Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Glimpse of the Ocean Begins Bertie's Long Beach Life

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Glimpse of the Ocean Begins Bertie's Long Beach Life

Article excerpt

Byline: Bill Longenecker

"The ocean was just so beautiful. I told them, 'This is where I want to live.' " Bertie Kesterson was talking to her husband, Jack, and his new boss. They were at the end of Atlantic Boulevard in March 1940.

Jack and Bertie had been married for 34 years when he died in 1965. They had just moved to the Beaches from Hot Springs, Ark., after he accepted a job to help build a huge butane storage tank in town. His boss then said they were thinking of opening an office at the beach.

On their next trip, Bertie and Jack saw a lady in her yard on South Street. After inquiring if she knew of any rentals, she offered them a place across the street. At that time, "year-rounders" were quite rare.

"It was $30 a month with water included. Two bedrooms, an upstairs and downstairs. I had to keep the windows on the east closed because I never have gotten used to the sand coming in," Bertie said of their first place.

They were offered a bigger place nearby for the same rent and stayed there until they bought her current home.

"They [the owners] stayed in town in the winter and so we took care of the upkeep because the rent was so cheap we didn't want to bother them."

Bertie grew up in Hot Springs, where her mother was recognized as a nurse despite a lack of a formal license.

"I felt like God had put me here on earth to work with older people," Bertie said of her own time spent helping the elderly, even though she never made it to nursing school.

She wanted to go to the formal Catholic nursing school in the area, but could not afford the basic materials required. It was the Depression by then and she had to take work when she could find it.

Her father was a postman who would often bring home people for lunch. Her mother approved of the simple, kind gesture by always having an extra plate ready.

She and Jack married in 1931 and lived in Hot Springs with their son, Jack Jr., now 72 and living in Michigan. He tries to visit often. At age 7, he had his first view of the ocean, as was his mother.

"That was the happiest day of my life when I saw the ocean," she said.

Bertie's friend Evelyn Hunter would make her an offer she could not refuse in the mid-1940s. Hunter and postal clerk Mabel Wadill worked at Neptune Beach's post office.

"Mrs. Ralph Hunter, Evelyn, knew [longtime U.S. Rep.] Charlie Bennett. Evelyn had just graduated from college and she saw him at her mother's house. She told him that there was no post office in Neptune Beach.

"They found a garage apartment at 210 Magnolia St. and she got a congressional appointment as postmaster. She bought property on the corner of North Street and Third and they leased it to the Postal Service as a post office. She lived in the apartment upstairs. …

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