Bernard McMonigle, 74, was substance-abuse counselor

February 13, 1996|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Bernard McMonigle, a one-time greeting-card salesman whose struggle with alcoholism led him to his life's work as a substance-abuse counselor and director of treatment centers in Maryland and Pennsylvania, died of cancer Jan. 31 at his home in Hanover, Pa. He was 74.

Mr. McMonigle directed the employee-health program at Johns Hopkins Hospital from 1975 to 1978 and was director of Mountain Manor near Emmitsburg from 1977 to 1981.

He later was marketing director of Hidden Brook, Warwick Manor and Cove Forge substance-abuse treatment centers, retiring in 1989 from Clearbrook in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

A member of Alcoholics Anonymous, Mr. McMonigle counted as one of his life's greatest achievements that of being sober for the past 30 years.

"Drinking put a cap on my emotions," he told the Johns Hopkins Magazine in 1980. "Now I'm determined to milk as much out of sobriety as I was trying to milk out of the bottle."

As a counselor, he was known for his gentle but tough-love, confrontational style when dealing with alcoholics.

He told a man who had come to pick up his mother at Mountain Manor after she had been there only a week for treatment: "She's playing you like a Stradivarius. Be sure to buy her a lovely spot in the cemetery."

Turning to the woman, who later decided to continue her treatment, he said, "You're nothing but a drunk, and if you leave now, that's all you'll ever be, a drunk."

Mr. McMonigle, who was known as Bernie and for his more than passing resemblance to the actor Spencer Tracy, was 45 in 1966 when he made his decision for sobriety.

"At first I thought, who wants a 45-year-old man, drunk or sober?" Mr. McMonigle said in the the Hopkins interview.

A few years later, he went to the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health to work on a master's degree in health sciences, where at 52, he was the oldest student in his class.

The former Baltimore resident was born in Hazelton, Pa., and was a 1941 graduate of Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pa.

During World War II, he enlisted in the Marine Corps and was a bombardier and navigator at Okinawa and in New Zealand.

For five years after the war, Mr. McMonigle handled five of Hallmark cards' largest accounts in this area, but was fired.

A memorial service was held Sunday at Hunt's Memorial United Methodist Church in Riderwood. A Mass of Christian burial was offered Saturday in Hanover.

He is survived by his wife of five years, the former Barbara Bethas; three sons, Bernard McMonigle Jr. of Sacramento, Calif., Kevin McMonigle of Ventura, Calif., and John McMonigle of Woodbridge, Va.; three daughters, Pat McMonigle of Aspen, Colo., Ann Dietz of Hanover, Pa., and Nan Holiday of Hurlock; and 14 grandchildren. His first marriage ended in divorce.

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