February 25, 1924 ~ February 6, 2023

Born in: Pueblo, Colorado
Resided in: Pueblo, Colorado

Berna M. (Else) Rizer, 98, passed away on Feb. 6, 2023. Survived by son, James Rizer; grandsons, Dave Fern (Debbie Huff), Jerry Fern, and Jeff (Janice) Murray; granddaughters, Adrienne (Dave) Hobbs and Alexandria (Patrick) Romero; nine great-grandchildren; and three great-great-grandchildren.
Preceded in death by her husband, Edward A. Rizer; daughter, Effie “Elva Lou” Fern; and son and daughter-in-law, George E. and Susie Rizer.
Berna Mary Rizer was born to Elva (Hillhouse) and George William Else in Pueblo, Colo., on Feb. 25, 1924. She graduated in 1941 from Central High School and on Dec. 26, 1942, married Edward Allison Rizer. Berna received an AA Degree from Pueblo Junior College in 1943, a B.A. degree in 1965, and an M.A. degree in 1970. She taught third grade at Bradford and Franklin Elementary for over 22 years, retiring in 1987. In 1989, Berna started tutoring adults in the BOCES Adult Education Program, primarily tutoring in reading. After assisting with the tutor training classes for a period of time, she conducted several classes herself.
Berna joined the Pueblo Branch of the American Association of University Women, and served as “pallet pin” chair, Educational Foundation Chair, and Secretary. She served as program Vice President for two terms, and President for three years, she was a member of the State AAUW Board and attended a number of state conferences, state conventions, and Public Policy Days and was also a delegate to the Association Conventions in Portland and Minneapolis. In 1986, she was one of the Educational Foundations Program honorees for the branch. She was the nominee for Membership Vice President for the Pueblo Branch for the 2000-2002 term office. In 1996, Berna was chosen by AAUW and by BOCES for an Up with Reading Award. In 1999, BOCES nominated her for the J.C. Penny Golden Rule Award. Because she was chosen over the nominees of several other non-profit organizations, BOCES received one thousand dollars from J.C. Penny.
Berna was involved with a number of organizations. She was an active member of Alpha Delta Kappa, a teachers’ honorary sorority in which she served as treasurer, secretary, and president of Beta Chapter. As a Pueblo Retired School Employees Association member, she conducted a pre-retirement planning seminar for educators. She was the PRSEA representative to the state board of the Colorado Retired School Employees Association and was a member of the D.A.R. Although Berna was a member of the Rosemount Museum and the County and State Historical Societies, she was especially active at the Sangre de Cristo Arts and Conference Center where she was named Volunteer of the Year in 2005. In 2000, she was selected as the recipient of the Pueblo Branch of the American Association of University Women’s Outstanding Woman of the Year Award. And in 2020, at the age of 96, Berna was crowned the Colorado State Fair Fiesta Silver Queen.
A celebration of Berna’s life will be held at 1 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023, in the Montgomery & Steward Chapel. Interment, Roselawn Cemetery. Online condolences and live streaming at www.MontgomerySteward.com


Life Celebration: February 16, 2023 1:00 pm

Montgomery & Steward Funeral Chapel
1317 N. Main Street
Pueblo, CO 81003


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  1. I am so sorry to hear about Mrs. Rizer She was my (favorite) teacher at Bradford Elementary. I’ve thought about her thru the years. She was a great teacher and wonderful lady.
    Debbie Diaz

  2. Berna, Susie, and I were the craft sale queens. Every year beginning in October, we plotted our outings. Berna always joined us for a few of the outings. What fun we had!!!..I knew her as Susie’s mother-in-law and was included in many adventures and parties. She was always supportive of teachers and the Pueblo Heritage Museum. She was a wonderful, intelligent person and I have always felt that she was a role-model for teachers and education.
    she will be missed. Love to all of the Rizer clan, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

  3. CandleImageI had the pleasure of knowing the Rizer family for most of my life. My dad and Ed knew each other as their parents were close friends when they were younger. My connection with the family continued as I taught with Susie for many years. George and Susie became close friends of mine. When Berna retired she volunteered at my school and helped students with special projects. When Ed passed away, I was honored when Effie and Berna contacted me to help plan his service. Over the past six months, I reconnected with Berna at Sharmar when my aunt became a resident. She was always smiling and invited my aunt to sit with her at meals. I enjoyed visiting with her and was impressed by her mental acuity. My family and I will miss her when we visit Sharmar. My condolences to her family and may her memory bring them comfort and peace.

  4. ~ Aunt Berna ~

    In this time of loss, memories flash:

    • Most Saturdays when I was a youngster, my mom, who was Berna’s younger sister, Margaret (Marge), would take us kids—Leslie, Christy, Michael and me—across the Fourth Street bridge to the north side of town to Aunt Berna’s house. On the way, we loved listening to a radio program called “Big John and Sparky.” As we crossed the Arkansas River, the car radio would break into static from the ironwork superstructure. Never failed to be the good part, right? But disappointment vanished when we got the big smile of welcome from Aunt Berna. She had a touch of magic.
    • Aunt Berna would set us loose for any games we could imagine. Her house and neighborhood became free adventure zones with cousins George, Elva Lou (Effie), Jimmy and a swarm of neighborhood kids. Berna’s aura of generosity was palpable. The sounds of Mom and Aunt Berna, talking, laughing and discussing important events of the day while they sewed and mended clothes, still ring through time as the foundational kind of family music that gives kids security and love.
    • Aunt Berna always had a great lunch ready for us, plus snacks throughout the day. Did you know there was once a home in Pueblo where it was just fine to combine chocolate-covered ice cream on a stick with a mountain of potato chips?
    • Early on, I learned that Aunt Berna read a big newspaper called The Denver Post. Wow! You mean there was another newspaper out there besides The Star Journal and Chieftain? She was devoted to learning and to ever expanding her knowledge and viewpoints throughout her life. She always had a variety of fiction and nonfiction books going and nurtured an ongoing curiosity that led her to ask people interesting and revealing questions, a model I hope to follow.
    • At our big family gatherings for holidays, Aunt Berna would show up with beautiful, giant bowls full of something delicious she had made. One of her regular contributions was bright red cranberry sauce with oranges and spices and something secret that gave it real pop. I can hardly imagine it from tea-totaling Berna, but I’ve wondered if it could have been a dash of brandy.
    • Berna was quite an accomplished bridge player. But she would modestly poo-poo my admiring compliments by saying, “It’s easy if you get the cards.” Still, there was a twinkle in her eye. She had that just-right competitive edge that loved the game, loved her fellow players, and also, quietly, self-effacingly, loved beating the pants off them.
    • Later in my college years at CSU, my mom and Aunt Berna drove up to Fort Collins to see me perform in a play. George and I were rooming together at the time and we planned a dinner for them that included George’s then girlfriend and Lanie, who was dating me. Aunt Berna mentioned to me in a private moment that Lanie was such a beauty. I said, “Yes, and she’s just as beautiful on the inside, too.” Aunt Berna put her hand on my shoulder, and with the serious smile of an experienced sage, said to me, “And remember: That’s the kind of beauty that lasts.” Right again, Aunt Berna. Thank you.
    • When we’ve lost important people in our lives, Grandma and Grandpa Else, Uncle Ed, George, Susie and Effie, others close to us, Aunt Berna has been the model of grace in how to be genuine and poised in grief. She has shown us how to be both truly saddened by their going, unafraid of tears, and also grateful for the lives they shared with us.

    • Aunt Berna was a treasure trove of family history. I could call her up with questions about the time frames of certain events or people that had come and gone throughout our lives. She always knew the answers, the context, and often a story to go with them. Lanie and I could ask about people in obscure photos from her vast collection. She could name them all. I remember one time in particular, we asked about a tintype photo of a handsome, rod-straight union soldier from the Civil War times. “Oh,” she said, “That’s…” And now I’m the one who has forgotten who it was. You can see her family matriarch’s memory has already outlasted mine.
    • Go well, Aunt Berna. Lanie and I wrap our arms around you with our love and white light and our deep thanks. May you shine through us.

    — John Roberts

  5. I have been fortunate to be Berna’s niece by marriage to her nephew, John Roberts. Berna has always been a treasure trove of family history. Her active memory of family events and people went back generations. She could recall the who, what, where of any questions I had as a newcomer to the family. Her beautiful smile radiated delight. It was a joy to be with her or talk on the phone. I loved the synergy we had on political issues. There will be such an empty space in our family. John and I will miss her greatly.

  6. My condolences to Jeff, Adrienne, Dave and Jerry. I have a lot of fond memories of Berna and Ed and also Geirge and Susie. Lots of hugs and prayers to all of you.

  7. I feel lucky to have known Mrs. and Mr. Rizer. I used to have the privilege of waiting on them in our years at La Renaissance. They were a fixture and we were always excited to see them. Ed’s humor and Berna’s elegance cannot be accurately described but they touched all of us. Mrs. Rizer was a special treat and when she came in for lunch with friends or the education groups, she always made a point to say hi. I cherish the memories of these two wonderful people and am very glad to have known Berna. My late father, Jim, also would echo these sentiments and more.

  8. Berna, such a terrific lady. I met her in Helen’s Angels. She was polite, sharp, and passionate about everyone’s right and responsibility to vote. I looked forward to all our the political discussions over dinners.

  9. CandleImageIt was a pleasure to have Berna on my staff at BOCES as a dedicated volunteer helping teach adults how to read for several years! Her knowledge, dedication and ability to work tirelessly was commendable!
    Condolences to the family,
    Donna Young

  10. I remember Berna from the League of Women Voters meetings she attended in the 2000s. She was part of a group of League members who always were right on top of whatever the discussion was about, asking intelligent questions, providing experienced input. She had a beautiful smile, which, with that white hair and blue eyes, made for a perfect and beautiful face. I was delighted to hear she was named Silver Queen at the fair a couple of years ago. She was perfect for it.

  11. I enjoyed my friendship with Berna in League of Women Voters and Helen’s Angels. She was always fun to visit with and we had some good political discussions. We agreed on all of them.

  12. I have great memories of Berna from the League of Women Voters and Helen’s Angels. She was so committed to getting people to vote and worked with the League to encourage people to register and vote. I visited her several times when she was in the Sharmar building. We had some good political discussions!

  13. My heartfelt condolences to all of Else’s remaining family. After retiring, she often came with Susie to volunteer or work with our students at PWE. What a wonderful, sweet lady! Love and hugs to Jim and all of her grandchildren and great grandchildren!

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