At 102, Mt. Lebanon man still giving back

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Bernard “Bernie” Queneau has earned the right to brag about his accomplishments, which include serving as a Naval commander in World War II, laboring in steel mills, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Columbia University as well as teaching there, and earning a doctorate from the University of Minnesota.

And at 102, he is still going strong as a volunteer at Mt. Lebanon Public Library, Meals on Wheels and St. Clair Hospital. A library colleague describes his life as “inspirational.’’

In the summer of 1941, Mr. Queneau married Henrietta Nye. He joked that he had to go AWOL from the Navy to do so.

“I got married and reported for duty the next Monday,” he said.

They raised their three children in Upper St. Clair: Jean Davis, now 72; Anne Queneau, 70; and Margot Marsh, 66. Mr. Queneau has four grandchildren, five great-grandchildren and another on the way.

His wife died of cancer in 1970. Mr. Queneau later married Mary Goettge, who died in 1999 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

In 2003, at the age of 91, Mr. Queneau said he found love again and married Esther McNaull Oyster. They live in Mt. Lebanon.

“Esther said yes to a 91-year-old. That’s what you call a gambler,” Mr. Queneau said with a laugh. He recalls the first time he met her family — at a reunion attended by about 44 of her relatives and, as he says, “One Bernie.”

“They asked me if I had any piercings,” he said with a laugh.

After putting him through the ringer at that reunion, Mr. Queneau said he knew he liked her family and that sealed the deal.

The couple volunteers together at Mt. Lebanon Public Library’s used-book store, the Book Cellar. Volunteering is something Mr. Queneau has done since retiring nearly 30 years ago from his job as general manager of quality assurance at U.S. Steel. He recently was honored for volunteering more than 2,500 hours at St. Clair Hospital. 

He started volunteering at the Book Cellar when it opened nearly six years ago, and joked that his favorite part of volunteering there is “Cynthia,” referring to library director Cynthia Richey.

“It’s so much fun,” Mr. Queneau said of volunteering. He said he loves interacting with the library staff and patrons of the store.

“I get along with a 6-year-old the same way I get along with a 60-year-old,” he said.

“Having Bernie and Esther here is a real treat,” Ms. Richey said. “People like being around them. Our experience has been enhanced so much by their presence.” Ms. Richey added that Mr. and Mrs. Queneau are wonderful role models for other seniors.

“You never have to stop making a contribution to society,” Ms. Richey said.

“He’s such an inspiration,” said Book Cellar volunteer Nancy Estes of Mt. Lebanon.

“He’s just wonderful,” said volunteer Mary Keib of Mt. Lebanon, who added that she hopes she is still doing as well as he is when she’s Mr. Queneau’s age.

Mr. Queneau said he enjoys reading, preferring biographical books on historical figures such as Dwight D. Eisenhower, Gen. Douglas MacArthur and Winston Churchill. Having recently moved, Mr. Queneau said he donated about 100 books to the book cellar.

“As a lover of books, working at the Book Cellar is pure enjoyment, plus it is something we can do to give back to the community,” Mrs. Queneau said. “It’s always fun to see what books come in. And an added bonus is that Bernie treats us to lunch at Bistro 19 after.” 

In addition to volunteering, Mr. Queneau is a gourmet cook and said his specialty is osso buco and coq au vin. He also enjoys the occasional glass of wine.

As to why he keeps so busy at 102, Mr. Queneau responded: “You don’t want me to sit on my derriere, do you?”

Deana Carpenter, freelance writer:


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