Remembering Bernadette Mary Claire Szafranski

Bernadette, an inspiring teacher to her King Middle School students, a counsellor to many and a fan of the ballet and books, took joy in simple moments and was much loved.

Bernadette Mary Claire Szafranski. Photo: Courtesy family

Bernadette Mary Claire Szafranski, age 81, passed away peacefully on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020 in her home in Berkeley, CA with her daughter, Arianne MacBean, and her dear friend Mijo Horwich by her side.

Bernadette was born July 10, 1939, in Chicago, IL, to Helen and Bernard Szafranski. She was one of five children in a lively, loving home. She attended Mercy High School and Chicago Teachers College, and was in the very first group of Peace Corps volunteers to go to Malawi, Africa.

She lived and worked in Paris, cementing her passion for croissants and all things French.

She taught middle school English for 30 years at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Berkeley, CA, where she inspired students with her wry sense of humor, no-nonsense command of the classroom and creative lessons such as demonstration presentations, autobiographies and team Mad Lib contests. She loved her students and her colleagues very much.


Bernadette became a licensed marriage, family and child therapist and ran a small private practice for many years. She also worked as a counselor for U.S. military veterans returning from war in Iraq and Afghanistan at the Ramstein Air Force Base in Kaiserslautern, Germany.

She was an avid reader her entire life and had deep respect for and appreciation of the art of tea. She was a proud season ticket holder of the San Francisco Ballet and never ceased to be in awe of the beauty and discipline of the art form.

She jogged along Wildcat Canyon every morning for 20 years with her friends and proved that running is therapy. In retirement, she volunteered at Children’s Hospital, Zen Hospice, Reading Partners and was a docent at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Bernadette adored spending time with her daughter, Arianne, and two granddaughters, Lily and Claire Taylor, making them laugh with her quirky antics. She loved playing silly games, telling stories from her childhood, dancing and watching her granddaughters dance. Her home in the Berkeley hills was her temple. She found profound peace sitting in her living room, watching the light change every evening through the big bay windows and enjoying a glass of wine. In her last years, she experienced great joy in simple moments, deep appreciation for nature and solace in knowing she loved and was loved.

In lieu of flowers, please send donations to Metastatic Breast Cancer Network.