EVERETT — She was the barroom dart mom.
Bernie knew all the dart players and made sure they had fun.
Bernadette “Bernie” Johnson played darts until a few weeks before she died April 4, a month shy of her 79th birthday.
Her celebration of life was a charity dart tournament on May 7 at the Clubhouse Bar and Grill on Evergreen Way in Everett.
“My way of making sure everybody got to say, ‘Bye, Bernie,’” said her life partner, Flint Ferguson. “There was no better way to do what she loved to do and be around the people she loved to be around.”
The tournament raised $2,800 for Providence Hospice and Home Care Foundation of Snohomish County and Make-A-Wish.
Her favorite drink, Fireball Cinnamon Whisky, was served at the tourney.
“Everybody got a shot of Fireball,” Ferguson said. “A toast to Bernie: Throw your darts and slam your Fireball.”
The Clubhouse donated the shots along with $600 to the prize pool. Ferguson and the dartboard vendor also each pitched in $600.
“We had 50 people show up to play in that tournament, and that was after half a dozen had maladies that kept them from coming,” Ferguson said.
A Bernie shadowbox with her darts, dart shirt and a Fireball flask is on the Clubhouse Bar wall.
She was a longtime bartender at Everett’s Kozy Tavern and an avid Washington Huskies football fan. She liked the Make-A-Wish appearances as much as the game.
“At the football games, she was adamant to be there to watch the captains bring the little kid out there to the 50-yard line to flip the coin,” Ferguson said. “She wanted to be sitting there in her seat when that happened with her drink and hot dog. She was, ‘I ain’t missing that.’ We left three hours before the game to get there.”
Her two sons were grown when he met her in 1991 at the Kozy Tavern on Hewitt Avenue, now the Twin Foxes.
Retirement in 2009 left her plenty of time to play darts. She went to challenge matches and was on teams three nights a week.
Was she good?
“She was one of those people, she’d throw nothing for five turns in a row and then she’d light you up for two or three rounds and beat you,” Ferguson said. “You’d think you had her down and she’d somehow come up.”
On a recent evening at Clubhouse Bar, dart players shared their Bernie stories.
“So many people played darts with her,” Daren Rabago said.
“She’d be in pain and she’d say this is what kept her going,” Jennifer Wyatt said. “We all tried to help take care of her to make it possible.”
Jamie Rice called her Bernie Mac.
“Beautiful, beautiful woman,” he said. “Everybody loved her.”
“It was always about fun,” Mike Smith said. “If you weren’t having fun she’d look at you and go, ‘Why are you playing darts then?’ In tournaments, people get super competitive and angry and she’d say, ‘Have fun. Loosen up. Relax.’”
She always wore Crocs until she wore them out. Some players decided to buy her a new pair.
“Everybody in the bar started throwing money in,” Smith said. “We got her a pink pair and a purple pair for her Huskies.”
She was usually on the giving side.
“If somebody came in and said, ‘I don’t have money for drinks and to play,’ she’d pay for their drinks and to play,” Smith said.
Ferguson said that’s what she was like when she was a bartender, often giving patrons money for bus fare or a meal.
“She had a B.S. meter from hell. If she thought you weren’t straight with her, she wouldn’t give you the time of day,” he said.
A metabolic disorder caused leg infections for six years. She was getting ready to sign up for another season of league darts when her health failed.
“Hospice was going to come in and provide for her at home and it was going to be free,” Ferguson said. “She objected. No free.”
After her death, he organized a dart tournament to thank the hospice and Make-A-Wish for the boost the agencies added to her life.
Mark Johnson, Providence hospice director, said his agency serves about 300 patients daily.
“A lot of donations come from people making donations in memory or honor of somebody,” he said. “It’s always great to hear that somebody received good care, and when they want to say thank you with a donation so we can provide care to others, it’s always special to us.”
He met Ferguson at the Clubhouse Bar to get the check.