The Canadian son of a longshoreman who became a U.S. history professor. The city kid from
Saint John, New Brunswick who built a house by hand in rural Nova Scotia. A southpaw. A
redhead. An exceptionally loving husband, father and grandfather. If you knew him, you know
that he told great stories, watched ALL the sports and loved to drive. His drink: Coke. His
favorite food: candy, all kinds. When he laughed hard, which he did often, he sometimes
pounded the table.
John “Bernie” Cusack was born on February 16, 1933 in St. John, New Brunswick, the third son
of Eddie and Anne Cusack. Bernie was the first in his family to go to college. He attended St.
Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, where he earned a degree in Engineering
and, more importantly, met the love of his life, Elizabeth Sears, through her brother John T.
Sears, a fellow student of Bernie’s.
After their marriage, they moved to Boston, a city they have embraced in so many ways for the
past 64 years. After working for a few years as a structural engineer, he made a brave career
pivot into academia and spent the next ten years as a student teacher earning his PhD in
American History at Boston University. By the time he got his degree, he and Elizabeth were
blessed with four children: Fran (“Pancho”), Carrie, John and Jen. Bernie was a popular
professor at Emmanuel College for 30 years and loved it so much he said he sometimes
worried someone would tell him it had all been a mistake and take it away. He also coached
Brighton Little League and volunteered at St. Anthony’s Church in Allston and the
Brighton-Allston Heritage Museum.
While they raised their family in Brighton and Elizabeth worked as a librarian in the Boston
Public Schools, they always returned to Nova Scotia in the summers. For Bernie’s children, it
was a wonderful thing to have their father around all summer long in Lakevale, Nova Scotia. It’s
a place of dear family and friends that meant the world to Bernie.
Before and after retirement, he and Elizabeth saw the world together, visiting and traveling with
their loving family everywhere from Australia to the Yukon, Florence to Paris to Chicago and
many places in between. Throughout Bernie’s life, Elizabeth connected him to their large
community of family and friends by hosting so many celebrations, dinners and events. That was
one of the many gifts she gave him. In return, he loved her unconditionally and drove her all
over the U.S. and Canada.
When they weren’t traveling, reading or watching sports, Bernie and Elizabeth were busy loving
their children and their eight very lucky grandchildren: Noah, Geneva, Angus, Tom, Seamus,
Will, Rose and Adelaide. Bernie also leaves his devoted daughters- and sons-in-law Marie
Armstrong, Colleen McGuire, Phoebe Cusack, Dan Cashmore and Mike Baker.
Bernie’s career as a history professor and Elizabeth’s as a school librarian helped to make the
whole family a book family. When you’re reading a really good book, you start to feel sad when
you realize there are only a few pages left. You wonder how the author can end it in a way that
will satisfy you. You wonder what’s going to happen to the characters you’ve grown to love
when you close the cover. Now we’ve come to the end of the book of Bernie. What an incredible
story it’s been for all of us.
Due to the pandemic, funeral services will be private. We look forward to celebrating Bernie’s
life with family and friends as soon as we safely can. If you want to honor Bernie’s memory with
a donation, please consider supporting Emmanuel College’s Emmanuel Fund at
alumni.emmanuel.edu. The family has three proud Emmanuel graduates.