We are deeply sorry for your loss - the staff at Whiting's Funeral Home
Constance Bernardine Baker Howard, the eldest daughter of the late Robert Bernard Baker, Sr., and the late Lena Brown Baker, was born July 14, 1940, in Croaker, Virginia. She was affectionately known to her family and childhood friends as "Bernardine” and called "Connie" in her later years by coworkers and friends.
Bernardine was educated at the Chickahominy School until the family moved to Williamsburg in her adolescent years. During an era of segregation and racial inequality, the family was blessed to purchase a home in Carver Gardens, one of the first African American neighborhoods in Williamsburg, Virginia. They would come to call this home for many years, where their neighbors became family, and remain close-knit today.
As the eldest child, Bernardine took on the role of helping to rear her siblings, often responsible for cooking, cleaning, and discipline, while her parents worked to maintain the household. In addition to her responsibilities at home, she excelled in her studies, graduating as Valedictorian of her class from James Weldon Johnson in 1958.
Having learned the importance of family and hard work early on, she was diligent in maintaining two jobs for much of her adult life. Her tenacity and dedication enabled her to give her children the very best and put the three of them through college. Her kind and caring heart lead her to be a pillar in the community, always helping others, and often putting their needs before her own. She was a mother figure to countless people providing guidance, assistance, and most importantly love.
At age 55, Bernardine retired from the federal government after 25 years of dedicated service. She and her husband Oscar enjoyed traveling the world together in the years following their retirement. They went on a total of 23 cruises, visiting places such as Amsterdam, Belgium, the Caribbean, Chile, England, Mexico, Monaco, Norway, Peru, and Spain.
In between her travels, she devoted a great deal of time to giving back to her community. She was a charter member of the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women's Clubs, Inc, Williamsburg & Vicinity, where she served in many capacities, such as President, Vice President, Treasurer, and the Mid-Atlantic District Scholarship Chairperson. In service to her community, Bernardine was a member of the Pride of Grove Chapter 181, Order of the Eastern Star, and a committed poll worker. She was also a devoted member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), performing endless hours of secretarial work for the Williamsburg Branch. She volunteered for the Peninsula AIDS Foundation, where she served on the Board of Directors. She was also the Volunteer Coordinator at the Williamsburg AIDS Network. She worked with members of the Sub-Committee on African American Affairs, presenting workshops and forums to provide education for prevention, understanding, and support to African Americans on HIV/AIDS. In the late 1990s, she was nominated as "The Greater Williamsburg Volunteer of the Year" for her outstanding contributions, dedication, and efforts.
While her accolades for her outstanding work in the community are too many to name, there is no doubt that the title most near and dear to her heart was "Nana." The love that she had for her grandchildren extended far beyond what most eyes could see, and the many memories made will forever be etched in all of their hearts. Each grandchild has their own special "Nana" story, and we're sure all of her friends and other family do too. Whether it was the baths in the basin, big family dinners in the dining room featuring her signature macaroni and cheese, trips to the library for summer reading, helping to prepare Pastor's breakfast early on Sunday mornings, visiting historical landmarks near and far, tagging along as she volunteered with the AIDS network, going to various cultural arts museums, or assisting her with preserving the historical Maggie Lena Walker papers, she was committed to instilling in them the importance of education, giving back to the community, lending others a hand up when needed, and loving one another as much as she loved all of them; these are the memories that will be cherished for a lifetime.
Her love for her family was unmatched, and so was her dedication to the Lord. Bernardine was an avid churchgoer. At an early age, she was baptized at Shiloh Baptist Church, Croaker; her Christian walk also included faithful service at Saint John Baptist Church (Williamsburg), New Beech Grove Baptist Church, and Oak Grove Baptist Church. She was honored to call Colossian Baptist Church her final church home, where she was a loyal member, and a faithful Pastoral Care servant until her health began to fail. She loved the Lord, she loved her church, and she loved her Pastor. When the doors of the church were open, you were sure to see her there. As her husband would often jokingly say, "Lord Bernardine, you are going to worry God to death; rest yourself sometimes." Well, on May 3, 2022, Bernardine finally took her rest and is sleeping peacefully in the arms of Jesus.
She was preceded in death by her son, Alpheus “Buddy” Wallace, Jr., godson, Jerome Jones; her brothers, Rupert Baker, Edward Durham, and Robert Baker, Jr.; and great-granddaughter, Liana La’Nise Potter.
Her legacy of love will forever remain with her husband, Oscar V. Howard, her daughters, Debra Wallace-Jones (Thomas), of Williamsburg, VA, and Renee Wallace-Kimbrue (Galen), of Riverdale, MD; one stepson, Marcus "Buck" Howard (Deborah), of Williamsburg, VA; her godchildren, Phillip Jones, of Round Rock, TX and Melanie Jones, of Austell, GA; her spiritual daughter, Minister Myrtle Dobson (Tracy), of Newport News, VA; and her sisters, Patricia A. Lee (Leonard), of High Point, NC, and Marion Y. Jones of Falls Church, VA. She also leaves cherished memories with her beloved grandchildren, Ashleigh Washington, Corey Stevens, Chelsie Stevens, Marcus Howard Jr. (Tammy), Shauna Howard, Ross Howard (Elizabeth), and Brandon Day; great-grandchildren, Leyna, Eden, Kirtrell, Gabrielle, Elijah, Farron, Anthony, Kobe, Brody, Hayden, and Layla; her aunt, Elizabeth Baker Reid; and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, and dear friends.
Professional services entrusted to the staff of Chinn-Baker Funeral Service - 703-979-1666 chinnbakerfuneralservice.com and Whiting's Funeral Home - 757-229-3011 whitingsfuneralhome.com