Bernice Ruth Holden, 86, passed away May 17, 2017 at Brandon Woods Assisted Living.

Bernice was born September 28, 1930 in rural Johnson County, near Olathe, Kansas to Francis M. and Harriet Mae (Branaum) Bacon. She graduated from Wellsville High School in 1948 and was employed at Bennett Retail Store, Ottawa, KS. In 1949, she married William Clester Holden of Ottawa. They were divorced in 1956. In her early married years, while living in California, she did domestic work for a movie couple, George and Selena (Royle) Renavent. They recognized her ability as a song writer and authored a play, Reap the Harvest, incorporating songs she had composed. It was performed by The First Methodist Church of North Hollywood. A children’s musical, The Traveling Musicians, with text by Selena’s sister, Josephine Fetter Royle, music by Bernice (Bacon) Holden, and arrangement by Haakon Bergh, was presented at Karamu Theatre, Cleveland, OH. In 1953, Bernice received a touching response from Mrs. N. Smitt-Avis, the private secretary to Her Majesty the Queen of the Netherlands, conveying thanks from Her Majesty for Bernice’s letter and poem set to music as a token of sympathy toward those suffering from the flood disaster there.

Bernice worked a year at Buzza-Cardozo Greeting Cards, in Production Control and then the Art Department. Upon returning with her children to Wellsville, KS to the home of her parents, she again did domestic work, then custodial work for the Wellsville United Methodist Church for 1 ½ years. She wrote Salem Hall News for The Wellsville Globe, then freelance Wellsville news for The Ottawa Herald. She was a reporter-photographer for over seven years for The Ottawa Times, a weekly newspaper owned by Tallman Printing. Her last six months, prior to moving to Gardner, were as News Editor for The Ottawa Times, owned by Ramsey Printing. While at The Ottawa Times, during his appearance as guest conductor of the Ottawa University Choir, she met Dr. Jester Hairston, a famed musical composer, arranger, conductor and actor. They later collaborated on a song, “The Wolf and the Dog”, which was published. That song is in the Jester Hairston special collection of manuscripts (in Jester’s handwriting) at the African Diaspora of Sacred Music and Musicians, CSU Domingues Hills College of Arts and Humanities.

Bernice Co-authored a book, From Out of the Past, with Bernhard Fleming of Wellsville in 1962. It was about the origin of the state of Kansas, people and the places of interest. A song of her composition, “Prayer of Receptivity”, was sung by Keith Adriance for the Consecration of Hays Hall Education Building of the Wellsville Methodist Church in February 1963. In 1972, Ottawa University’s Ye Olde Englishe Feaste (a traditional 14th Century English Christmas Celebration) included a song, “We’ll Jocund be and Jolley” – music by Bernice, text by Josephine Fetter Royle. The Feaste was a presentation of the O.U. Student Union Dining Hall Committee and the Department of Music under Dr. Stanley DeFries.

Bernice was a breakfast cook in Gardner at the Downtowner restaurant for one year. She was, for 14 years, a proofreader at the plant of Interstate Book Manufacturing Co. of Olathe, a vintage company. Prior to the plant closing in 1991, she had worked there under its subsequent ownership by three companies: Thomas Nelson Publishing, W.A. Krueger Co. and Ringier America. She then worked as a proofreader for Cookbook Publisher, Lenexa, for several years until retirement. Bernice was a member of the Wellsville United Methodist Church for several years and was a member of “Sandra Clifton Ministries”. She was the recipient of Editor’s Choice Award from The National Library of Poetry for her contest entry published in 1995.

Bernice was preceded in death by her parents; four brothers: Marion, Clarence, Ray and Roy Bacon; sisters: Mildred, Bessie, Florence and Nellie and former husband, William. She is survived by her children: Vicki S. (David) Dowdy of Ottawa, KS and Roger W. Holden of Lawrence, KS; two grandchildren, Scott W. Burns and Robby Burns and five great grandchildren.
uneral Service will be Tuesday, May 23, 11:00 am at Bruce Funeral Home, 106 S. Center, Gardner, KS 66030 913-856-7111. Burial will follow at the Wellsville Cemetery. Visitation will begin at 10:00 am before the service at Bruce Funeral Home. Memorial Contributions may be made to Sandra Clifton Ministries. Condolences may be left at