“We did all we could and if it wasn't for our faith and knowledge in God it would surely bow us deep in sorrow, for Mamma she was our darling.” These words were written by Victor Iverson in a letter to his mother, informing her of the death of his daughter Bernice Iverson.
At the age of 4, Bernice, the oldest child of Victor and Leoma Iverson, had been claimed by Diphtheria. In the span of her short life, she brought untold joy to her family, and her death left a void that only their unshakeable faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ could fill.
In four years, this child, who in the words of her father had intelligence that “sometimes exceeded grown people,” lived in 8 cities across 4 states and suffered the agony brought on by two of the deadliest diseases of her day; Spanish Influenza, which she survived, and Diphtheria, which ultimately took her life.
Bernice was born on the 6th of January, 1918 in Kaolin, Nevada. Her mother Leoma describes her as, “a beautiful baby girl with lots of long black hair.”
The first known picture of Bernice
For the first ten days of her life, a woman named Mrs. Sprague would visit the family everyday and give Bernice a bath.
Despite this kind of loving care, it wasn’t long before Bernice would be introduced to two of the few constants in her life;
travel and relocation.
After just three months, the family packed up their meager belongings and moved to Las Vegas where Victor found work in an Ice plant.
After another short stay, the family was again on the move to Pocatello, Idaho where Victor found work on the railroad.
Little is known of Bernice’s life at this time. Her father and mother both describe her as being intelligent beyond her age and a happy child.
However, not long after their move to Idaho, Victor was exposed to the first deadly flu virus and hovered near death. He quit his job on the railroad and the family moved to Inkom, Idaho where Victor found new employment on a dairy.
Whether due to contact with her father or some other source, Bernice became infected with Influenza as well. Leoma describes them both as “burning with fever” for three weeks. She worked industriously to nurse them both back to health while all around the country thousands were dying from the disease and it is estimated that 20 to 40 million died worldwide.
But, thanks to Leoma’s care, both Victor and Bernice recovered fully and Victor moved the family to Dillon, Montana. In their first night in Dillon they found accommodation in a hotel. Leoma recounts that as soon as the lights were off thousands of blood sucking bugs crawled out of the woodwork and began to attack them. In order to allow Bernice to sleep, Leoma stayed awake most of the night, fighting to keep the bugs at bay.
Eventually Bernice and Leoma rented a house in town while Victor was away for work. Very little is written of Bernice’s life in Dillon. Leoma recalled only that she and Bernice were required to walk nearly half a mile together for groceries.
The family lived in Dillon for two months, after which they determined it would be best to return to St. George Utah. The year was 1919, and Leoma was pregnant with her second child and required the help of Victor’s mother Hannah and his sister Annie during the delivery.
A second girl, Marie, was born and for one month the Iversons stayed in Las Vegas before moving yet again to Mount Trumbull, Arizona.
Listen to Marie Iverson Waite discuss Bernice's death and burial.
Closeup of Bernice
Marie about one year old
Marie and Bernice
These instructions were left by Marie Iverson Waite to her children. Marie died 1 March 2007 and was buried in the Homedale-Marsing Cemetery next to her husband, Rodney. The items were butied with her.