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Bernie we miss you

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Published on: Thursday, October 11, 2012

By Brian J. Karem

He shrugged his shoulders, silhouetted by the light coming through his office window, and in his unique, gruff sounding voice he asked me about my father.

I told him my dad died of cancer when he was 55-years-old.

He shook his head. “That was young,” he said. Then he asked me a very thoughtful question. “Did he have any regrets?”

I nodded. “One. He told me when I was caring for him that he regretted not spending more time with me when I was younger.”

“I have that regret,” I was told.

I looked at Bernie Kapiloff at that moment of vulnerability and wondered why he had that regret. A successful plastic surgeon, a fearless civil rights activist, a newspaper publisher and a leading figure in his community for years, I could only guess he felt he hadn’t done enough by his children.

After he became ill earlier this year, I shared his sentiment with his children when I got a chance. I never knew children as proud of their father as Bernie’s children. I never have met a woman, like Lynn, our CEO, more devoted to her husband.

In one of my last visits with Bernie I asked him if he remembered our conversation from a few years ago.

“Go on, will you? What do you think?”

Obviously he remembered. I told him what I learned from speaking to his children. He shook his head. 

“No father thinks he’s ever done everything right by his children. You’re a father, you know that,” he told me.

“I think you can rest easy on this one big guy,” I told him.

He winked and told me a joke I can’t repeat in public. We both laughed.

Bernie was remarkably accomplished. Civic leaders have lauded him with great praise. He is well known as a civil rights activist. This newspaper fought the fight when to do so was to place yourself in physical peril.

Bernie knew it better than anyone. And I rarely saw him display any fear at any time.

Still, what I remember most about Bernie is his sense of humor, his quickness of mind and his ability to grasp complex issues with which others could only wrestle.

He would enter the office eager to discuss politics or the economy and offer his opinion on the issues of the day.

More often than not, his point was solid and his logic undeniable. Well before anyone else noticed our current economic downturn, he pointed it out and said it would rival the Great Depression in its severity.

“Greed is destroying this country,” he told me.

While politics was often his favorite topic of discussion, you would merely have to say to him, “Hey, I’ve got a good joke for you.”

“Go on,” he would say.

There is much to admire in the self-made man and Bernie fit that mold. He told me of growing up in the Great Depression, struggling to put himself through school and Howard University.

He was first a dentist, then a plastic surgeon.

There are people succeeding today that do so in this county because of the doors Bernie and his brother threw open.  Others have homes because of what he did.

He and his brother helped build subdivisions many of my friends now call home.

When I had to do some work for my community swimming pool a few years back, it included checking who owned the property before the members purchased it. Bernie’s name was there.

I’ve met people who told me of Bernie’s pro-bono work as a doctor. What he did is not only unheard of today but almost unthinkable.

His demeanor as a doctor is so rare, that I even shudder to think of it. When I first came to work here, I had fractured my ribs playing soccer. Bernie not only came to visit me in the hospital, but gave me better advice than my own doctor and cared for me better than my insurance-assigned specialist did.

He was a rare man in many ways. We shall not see his kind again soon and while he will always be missed, I pray his care and love remain.

Reader Comments - 1 Total

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Posted By: Hank Plante On: 10/23/2012

Title: Hank Plante

My sincere condolences on the passing of publisher Bernard Kapiloff. Bernie and his brother Leonard ("Doc") gave many of us our start in the news business. I had the honor of working for them as a reporter and managing editor in the early 70's, and I went on to a 40 year news career (winning six Emmys and a Peabody Award). They had high standards and integrity, and I'm grateful for the chance to have learned from them. -- Hank Plante


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