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At long last, Rundlett Middle School coach  Patrick Bernard kicks up his heels 

  • Patrick Bernard with his Panther Elite soccer team. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Patrick Bernard with his Panther Elite team before a game at Fieldhouse Sports in Bow on Saturday, November 13, 2021. He’ll need money to maintain the club, which draws teams from Manchester, Goffstown, Hillsboro and Hooksett. Bernard has a couple dozen kids, 6th and 7th graders, signed up. Some play for his Rundlett team, some have never played. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Patrick Bernard with his Panther Elite team before a game at Fieldhouse Sports in Bow on Saturday, November 13, 2021. He’ll need money to maintain the club, which draws teams from Manchester, Goffstown, Hillsboro and Hooksett. Bernard has a couple dozen kids, 6th and 7th graders, signed up. Some play for his Rundlett team, some have never played. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Patrick Bernard with his Panther Elite team before a game at Fieldhouse Sports in Bow on Saturday, November 13, 2021. He’ll need money to maintain the club, which draws teams from Manchester, Goffstown, Hillsboro and Hooksett. Bernard has a couple dozen kids, 6th and 7th graders, signed up. Some play for his Rundlett team, some have never played. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Patrick Bernard with his Panther Elite team before a game at Fieldhouse Sports in Bow on Nov. 13. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Monitor columnist
Published: 11/21/2021 9:31:53 PM

The past is chilling for Patrick Bernard.

The future, though, is hopeful.

He’s running a free indoor soccer program for middle school kids. He’s looking for funds so he can pay tribute to his family and remember his sister’s love for education and music.

In 2004, when Patrick was 22, his brother, Chris Bernard, stabbed and killed their sister, Tricia, and her two children, Gillian, 4, and 2-year-old James, in Chris’s Manchester home. Sensational headlines nationwide followed.

Open wounds, slow to heal, stubbornly fresh for years, fueled dreams that pushed Patrick to the bottom of a vodka bottle.

“I had flashbacks of the murder,” said Patrick, a soccer coach and special education teacher at Rundlett Middle School. “There would be an image of them getting stabbed, because there was a real image of them being taken out in body bags live on WMUR.”

He boozed for years, stopping just 15 months ago. He ran away from truth and, like most of us, simply couldn’t explain the darkness that people like Chris feel, that pushes them to kill the people they love.

How could Chris murder his own sister and her two children, the brothers’ niece and nephew? What was going on in his head?

“He had depression, bipolar, and he was hooked on oxy(contin),” said Patrick. “That just continued his downward spiral.”

Patrick wanted to take that spiral and shape it into something positive, and it was never too late to launch an idea. His indoor soccer team, for at-risk kids and refugee children, plays on Fridays and Saturdays at the Bow Athletic Field complex.

He’s got a couple dozen kids, sixth and seventh graders, signed up. Some play for his Rundlett team; some have never played.

He’s a registered behavior technician at the school, working in the special education department, guiding those with intellectual disabilities or behavioral disorders.

They make up some of his roster. Like the child who cursed at the referee during a soccer game. And the one who stuck a fork into a light socket.

(Yes, the student was shocked).

“Some need one-on-one attention in addition to class or special services for speech,” Patrick told me.

He connects to these kids, worries about them. He says he quit drinking through medication, therapy and the profound thought that he was following a similar path as that of his brother.

“I got to my greatest level of acceptance a couple of months before the last time I had a drink,” Patrick told me. “Group and individual therapy bring you back in time to rewire your brain to good thoughts.”

That’s where the Panther Elite come in, part of a 10-team league. He’ll need money to maintain the club, which draws teams from Manchester, Goffstown, Hillsboro and Hooksett. He said he’ll pay for equipment and gym time himself if it comes to that, then worry about getting paid back later.

And, judging by the turnout last month in the season opener, his Panther program may need more coaches.

“We ended up having so many players I had to add a second team,” Patrick said. “You should have seen the kids’ faces when they wandered into the fieldhouse. It was like they were walking into a major league stadium.”

He played football at Manchester Memorial and still lives in Manchester. He’s trying to teach kids important lessons. Speak up. Reach out. Don’t underestimate the power of booze and cocaine.

Patrick has the street cred to lecture these kids. He was there.

And he had an event, from Oct. 4, 2004, locked in his head. Chris killed their sister and her kids, leading to Patrick’s hopeless, dark place.

Chris was the oldest of five children, 14 years older than Patrick, the youngest. Patrick recalls that his brother had a lot going for him.

“He was outgoing and popular in high school,” Patrick told me. “He went into the Marines. I always looked up to him.”

He received much-needed structure in the Marines but then had a child out of wedlock. That stress added to the deep-seated mental illness that already had set up shop in Chris’s mind.

He got into a bad motorcycle crash, then got hooked on the oxy that was supposed to make him feel better. That story continues to rage across the country.

Patrick was in grade school when his brother began tumbling. There was only so much he could know.

“There were more depressive days, events happening more often,” Patrick said.

He said the knife that had been jammed deep into a watermelon in the family kitchen struck him as odd during those late, dark days. Chris also played childish pranks. Few laughed.

“He had a manic episode that I didn’t know about,” Patrick said.

Patrick babysat James and Gillian. “She was a character, a tattletail, very feisty, very opinionated.”

He continued: “James was little, but you could tell he would be a thrill seeker, jumping off things and into my dad’s arms. No fear.”

In school, Tricia stood up to bullies, supported outcasts, never judged, according to Patrick. He said they were close. She was athletic, a high school cross country star who could eat dessert until the cows came home and never gain a pound.

She worked at the front desk at Elliot Hospital. She was studying nursing and she was a fitness trainer. She loved to dance.

And in her childhood days, with mom as her mentor, Tricia baked, earning the title Little Momma. She never stopped baking.

“She loved it,” Patrick said. “We always had big Sunday dinners and she would come with her family. Christmas morning was a huge brunch, a great memorial of having all of the family together.”

Devotion to family is what lured Tricia to Chris’s house that day 17 years ago. Chris had been depressed, more than usual, and Tricia worried he might be suicidal.

“She went to check on him with no fear of what would happen to herself,” Patrick said. “She took the kids. His mind was already gone. She walked into that.”

Chris received three life sentences. Patrick has visited him twice since the murders, but not lately. His parents visit regularly. His siblings, Patrick said, cope using a mixture of denial and anger.

He’s focusing on indoor soccer these days. Free indoor soccer, for kids who need a boost. He wanted to do something for his sister. Make her name mean something. Make her life mean something.

Tricia would have been 48 on Oct. 28.

“The idea is I wanted to do something charitable,” Patrick said. “I wanted to do something to help, and I wanted to dedicate it to my sister, my niece and my nephew.”


Ray Duckler bio photo

Ray Duckler, our intrepid columnist, focuses on the Suncook Valley. He floats from topic to topic, searching for the humor or sadness or humanity in each subject. A native New Yorker, he loves the Yankees and Giants. The Red Sox and Patriots? Not so much.



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