at the library with machines. They were beginning to reach out into the community for support. Gene helped to start Berkeleyans Organizing for Library Defense (BOLD). BOLD attended many Board of Library Trustees meetings and spoke up about the privacy and health concerns of the RFID tags as well as the cost of the tags and the disposing of thousands of books into locked dumpsters with no record of what had been thrown out. 

That struggle went on for years and was finally lost except for the fact that 3M which couldn't sign an agreement about nuclear participation was dumped in favor of a Canadian outfit. 

In 2004 Gene went to D.C. To The Million Worker March. 

In 2006 BOLD morphed into SuperBOLD (Berkeleyans Organizing for Liberty Defense). 

The work in BOLD led to the realization that the problems with public comment procedures and the unfair practices of the Board of Library Trustees were also problems with the City Council. The City Council was urged to open up public comment and not have people wanting to speak on non-agenda items be made to wait until the very end of the meeting which was sometimes after midnight. SuperBOLD threatened a law suit finally to get the Council to follow The Brown Act which resulted in Public Comment improvements at City Council. The organization has remained in existence to the present day. 

In 2008 SuperBOLD received the James Madison Freedom of Information Award in the Citizen Category from the Society of Professional Journalists. 

In 2009 the City of Berkeley honored Gene with Outstanding Woman of Berkeley Award. 

Gene, in her late 80s, had incredible energy and she doted on her Grandsons. She took her Grandsons to Costa Rica and to Paris on two different occasions, and to Venice. She travelled with Diego to Spain, first to Javea and then to Madrid. 

In 2017 Gene joined the Steering Committee of Berkeley Citizen's Action where she promoted her concerns with police accountability and militarization, and the plight of the homeless. 

Gene donated many documents of her work to the Bancroft Library. Https://;Institution=UC%20Berkeley::Bancroft%20Library;titlesAZ+G;idT=UCb214519697 

Gene worked very hard to interest people in the ramifications of the City of Berkeley signing agreements with Northern California Regional Intelligence Center (NCRIC) and Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI). UASI is the Federal funding source for Urban Shield and the militarization of our local police. NCRIC is the spying arm that sends information to the huge NSA data center at Camp Williams near Bluffdale, Utah. Our 3 Berkeley Joint Terrorism Task Force Liaison officers within our Berkeley Police Department send their gathered information there. This data center was completed May, 2014 and cost $1.5 billion. Gene's aim has been to have City Council end the agreements with these two Federal programs, and her work and the work of SuperBOLD continues. 

Gene loved to dance and create politically savvy art using papier mache and clay and she loved food. She is sorely missed. 

She is survived by her sister, Joan Breece, her son, Martin Bernardi, and her three grandsons, Theodore, Diego and Dominic, and her nephews Conrad Breece, Theodore Breece and Timothy Breece and all the friends who loved her and all the people with whom she worked. Gene will be sorely missed