Bernard Francis Rice

Nicname;  Bunny

BIRTH 20 Jun 1907

Northfield, Washington County, Maine

DEATH 31 Dec 1981 (aged 74)

Northfield, Washington County, Maine

Northfield Cemetery
Northfield, Washington County, Maine

Bernard Francis Rice was born on the Rice Farmstead along route 192 in Northfield, Maine.  The Rice property boarded the Niorthfield Cemetery where a number of Rice's are buried.  Bernard was born legally blind and never held a drivers license, though he did own a jeep which he enjoyed driving around the Rice property.  The Rice property included 100 acres of woods and blueberry fields on Harmon Mountain, where the farmstead set well back on a hill.  The Rices also owned land directly across from the farmhouse on the other side of route 192, several acreas of land on Eastern Ridge along with a hunting camp there, and a large amount of land in the area where the Northfield one room schoolhouse once stood (Virgil Wilder Rice and his wife Vesta Beulah Dill also owned land and a farmhouse by the one room schoolhouse).

When Bernards mother, Etta May "Burns" Rice came down with cancer, she required operations and Clyde, Bernards father, had to sell off all the Rice property by the schoolhouse, which he hated doing, and Bernard vowed one day he would return that land back to the family. Even though Etta was not yet bed ridden with cancer, they knew the day was not far off, and Clyde placed an ad in the local paper seeking someone to clean house and help with cooking in exchange for room and board.  At about the same time Cassie A. "Young" Bagley had just left her husband and kids and responded to the ad, a meeting was set up and Clyde hired her on the spot.  From that day until her death Cassie became a main fixture at the Rice farmstead, and was like a grandmother to me and my brother and sister.

Cassie and Etta shared cooking duties up until Etta finally became too weak to get out of bed, then much of Cassie's time was devoted to caring for Etta until Etta passed away.  Clyde asked Cassie to stay on and she agreed, and continued to carry out her job until the day came that Clyde himself became ill and bed ridden, and Cassie, like she had done for Etta, tended to the needs of clyde until he passed away.  Somewhere during that time Cassie and Bernard had fallen in love and Cassie remained on but now in a role of common wife to Bernard.  They were never married for two reasons, Cassie was still officially married to Asa John Bagley, the second reason was if she got a divorce and was to marry Bernard, she and Bernard feared the government would cut their SSI checks, as Cassie had also been born legally blind.

Some may think it was a horrible thing Cassie did to leave behind several children like she did, but she had her reasons, which she never shared with anyone.  Not one time over all the years she lived at the Rice farmstead did she ever mention her husbands name or why she left him and no one ever asked, but there was a clue.  Whenever any company dropped by the Rice farmstead while we were there (we spent one to two weeks each year at the farmhouse), and people began to drink, Cassie quickly would get up and excuse herself from the room and retreat to her bedroom, niot to be seen again until the following day, so people drinking clearly upset her.  The fact is, Cassie loved her children very much and spoke of them often, proudly showing off their photos, and her children often stopped by the farmstead to visit her.  Cassie was thin and had a very low voice and a huge smile and never once did I ever see her get mad or angry at anyone.  She came down with cancer and spent time at the Machias Hospital until being moved to the Calais hospital, where she died.  Her last wish was to be buried not far from where Bernards burial plot was to be and that is where she lies at rest today, not far from where the Rice farmstead once stood.

Bernards life changed after Cassie passed away, he began eating junk food for meals and pouring way too much salt on everything - buttered toast, eggs, pie, donuts, cookies, he put the salt to everything.  It may of played a huge role in him developing a weak heart.  His doctor ordered him to take it easy and do nothing strenuous, but one winter morning he ran out of wood for the stove and went out to the woodshed and got an armful of wood.  When he got back inside he was feeling weak and tied and went into the parlor to lay down, he never woke up.  He was the last Rice to live on the farmstead, my parents inherited the place and sold it and within a year it was struck by lightning and burned down.

Bernard was gifted in many ways, he could play the saw as well as the spoons, had a fiddle, a guitar and a banjo, but his real love was in buying worn out tools and bringing them back to life with new handles or blades.  He had a large collection of pocket knives he was redoing, and he began converting oil lamps into electric lamps.  He also repaired chain saws and wood stoves, though the bulk of his earnings was from his SSI check and the money brought in from his many acres of blueberry fields.

We have a number of photos of Bernard posing with shot deer and other animals but they were all shot by his father, clyde, who was a registered guide, Bernards eyes were to poor to see animals in the wild.  Bernard nearly died a number of years earlier, while up on Harmon Mountain cutting wood.  He ended up driving his ax right though his foot and made his way back to the farmhouse thinking he was not too badly hurt, but when he got his boot off it was full of blood and he phoned for an ambulance. 

Bernard was a Christian but never attended church.  He read his Bible often and believed in his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  One story Bernard loved to tell was how the Jehovah Witnesses , would send young women to his farmstead in hopes of converting him.  One after another he talked the women into leaving the Church and they finally refused to send anyone else to his house.  At the time of Bernards death he was negotiating to have some of the land his father had to sell returned back to the Rices   Some of my best memories growing up were at the Rice farmstead.

Bernard Francis Rice in front of the Rice Farmstead, route 192, Northfield Maine

Bernard Francis Rice with jeep and hay wagon

Bernard Rice with deer his father Clyde Garvey Rice shot.

Bernard Francis Rice

Bernard Rice in dining room of Rice farmhouse

Bernard Rice and Cassie A. "Young" Bagley

Cassie Bagley and Bernard Rice at the Rice camp on Eastern Ridge.

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