John E. Bernthal, of Lincoln, chair emeritus of the Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders, died July 23 of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Bernthal was born in 1940 in Sheridan, Wyoming, but spent most of his youth in Wayne, Nebraska. At Hahn High School, Bernthal played running back, joined the marching band during halftime, and then returned to running back during the second half. He went on to college at Wayne State College, where he became student body president, lettered in football and tennis, and participated in the orchestra. Bernthal was later inducted into the Wayne State Hall of Fame.
Bernthal earned his master’s degree from the University of Kansas. In Lawrence, Bernthal snagged his biggest lifetime honor by meeting Marilyn Simpson, who became his wife of 55 years. Bernthal earned a doctorate from the University of Wisconsin and enjoyed a distinguished academic career. His co-authored textbook became a best-seller in the field of speech and audiology. For 30 years, Bernthal served as chair of the Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders in the College of Education and Human Sciences at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. He also was elected president of the American Speech and Hearing Association in 2001.
Bernthal crafted a rich personal life. With his spouse, Marilyn, he visited every continent except Antarctica. He ate an exceptional amount of ice cream. He was a longtime member of the Sertoma Club, a faithful volunteer for Meals on Wheels, and mentored youth through Lincoln’s TeamMates program. An avid lifelong tennis player and sports fan, Bernthal loved watching his children and granddaughters play tennis, basketball and volleyball. He became an ardent Creighton volleyball supporter, where his daughter, Kirsten, serves as head coach.
Bernthal was preceded in death by his parents, the Rev. Erwin John Bernthal and Erna Bernthal. He is survived by his wife, Marilyn (Simpson) Bernthal; son, Brad (Ande); daughter, Kirsten Bernthal Booth (Erik); grandchildren Alexis, Quinn, Reese, Hayden and Berkeley; brothers, Frederick Bernthal (Heather Lancaster) and Stuart Bernthal (Katherine); and sisters, Rebecca Bernthal and Christine Bernthal.
Funeral services are July 29 at 10:30 a.m. at Sheridan Lutheran Church, 6955 Old Cheney Road, Lincoln. In lieu of flowers or gifts, memorials may be sent to the John and Marilyn Bernthal Speech Language Pathology Fellowship Fund, Fund #01123330, University of Nebraska Foundation, 1010 Lincoln Mall Suite 300, Lincoln, Nebraska, 68508. Condolences may be left at the Butherus, Maser & Love Funeral Home website.