Remembrance of Ed Bernier

by Lisa Logan
As the homemaker wife of the late USIA Officer, William B. Armbruster, I met Ed Bernier and his wife Geraldine at our first post in Algiers in 1987. I remember Ed as a very congenial person who loved people, loved his job, loved tennis, and spoke French eloquently.
Algiers was a terrific first post, and Ed was a terrific self-appointed mentor for my husband, William. Back then, when USIA was flush with cash, there were some fabulous cultural and educational programs on offer for the locals, and I remember Ed and William often working together enthusiastically on these events during both the American and Algerian designated week-ends.
During these unofficial weekend work-fests arranged by Ed, his wife Geraldine (Jerry) would frequently invite me chez eux for lunch to instruct me on how to be a Foreign Service spouse in the new era. It was intriguing, to say the least, to discover the original promotion potential of USIA employees had been based partially on the appearance and behavior of the non-working spouse.
As a USIS officer, Ed was truly unbeatable. His French was impeccable, and his cultural post-performance parties and receptions were legendary. One time, after a home reception following a Zydeco performance in the capital, the water went out for about a day, and Ed stepped in to help Jerry "wash" all the party dishes with sand. He was just resourceful in that way. He was truly a "people person," and his generally calm manner often put his colleagues and official USIS visitors at ease. 
When our residence in Algiers caught on fire one day while I was home alone and pregnant, Ed (and Jerry) stepped up to the plate, and graciously offered my husband and me a place to stay until the damage to our home from a faulty step-down transformer could be fixed. I was so thankful for that, because being alone during a house fire is a terrifying experience, no matter in what country.
In those days, the words, "Washington" and "Senator" were nearly sacred, and Ed took his USIS responsibilities quite seriously. Proper use of the diplomatic pouch kept communications safe and ongoing, and USIS/Algiers was given a high rating when Ed was in charge. 
Having no experience with any other posts at that time, I was not yet very aware of the fascinating cultures in North Africa and the Middle East, but I hung on every word Ed told me as he recounted many of the adventures he, Jerry, and the kids Michelle and Rene had shared over the years in their various assignments: Cairo, Riyadh, Dakar, Beirut, Islamabad. Ed was a great story teller, and he always made his assignments sound like the most fascinating places on earth!
When William and our baby daughter became diplomatic hostages of Saddam Hussein during the first Gulf War in 1990, Ed called me on the phone in Kansas City at my mother's house, where I was staying on medical leave just prior to surgery. By then, he knew our family very well, and Algiers was in the rear-view mirror. He gave me his professional advice about how to get media attention and public sympathy if I needed it, but made me promise I would not tell anyone else what he said. He said he would deny our phone call ever took place. I never told anyone. But I would like to think perhaps his strategy played some small part in the successful release of all the diplomatic hostages and other Americans held in Baghdad, just prior to the U.S. "Shock and Awe" campaign that put an end to that war. Ed was truly an unsung hero on that occasion, and was given a "Superior Honor Award," if only from a young mother's mind and heart.
A farewell salute to a diplomat's diplomat, Ed. Good friend and mentor. You were the best of the best, and USIA was lucky to have you.