OUR TOWN ARTICLE
Bridgewater Historical Society
An Early Power Couple in Bridgewater
The Bridgewater Historical Society created a mini-cemetery for the Halloween Trunk or Treat celebration this year. Two of the spirits we presented that evening were the power couple of their day – Charles and Clara Queck-Berner – with an amazing story.
When you think of Bridgewater celebrities, the name “Queck-Berner” probably doesn’t leap to mind. But, in their day, Charles and Clara Queck-Berner were a power couple living on Main Street.
Charles was born on March 20, 1860 in Warsaw to Russian parents and came to America with his family as a boy. His athletic abilities led him to become an expert in the Hammer Throw and Shot Put, but he was also a runner and wrestler. He was sponsored by the New York Athletic Club and participated in many competitions, including the Olympics. His picture appeared on trading cards that came in cigarette packages when he was a world champion. This firm, the forerunner to “TOPPS” trading cards, now sells their cards in bubble gum.
Disaster struck when he was seriously injured while walking home in New York City. The side walk suddenly collapsed and seriously injured him. But, this, too, led him in a positive direction. In learning what it took to successfully sue the Atlantic Trust Company, owners of the property where he was injured, he changed career paths and became a lawyer.
While he never regained his amazing level of fitness, that didn’t stop him from numerous feats of bravery. He saved people from drowning on three separate occasions and was awarded a medal for his bravery by the State of New York.
Charles served in the New York State National Guard stateside as a Mess Sergeant during World War I at the age of 57. He was awarded medals for his service. Once more, the unthinkable happened. He was arrested on August 6, 1917 on suspicion of being a German spy. Not surprising, he cleared his name and then sued the United States Government, winning $20,000 – a huge award in those days.
The other half of this power couple was Clara Lyon Queck-Berner. She was the descendant of Revolutionary War soldiers Nehemiah Webb Lyon and Lt. David Boland. Her father, Sherwood, was educated in Bridgewater and married a local girl, M. Abigail Boland. Clara was born in Brooklyn, where her father had a hat business.
Unlike most young women of her time, Clara went to college. She studied at the “Rutgers Female College” and became a professional writer. She wrote many scholarly articles, some appearing in World Atlases and encyclopedias. She was a member of numerous organizations including “The Daughters of the King”, “New England Women”, the “Patriotic Women of America”, the DAR and the Washington Headquarters Association. She had a variety of other interests including, Indian work in South Dakota, southern industrial education and the Episcopal Church. She was featured in “The Women’s Who’s Who of America – 1914- 1915”.
The couple retired to Bridgewater, where they worshipped at St. Mark’s. Charles died on January 6, 1931. Clara suffered from a heart ailment for several months before passing away on July 5, 1933. They are buried together in Center Cemetery on Main Street. Following his death, Charles’ medals were donated to the Bridgewater Historical Society where they are now on display.