Loving Mom Bernadette Lanahan

Posted: October 15, 1993

Bernadette Lanahan, who never let the little girl in her completely grow up, died Tuesday. She was 64 and lived in Port Richmond.

"Bern" Lanahan never lost that charming indifference children have about how things look to the grown-up world. A stranger could come to her home and feel comfortable enough to open her refrigerator a short time later and look for something to eat.

When any of the six Lanahan kids came home with mere C's on their report cards, there was no stern lecture about their future being in jeopardy.

"We were loved unconditionally and we never felt fearful of hurting her if we weren't doing our best," said Maureen Coath, one of her daughters.

Lanahan never hit her kids. She would yell at them now and then, but, recalled Coath with a laugh, "she would apologize and we would say, 'Apology accepted.' "

That's how it went in the Lanahan house. The former Bernadette Leyden, who was a mischievous child, almost seemed to admire the same trait in her own children.

"She was always a bit of a little girl," said her daughter. "She remained childlike in some ways."

Once she baked a birthday cake for one of the kids and an aunt came by. Bern offered her some of the cake. When the aunt said there wouldn't be anything to sing "Happy Birthday" over, Bern shrugged it off, "Oh, she won't care, just sit down."

Lanahan made friends fast. A brief conversation, exchange of phone numbers and shortly friendships were formed. Bern liked to laugh and it was contagious.

She was a mainstay at the Catholic Social Services' Senior Citizen Center on Cumberland Street near Moyer, where she worked as a receptionist and secretary for 17 years. She quit when she had a stroke in 1991.

Lanahan was a religious woman who went to Mass every morning and was active in St. Anne's Blessed Virgin Mary Sodality. Her faith got her through when her son Larry, age 13, was struck and killed by a drunk driver in 1971 while the boy was walking home from confession.

"She was smiling even when her heart was broken," said Coath. "She never got angry with God. It was like, this is what he wanted."

But she was also a compassionate woman who knew how to cut slack for one of her children who got out of a bad marriage and later re-married. Lanahan gave her full support.

She was what her daughter termed a "little bit of a scatterbrain cook." Bern Lanahan could cook the same thing five times and every time it tasted different. And to make one cake required at least a dozen pots and pans which littered the entire kitchen.

Her husband of 36 years, Luke Lanahan, was a retired Philadelphia police officer. He died in 1990.

"No one ever felt they were intruding in this home," said Coath. "She had an open-door policy."

She was a plain woman, "not a frilly type of woman," said Coath. "She delighted in other people."

About a week ago, Lanahan suffered another stroke and lapsed into a coma. The family wanted to bring her home to die, as they had their father. Two of the girls are nurses. So they put Mom's hospital bed in the living room. For the next week people came in and talked to Bern just as they always had. Even a grandson's soccer team came in to say hello.

Last Tuesday, childhood friend Mabel Buckley came over. It was about 12:30 p.m. She started recalling to the comatose Lanahan stories about when they were children and how they used to laugh at Mabel's father. Suddenly, Bern opened her eyes. Everyone was stunned into silence for a moment. Then Bern Lanahan died.

"Mother's eyes opened and said, 'Mabel, this is for you.' But I know doctors say they can't hear you," said Coath.

The kids made sure that at the end, everything went on as normally as possible. Then they came and took her mother's body away, but that was OK.

"If you came here tonight, you would find her still here," said her daughter.

Lanahan was a graduate of John W. Hallahan High School.

Survivors also include two other daughters, Bernadette "Bunny" Dugan and Kassy Lanahan; two sons, Danny and Tom, four grandchildren, a brother, Ray Leyden, and a sister, Anne Nellinger.

Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. tomorrow at St. Anne's Church, Lehigh Avenue and Memphis Street. Friends may call between 7 and 9 tonight at the Hubert McBride Funeral Home, 2357 E. Cumberland St.

Burial will be in New Cathedral Cemetery, 2nd and Butler streets.


Marvin T. Pereira, owner of Teofilo Nitty Gritty sandwich shop, died Monday. He was 52 and lived in Germantown.

Pereira had operated the business at Chelten Avenue and Wister Street for the past six years.

"He was a very special person to me and to everyone he came in contact with," said Cydney Hill, a niece. "He was the type of guy who would come into a room and it would be filled with life. He was a good-hearted person, everybody liked him."

Pereira was the sponsor of the Nitty Gritty Over 40 basketball team.

A graduate of Northeast High School, he served in the Merchant Marine.

Survivors include his wife, the former Arcelia Clark; three sons, Marvin Jr., Teofilo and Ronnie Clark; two daughters, Rhonda Pereira and Ashia Pereira; a brother, Richard Mosley; a sister, Shirley Turner, and two grandchildren, Marvin III and Ciara.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. Monday at Emanuel United Methodist Church, 17th and York streets, where friends may call two hours beforehand. Burial will be in Rolling Green Memorial Park, Route 202 and Route 3, West Chester.


Thomas L. Henderson, a retired steel worker, died Tuesday. He was 73 and lived in Germantown.

Henderson worked for the Philadelphia Coke Co. for 34 years as a janitor and operator, retiring in 1982.

"He was a good and devoted father and grandfather and a surrogate father to all his nieces and nephews when his only brother passed away," said Thomasina Reid, his daughter. "He made everybody feel welcome."

Raised in Thomasville, Ga., Henderson finished high school there. He was a member of New Gethsemane Baptist Church, the Young at Heart Club and the Masons. In his spare time he enjoyed fishing.

His wife was the former Sally Speakes. She died last May.

He is also survived by three granddaughters, two great-grandsons and three sisters, Anne Sprangle, Marion Hammond and Lois Henderson.

Services will be held at 11:30 a.m. Monday at New Gethsemane Baptist Church, 917 E. Chelten Ave., where friends may call after 10 a.m. Burial will be in Rolling Green Memorial Park, Route 202 and Route 3, West Chester.


Richard A. Mohr, a draftsman for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, died Wednesday. He was 70 and lived in Springfield, Delaware County.

Mohr had worked for PennDOT for the past 12 years at its Radnor office. Before that he was a mechanical engineer for Stearns Catalytic Co. in Philadelphia.

He was a graduate of Westtown Prep in West Chester and received his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from Western New England

College in Springfield, Mass.

He was an Army veteran of World War II, and an avid stamp collector.

Survivors include his wife, the former Dolores Cooper; two daughters, Beverly A. Giacinto and Patricia E. Devine; a son, Albert F. Mohr, four grandchildren and a brother, Luther Mohr.

There will be a private memorial service.

Contributions may be made to the American Heart Association, 408 E. 4th St., Bridgeport, Pa. 19405.


Samuel W. Cafferty Jr., a retired employee of the old Curtis Publishing Co., died Wednesday. He was 81 and lived in Springfield, Delaware County.

Cafferty was a pressman for 24 years for the Philadelphia company until its closing. He worked as a stationary engineer for Haverford State Hospital for 12 years, retiring in 1980.

He was a member of Aldan Union Church for many years. Cafferty was an avid reader and enjoyed walking. A family member described him as a "devoted husband and loving father and grandfather." He was a Navy veteran of World War II and had attended Philadelphia Business College.

Survivors include his wife, the former Mabel Benjamin; two sons, David W. and Stephen W.; a daughter, Patricia C. Alfano, three grandchildren and a sister, Virginia C. Beach.

Service will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow at the M.F. Williams Funeral Home, Baltimore and Summit avenues, Clifton Heights, where friends may call one hour before the service. There will be no calling hours tonight. Burial will be in Harleigh Cemetery, Camden.

Contributions may be made to Aldan Union Church, Providence Road and Clifton Avenue, Aldan.

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