Bernard J. Stempel

Bernard J. Stempel

VOORHEESVILLE — A carpenter, Bernard J. Stempel, built a home for his family with his own hands.

He died in that home on Friday, Nov. 29, 2013, surrounded by his beloved wife of 59 years, Catherine Stempel, and his three daughters — Christine Stempel, Cynthia Bunk, and Karen Beach. He was 84.

“He was a wonderful husband and father,” said his wife. “I have known him since I was a little girl.”

Mrs. Stempel lived just “five doors away” from the boy who would become her husband when they were growing up in Queens.

Born and raised in Brooklyn and Queens, Mr. Stempel — known to friends and family as “Bernie” — was the second-born son of Vincent and Jennie Stempel. His parents had come from Yugoslavia, Mrs. Stempel said, and his father worked in the hat business while his mother raised their children.

In his youth, Mr. Stempel spent many summers upstate in the Worchester, N.Y. countryside, exploring the great outdoors with family and friends.

After graduating from high school, his wife said, Mr. Stempel got a job in Brooklyn doing carpentry. “One man mentored him,” she said of how he learned the trade. “He just loved it and continued on and on and on.”

“Bernie loved to work with his hands, and, as a young man, he trained as a carpenter and ultimately became a master craftsman cabinet-maker,” his daughters wrote in a tribute. “In 1969, he relocated his family to Voorheesville, where he lovingly built the family home and much of its furniture.”

He also built a camp in Middleburgh, his wife said, where he enjoyed vacationing with his family.

Upon moving upstate, Mr. Stempel became a member of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, Local Union 370 and worked for many years on the Empire State Plaza in Albany.  Later in his career, he worked for Reimherr & Schmidt Construction, Inc., in Galway, N.Y.

During these years, he had the opportunity to mentor a young apprentice in the craft of carpentry and cabinet-making. “This young man went on to win an International Carpentry Apprentice Award, which was a source of enormous pride for both student and teacher,” his daughters wrote.

“Bernie mentored him for a couple of years,” said Mrs. Stempel. He liked teaching and passing on what had been taught to him, she said, adding, “That boy is still doing great.”

Through the years, Mr. Stempel proudly served his community as a volunteer fireman and was a lifetime member of the New Salem Fire Department.  “He liked everything about it,” said Mrs. Stempel of why her husband served for so many years.

Mr. Stempel contributed enthusiastically to the fire department’s annual Punkintown Fair fund-raiser. “Friends could usually find him running the gambling and dunking booths with his hand out and a big grin on his face,” his daughters wrote. He also enjoyed many seasons playing on the department’s softball team.

Mr. Stempel was also a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association and the Forest Rod and Gun Club. 

“Using wood he recycled from an abandoned restaurant, he crafted a hunting retreat in the Catskills that served as a place to share his passion for hunting, the outdoors, and good times with his nephew, brother, and a revolving door of family and friends,” his daughters wrote. “He loved dogs and could often be found tromping through the woods with his faithful Lab, Barney, at his side.”

Mr. Stempel hunted deer as well as ducks and geese, his wife said. He’d bring home venison, which she would eat although it is not her favorite food.

“What he liked was hunting with all his friends, just being out in the woods,” she said, “even if he didn’t get anything.”

She concluded of her husband, “He could be funny. He could be stern. All in all, he was a regular fellow.”

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Bernard J. Stempel is survived by his wife, Catherine Stempel, of Voorheesville; his daughters, Christine Stempel of North Carolina, Cynthia Bunk of Voorheesville, and Karen Beach of Florida; his brother, Vincent, of Queens, N.Y.; two nephews, Vincent and John; a great-niece and nephew; and numerous cousins. 

There was no funeral service and calling hours were held at New Comer Cannon Funeral Home in Colonie. Mourners may leave online messages at www.NewcomerAlbany.com.

Memorial contributions may be sent to the Community Hospice of Albany County at 445 New Karner Rd., Albany, NY  12205; www.communityhospice.org.

— Melissa Hale-Spencer

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