Bernice Hester was born in Bosco, Louisiana and reared in Swartz, Louisiana.
AMPS: What year did you start teaching, and why did you decide to become a teacher?
Mrs. Hester: I started teaching in 1966. When I graduated from Southern University I realized that there was nothing that I could do in Monroe with the degree that I had gotten. So I had to go back to college to get a degree in teaching.
AMPS: What led you to teaching at Caldwell Parish High School thirty miles away from Monroe?
Mrs. Hester: When I received my teacher’s certification I sent out letters to Ouachita, Richland, Morehouse and Caldwell Parish. Caldwell Parish was the only parish that I received a response from.
AMPS: How long did you teach at Caldwell Parish, and what subject did you teach?
Mrs. Hester: Twenty- five and half years. The first four years I taught American History at Union Central High School.
AMPS: How did you go from teaching to owning a funeral home?
Mrs. Hester: My husband bought a funeral home and when I retired from teaching. I did my internship, received my funeral director license and I’ve been here working at the funeral home for the last twenty -seven years.
AMPS: What is your position at the funeral home?
Mrs. Hester: I’m the funeral director.
AMPS: What advice would you give someone who wanted to go into the funeral home business?
Mrs. Hester: First you need to be a people’s person. Second, you can’t be afraid of dead people. Read the Occupational Outlook Handbook and read the history or funeral directors or morticians whichever one you want to pursue, because all funeral directors are not morticians. You have to be a strong person to be a mortician. You have to do a self – assessment.
As long as there are people there will be people dying. Someone has to be responsible for taking care of them. Just like the living, people have to be taken care of or they will become a hazard of the living. That’s why I said you have to do a self – assessment in order to determine whether this is the
field that you actually want to pursue. It’s an interesting field because you learn a lot about people from all segments of the population. You will also deal with people from social economic backgrounds. If you want to be successful in this business you need to be able to deal with all groups of people, and at the same time you need to be able to show compassion and concern. Like any other business this was once a male dominance business, but now you have women who own and operate funeral homes just
like the men. This is an indication to women that you’re no longer relegated to a box. This should encourage women to look beyond the old tradition back when I was a child, but now a woman can be anything that she desires to be. You have to have a love for whatever you choose to do in order for it to be successful. The more we see women in a different perspective it encourages the younger generation to let them know that the window of opportunity is open. All they have to do is take advantage of it.
AMPS: What is your advice for younger people who are being discouraged by others?
Mrs. Hester: You can’t judge a person’s success by who their parents are or where they came from.
Sometimes the youth don’t find themselves until they graduate high school, so it behooves us to become encouraged and not discouraged by our children we work with. You never know whose life you are going to inspire by how you treat them or speak to them. I have always encouraged a child by letting them know that where you came from does not dictate where you are going. If you want to be successful in life, then you need to work towards that goal and don’t let no one discourage you. Beware of who you associate with, stay out of trouble, and you can be successful in whatever you choose to do.