Ron Bernier, Former EP "Troubled Teen" Writes Book
Has Book Signing at Weaver Library August 20th
Many who grew up in the fifties, sixties and seventies may remember being threatened with being dropped off at "Sockanosset" if they didn't behave. Sockanosset was the vernacular for the Rhode Island Training School. The training school is kind of a jail for kids who seriously break the law or are placed there by Family Court to be "rehabilitated." One such youth from East Providence who spent time at Sockanosset has now written a popular book about that and other experiences in his life. Ronald J. Bernier is the author of a memoir, "The Class of 1969," a raw and honest story detailing his struggle with chronic emotional and behavioral problems as a young man brought on by a childhood full of loss and poverty.
Bernier likes to think of himself as a Sockanosset "bad boy" making good. Sent to the infamous Training School to be “rehabilitated” by the state in 1969, he would endure violence, face racial unrest, and battle profound loneliness while attempting to come to terms with who he was and what he had become.
Bernier's story began in the country setting of West Greenwich, R.I. where life was good until one day his father told him he was 'going to heaven.' Bernier's father died when Bernier was four years old. "I was devastated at the loss of my father and I began to develop behavior problems," recalls Bernier. The problems only increased when his family was forced to leave their country home and move to South Providence R.I. where his behavior worsened.
After several years in Providence his mother remarried and they were able to purchase a house in the Riverside section of East Providence. However, his behavior problems continued and after years of delinquent behavior he saw his life spiral out of control until he was eventually court ordered to the Training School at the age of sixteen. Bernier's book tells a story of a troubled teen spiraling into the dark depths of crime and alcohol dependency, and the inspirational journey of spiritual awakening that saved his life. "I found myself inside those terribly frightening looking stone cottages called Sockanosset, with hundreds of boys just like me, locked-up and lost in a terrifying, brutal and cold-hearted system," said Bernier.
One of the reasons that Ron Bernier persevered and turned his life around was the fact that some very supportive friends were an inspiration to him. Bernier has lunch with two of them on a weekly basis, Chubby Adams and Ricky Eaton. "We often talk about 'the old days' and remind ourselves how important friendships are. I know for me I probably wouldn't be where I am today without them and yes, they continue to remain supportive. "They were my friends and they accepted me for who I was and did not judge me."
One friend from those dark days came from an unlikely alliance. During his incarceration Bernier earned a weekend pass which enabled him to visit home. However, when it was time to return to the Traing School he went on the run for several weeks. "I got into trouble while running and was eventually captured by Wayne Aldrich (an East Providence police officer) who was the same officer that had arrested me prior to me being sent to the Training School," recalls Bernier. This incident is mentioned in the book but Aldrich isn't identified then. Bernier states that he and Aldrich became friendly over the years and that "Wayne was always respectful and professional with me." Although their relationship was initially contentious, Bernier adds that he is glad that he is able to put the negative behavior behind him and be accepted.
Officer Wayne Aldrich is now retired and the Reporter reached out to him for this story. "I heard from Ron the other day, I must say he was always good with me at least he would listen. He had a tough early life and I think a lot of it was due to no male influence. His mom was a hard worker, always had two jobs trying to provide for her family. I always got along with Ron and remember his smile when he got called out. I never had a real hard time from him," said Aldrich.
Riverside's Alan "Chubby" Adams is still in close contact with Bernier. "He went through a lot but came out of it ahead. We still get together and I hope people read his book. It can help inspire other people I'm sure," said Adams.
Throughout an early lifetime of hardship and trouble, incarceration and bad behaviors, Ron Bernier has turned it all around. His friends say he has experienced a spiritual awakening of sorts. Bernier studied at Barrington College for three years and graduated from Gordon College in 1986. "I was able to combine my life experiences with formal training to have an extensive career in social work enabling me to now work with troubled youth and their families," added Bernier. In addition to being an effective social worker and mentor Bernier has taught Theology and has started many home church groups.
There are many more anecdotal comments an surprising revelations in Bernier's memoir. We don't want to spoil it for the reader, so pick up a copy or stop at Weaver Library in August and meet the author in person.
Bernier's book, The Class of 1969, is available for purchase on Amazon and Barnes and Noble or you can visit his web site at www.ronaldbernierauthor.com. The book can also be purchased at Stillwater Books on 175 Main Street in Pawtucket, R.I. Bernier will be at the Weaver Library, Grove Avenue, East Providence on August, 20th., at 7:00p.m. for a reading and discussion on the Class of 1969 followed by a book signing.