People waited for hours in freezing weather Friday June 13 outside the Alexander-Baker Funeral home in Warrensburg to offer condolences to the family of Brent Bertrand, a beloved teacher and coach, who died Jan. 10 at the age of 53.
Bertrand’s passing prompts poignant memories
Nearly 1,200 people stood in line Friday June 13 outside Alexander-Baker Funeral Home in frigid, windy weather for as long as 45 minutes to bid farewell to beloved local teacher Brent Bertrand who died unexpectedly Tuesday Jan. 10. At one point, the line into the funeral home to share thoughts with Bertrand’s family members was 140 feet long or more.
The wake was scheduled from 3 to 6 p.m., but it ended up stretching to six hours to accommodate all those who offered condolences, funeral director John Alexander said.
“It was phenomenal — just incredible,” he said, noting that Warren County Sheriff’s Patrol officer Haley Grace was positioned outside the funeral home to control traffic
Earlier Jan. 13, grieving students at Warrensburg High School continued to be consoled by school counselors, social workers and faculty members, school officials said.
“Those students who were in shock Tuesday and Wednesday now continue to grieve,” Superintendent of Schools Tim Lawson said. “This has been a tragic loss to the whole community.”
Bertrand, 53, was a Technology instructor as well as a softball coach at the school — well-loved and respected by both his peers and the students. Bertrand died of apparent natural causes early Tuesday morning at his home.
As of Thursday, hundreds of heartfelt tributes were scrawled on a 60-feet-long mural titled “Messages to Mr. Bertrand” that stretched the length of the school’s cafeteria wall.
Bertrand, or “Mister B,” was known particularly for his ability to inspire students through his ever-present enthusiasm, sunny attitude and helpful spirit — and the messages on the mural reflected these themes. Here is a sampling of some of the messages:
• “You were an amazing teacher — you made every student feel like they were important...”
•“You moved every heart and touched every soul — I’m heartbroken not just for the loss of your upbeat smile and friendly waves in the halls, but for the students yet to come who will never have the pleasure of knowing you...”
• “You looked past all of my flaws and actually saw me as a person...”
• “There hasn’t been one day I’ve seen you without a smile on your face...”
• “You were the reason I survived school...”
• “You treated us with respect and never made us feel stupid. You knew exactly how to help us with any problem we faced...”
• “You were the most genuine, strong and kind-hearted person I’ve ever known — You brightened the worst of people’s days and saw the good in everybody...”
• “You inspired me to be an architect...”
• “You taught me that no matter where I go, I will be walking into my future...”
Bertrand spent 28 years with the school.
From 1986 to 2003, he served as Junior Varsity Softball coach. He also served three years as Varsity Softball coach, most recently in 2011.
His coaching tenure included coaching squads in the 1990s that went on in subsequent years to the state championship finals three times in the 1990s.
Here is Bertrand’s obituary:
WARRENSBURG — Brent J. Bertrand passed away the morning of Jan. 10. A Hudson Falls native born on February 5, 1958, Brent graduated from Hudson Falls High School in 1976. He earned an Associate's degree from Cobleskill College in 1978 and a Bachelor's degree from the State University of New York at Oswego in 1982 before embarking on a very rewarding teaching career with the Warrensburg Central School District. He earned his Master's degree in 1988 from the State University of New York at Albany.
As a high school Technology teacher, Brent shared his passion as a craftsman with countless students during his many years in Warrensburg. In teaching his students to shape rough lumber into polished furniture, he instilled in the students and those around him the patience and discipline of doing things the right way and of taking pride in one's accomplishments. His "measure twice, cut once" philosophy was his simple way of expressing the valuable life lesson of thinking before acting.
A natural born educator, Brent's devotion extended beyond the classroom on to the athletic fields. "Coach" Bertrand spent many seasons on the Warrensburg softball fields teaching students the life lessons of success and failure on the playing field. Displaying a consistent approach to teaching in both the classroom and the ballfield, Brent urged his student athletes to "practice how you play" as yet another example of doing things the right way and taking pride in what one does.
Warrensburg was a very special community for Bertrand. Always with a friendly smile and a genuine interest and concern for others, he shared his dedication to education and to the Warrensburg students with the other school district employees. He prided himself on arriving early, being available and accessible to all and never missing a day of work. He became an integral member of the Warrensburg community and valued the relationships and friendships he developed over the years.
Brent was equally as dedicated to and compassionate about his family as he was to his profession. As one of seven siblings, he developed a strong work ethic and sense of commitment, responsibility and fairness during his formative years, traits that he exemplified throughout his life. He shared his love for the farm and the lake with his parents, siblings and their spouses, and his nieces and nephews, and realized the importance and meaning of the farm and the lake as the place for the family to gather.
Brent was predeceased by his father, Frank L. Bertrand. He is survived by his mother, Jane L. Bertrand; his sister, Susan Semiz; his brothers, Bruce, Frank, Matthew, Michael and Peter; his brother-in-law, John Semiz; sisters-in-law, Jane Bertrand, Patricia Bertrand and Sally Bertrand; his girlfriend, Missy Ackley; and several nieces and nephews who idolized and adored their Uncle Brent.