Zupancich's legacy remainsthe biggest party Silver Bay has ever seen, before or since. There are many stories about Bernie, his character, his regard for his fellow man and the town of Silver Bay. I am sure that everyone has his or her favorite.
By: Mike Roberts, St. Cloud, Lake County News Chronicle
Silver Bay and the North Shore have recently seen the passing of a very special guy – Bernie Zupancich. He was the town’s ambassador as well as its grocer who was well known throughout the Minnesota Arrowhead Country from Ely to Cook, Aurora, Tower, Babbitt, & Silver Bay. Everywhere Zup’s has a grocery store, Bernie made a difference.
He came to the town of Silver Bay in the early 1960s from Ely to operate the local store and it has been his home ever since. We played on the Ely football team in the late 1950s and while not a physically large person, he was a fierce competitor, hated to lose and could always be counted on to do his best. That set the pattern of his life. He always knew you and was happy to see you whenever that next meeting took place.
When he retired a few years back, what a party he gave to the town of Silver Bay. When I attended that once-in-a-lifetime gathering, I asked him what was going on. He said that when he was going to retire, the company was going to give him a brand new car. He said, “I already have a good car how a about giving me the money instead?” So they did and he spent it on the biggest party Silver Bay has ever seen, before or since.
There are many stories about Bernie, his character, his regard for his fellow man and the town of Silver Bay. I am sure that everyone has his or her favorite. Here is one of mine:
When I came to the Split Rock Lighthouse to do a book signing in the summer of 2011, I arrived a bit early and had some time to kill so I looked up Bernie at the store. He was out back loading up an old pick- up truck. He asked me if I wanted to ride along to Finland where he was to make a delivery. I agreed to go, jumped in and we talked about old times as we were on our way.
We went through town on Highway 1 and hung a right on the Finland-Little Marais road going east, across the river and turned in at Dubbins’ Gravel Pit. I asked him where we were going and he said, “You’ll see.”
We went through the gravel pit and turned down a two track road to a house on top of the hill overlooking the Baptism River. We stopped at a garage and got out to talk to some people gathered in the yard. He introduced me around and then started to pull a big striped tent from the pickup box. Then he explained that this was the site of a wedding reception to be held the next day and he was supplying the tent. I asked if he had a catering business on the side and he said he didn’t, but these guys needed a tent to hold the celebration, so he brought the one from the store.
I asked him what he charged to do such a thing. He said there was no charge as these people were customers, friends, ex-employees and were great to be around and would I swing the sledge hammer a bit harder to drive the stake in the ground to anchor the tent down.
That’s the kind of guy he was and the Bernie stories go on and on. I feel that I have been privileged to have known him, saddened at his passing and hope that someone will step up to carry on his legacy as they are hard shoes to fill.
Mike Roberts is the author of The Last Keeper at Split Rock Lighthouse.