Harbor Isle resident Bernie Ditchik loves stories. In 2016, at 92, he published a children’s book, “Grandpa Bernie’s Bedtime Stories.” He will be celebrating his 100th birthday with a new edition of the book, available for the first time on Audible.
When Ditchik’s children were young, he sat on their beds at night, and instead of reading stories to them, he told stories, making them up on the spot. He did the same for his grandchildren. It was his daughter who suggested he write the stories down so he could show the children a book of those stories. His writing blossomed into “Grandpa Bernie’s Bedtime Stories,” which, to his surprise, quickly became a top selling book in the publisher’s catalog.
Sometimes Ditchik’s stories have a moral or lesson, but when asked what he would like people to take from his books, he answers, “Number one: enjoyment. That’s what I write them for. The purpose of my writing them was just to make my children, and whoever else reads them, happy.”
He has made some of the stories into separate picture books, and has many more to go. The picture books are drawn by different illustrators because, “I can’t draw better than a five year old,” Ditchik said. “They just bring my stories to life.”
He has many other stories, which are written but not yet published. One of five children, who has an identical twin, Ditchik also has two sisters who are identical twins, and an older brother. He was very close to his twin brother, Charles. They shared their lives together including being in business together.
The only time they were separated was when they were in the service. Ditchik was in the Seabees, a construction battalion, stationed in Okinawa during World War II. He carried a weapon but never had to fire it. He stayed in Okinawa until a year after the war ended. He still remembers the delicious meals he had there, including homemade bread and homemade ice cream almost every day.
His love of stories comes through in the stories of his own life, like the story of how he met his wife. He had recently moved to Toronto after leaving the Navy and was living in a rented room. His brother-in-law, who made frequent trips between Toronto and New York, asked his seatmate on one of his plane trips if she knew anyone in Toronto so Ditchik could start making some friends.
Although she was nearly engaged, the woman said Ditchik should call her. She gave him a list of names of some of her good friends. He called the first name on the list and went on one date with her. He didn’t get too far down the list because after the second date with the second girl on the list, he knew he would marry her. And sure enough, that girl, Florence, known as Faigie, became his wife. They were married for 70 years, according to Ditchik, “the most wonderful years,” of his life.
He has seen ups and downs in his long life, including the loss five months ago of his beloved wife, Faigie. But he still sees the glass as half full. He was never wealthy and never wanted to be.
“I had a blessed life, everything was wonderful,” he said. “The most important thing in life is relationships. That’s the way I always live my life, enjoying my relationships with other people. Love yourself, love life. Don’t be envious of people, be thankful for what you have and enjoy what you have. And I have. I think I’m very much an optimist. Be an optimist, be thankful for what you do have and make the best of it.”