Pine Plains- Paul Harris Berna, age 80 of Pine Plains, New
York, and New York City. July 29, 2017. Beloved friend, companion, partner,
brother, uncle, and cousin, Paul brought a great zest for life and artistic
sensibility to all he did and in all he excelled—dance, carpentry, painting,
stenciling, gardening, cooking.
Born in 1936 to Victor and Margaret Berna in Chicago, the
youngest of six children, he attended the Art Institute of Chicago for two
years before discovering dance in 1958. He studied ballet and then joined the
Sybil Shearer Modern Dance Company. He came to New York in 1960 on full
scholarship from Martha Graham. When she learned about his artistic background,
she put him to work refurbishing her sets with Isamu Noguchi. He spent two
seasons with the Opera Ballet in New York and Philadelphia, appearing in
“Coppélia,” “La Giaconda,” “The Merry Widow,” and more. He danced in City
Center’s “Oklahoma” and “Brigadoon” under Agnes de Mille and Gemze de Lappe and
in “To Broadway with Love” at the 1964 World’s Fair. His Broadway career included
“Come Summer,” “I Had a Ball,” “Her First Roman,” and, most memorably, “Hello
Dolly,” where he performed for five years, dancing with Martha Raye, Ethel
Merman, Phyllis Diller, Ginger Rogers, and Betty Grable. He was in the “Hello
Dolly” company that Martha Raye brought to entertain the troops in Vietnam in
1968, performing the entire musical all over the DMZ with full costumes and
sets on two flatbed trucks, an experience that was a high point of his life. He
appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and in the movie of “Sweet Charity.” When he
retired from dance, he became a master hair cutter and stylist, a business he
had for nearly 50 years. In 2014 he was honored by Dancers Over 40 for his many
contributions, and in April 2017 he was embraced by Bette Midler andthe entire
cast of the “Hello, Dolly” revival.
He leaves his partner, Dylan Ftera, of Manhattan; a sister,
Margaret Carolyn Glomb, of Arkansas, as well as nieces, nephews, and many, many
friends, in whose memories he will shine forever. Donations in his memory may
be made to Dancers Over 40, www.dancersover40.org.
There are no calling hours. Arrangements are under the
direction of the Scott D. Conklin Funeral, 37 Park Avenue, Millerton, NY 12546.
To send an online condolence please visit www.conklinfuneralhome.com