Just months after fulfilling her life-long dream of opening a bakery in Brooklyn, Cynthia Williams-Bernard passed away.
Vincentian-born Williams-Bernard, who owned Ethlyn’s Caribbean Bakery on Nostrand Avenue, between Tilden Street and Beverly Road in Brooklyn, went to the Great Beyond on Nov. 25. She was 64.
Williams-Bernard, who was also a veteran registered nurse, died at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan, according to the Rev. Dr. Glyger Beach, pastor of St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Flatbush, Brooklyn.
In his sermon, at the funeral last Friday, Rev. Beach, who was Williams-Bernard’s pastor, said he had gone to visit her on her dying bed.
The cause of death was not stated in the funeral program, and close friends and associates of Williams-Bernard declined to disclose the cause, claiming that she had wanted her diagnosis to be private.
But Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s inpatient hospital – known as Memorial Hospital, says on its website that it is a “worldwide leader in the treatment of cancer,” adding that its patients are admitted “when they have acute care needs for treatment or symptom management, based on their cancer diagnosis or a related illness.”
Williams-Bernard had opened the bakery, formerly Vincie Bakery, in early March last year, amid much fanfare.
She told Caribbean Life then that she named the bakery after her grandmother Ethlyn Hector. The Vincie Bakery had closed its doors about a year earlier – shortly after its former co-owner Nicholas Clouden expired.
“I thought about doing something for my retirement and decided to open a bakery because my parents had a bakery while I was growing up,” Williams-Bernard told Caribbean Life in an exclusive interview at the time.
Her late parents were Ezekiel and Marion Elizabeth Williams, also of Richland Park, St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Williams-Bernard – who worked full time with the United States federal government, at 26 Federal Plaza in lower Manhattan, in charge of hospital programs – said, in that interview, that she had planned to retire from nursing in about two to three years.
“I chose bakery also because it does not conflict with my job,” she had said, disclosing that her goal was to expand the bakery in a couple of years.
At her funeral at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, where she was a member, mourners – including Williams-Bernard’s two children and ex-husband, Dennis “Long John” Bernard – described her as very loving, caring and supportive.
“I’m really so happy to be Cynthia’s daughter,” said Kimberly Massiah in her tribute. “She was such a beautiful and strong woman.
“She was an amazing mother, and (she) made us live an amazing life we can (could) ever imagine,” added Kimberly, referring also to her brother, Keith Little, who sat in an adjacent pew with his wife, Sherri Mangieri-Little, and their toddler Carmela.
“It’s nice to see you all again,” continued Kimberly, alluding to other family members, friends and supporters. “My mother is bringing us together – even in death.”
Before rendering three songs/hymns in tribute to her mother, Kimberly read a poem, entitled “The Divine Ever Shineth.”
She sang “Just a Closer Walk with Thee,” “His Eyes on the Sparrow” and “Hallelujah” while playing the guitar.
Bernard, a former school teacher in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, urged Kimberly and Keith to “look behind you,” apparently insinuating that they were estranged. The siblings, however, held hands, while walking down the aisle, at the end of the service.
“I want you guys to embrace,” Bernard said. “You guys have been talking to me, even if I was not around for 27 years.
“Cynthia, we’re going to miss you,” he then added, glancing down at the casket at the front of the pews.
Bernard also posted on his Facebook page that Bernard-Williams “was always my good friend, even though we were divorced. May her soul RIP (rest in peace)!”
He also gave a “special note of thanks to Paulette Martin and Laverne Sutherland (Munro), who worked with Cynthia tirelessly and were there to the end.” Bernard-Williams’ close friends, Jamaican-born Martin and Vincentian Sutherland-Munro, are registered nurses.
Registered Nurse Phyllis Payne-Dublin, of Belmont, bordering the Marriaqua Valley, noted that Bernard-Williams was a member of the Brooklyn-based St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Nurses Association of New York.
“Cynthia, we will miss you,” she said in a very terse tribute on behalf of the nursing group. Members of the group attended the wake and funeral service.
Martin, said: “Today, I want to thank the good Lord for taking her home. Cynthia, sleep on!”
Lauren Morensen, who worked with Williams-Bernard at the federal government’s Center for Medicare and Medicaid in Manhattan, said: “She was a wonderful person, who put herself to selfless service.
“For that kind of service, we honor her and respect her,” Morensen said.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ New York Counsel General Selmon Walters, who attended the service with his new deputy, Sehon Marshall, thanked “God for the work of Cynthia.
Walters said that, when he assumed his new position four years ago, Williams-Bernard was “one of those persons who reached out to me.
“Cynthia loved life,” he said. “One day, all of us will die. Cynthia, sleep on!”
Rev. Beach said Williams-Bernard “would donate from the bakery” when the church was in need.
“When you’re doing good works and good deeds, people will remember that,” he preached, adding that Williams-Bernard had reaffirmed her faith in the Almighty “before taking her last breath.
“She raised her hands, and her last words were words of praise,” he said. “And her last words were: ‘Thank you, Lord; thank you, Jesus’”
Williams-Bernard, a retired member of the U.S. Army Reserve, was interred the next day “amidst a beautiful military send off,” according to Bernard, at Rosehill Cemetery in nearby Linden, NJ.