Couple Lives on Through Their Family and Faith

Throughout their lives, Clarence and Bernadette Kellerman’s dedication to their family and faith created a rich, lasting legacy for the Diocese of Austin.

“Their faith was strong,” said Jeanette Browning, who is the second youngest of the Kellermans’ six children. “It definitely impacted how we were growing up and how we act today.”

The two were married for 57 years before CJ, as he was known, passed away in 2015. When Bernadette died in January, she left behind their six children and their families, including 26 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. But their fruits extend far beyond the family they created together, thanks to Catholic education and careful estate planning and service to their parish, St. William in Round Rock. 

The couple met at a church social when CJ asked Bernadette, who grew up in Jarrell, to dance. (She was on a date with another boy, but “he was known to be a bit of a rascal in his day,” said Nancy Maxwell, another one of their daughters.) Born and raised in Oil City, Pennsylvania, CJ had been in the U.S. Army. The chance meeting happened when he was traveling to Dallas for a job opportunity following his discharge, and Bernadette was working there. A couple of months later, on New Year’s Eve, he proposed on that same dance floor. 

After they married, CJ earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Texas at Austin and accepted a job with IBM. The couple, now with a growing family in tow, relocated multiple times over the years: from San Jose, California, to Rochester, Minnesota, to Boblingen, Germany. They then moved back to Rochester, and then to Austin before heading overseas again to Tokyo. 

“We never lived anyplace longer than four years,” Maxwell said. 

Their frequent moves, especially overseas, gave the family plenty of opportunities to travel — but never an excuse to miss Mass. Wherever in the world they happened to be on Sunday, Bernadette saw that they were in a pew.

“Mom always found a church so we could attend Sunday Mass, even if it wasn’t in English,” Browning said.

Daughter Cindy Waters carried on this tradition, especially when her children played club sports and they found themselves out of town on the weekends. “We rarely didn’t look for or find a church,” Waters said. “We loved to see other churches.”

Whenever possible, the Kellermans enrolled their children in Catholic schools. “They saw the importance of getting that Catholic education,” said David Kellerman, their only son. 

He said their dedication to Catholic schools played an integral role in his father’s retirement, which happened in stages. Although CJ retired from IBM while they were in Japan, after 26 years with the corporation, he accepted a job with the Mead Corporation in Dayton, Ohio. Once he finally retired, he and his wife returned to Central Texas and settled in Round Rock. 

That is when CJ found his final calling — to raise awareness for the need for more Catholic schools in the Austin area. “That was his passion, other than his family,” Maxwell said. “He knew that God came first.”

Waters explained that when her father’s golf game began to wane because of his physical abilities, he was not the type of person to sit around and do nothing. When he was introduced to the people starting Holy Family Catholic School, “he jumped in full force,” she said. “He loved the mental stimulation and everything that there was in helping build and create Holy Family.”

CJ worked tirelessly with Archbishop Gregory Aymond, Bishop Joe Vásquez, Bishop Daniel Garcia, Dr. Ned Vanders (former superintendent of Catholic Schools) and countless others to help create not only Holy Family Catholic School but also St. Dominic Savio Catholic High School. He was involved in the expansion of San Juan Diego Catholic High School, too.

The youngest Kellerman daughter, Angela Quinn, is now the elementary art teacher at Holy Family. Her daughter is a kindergartner there, and her son is a senior at St. Dominic Savio. Since her mom volunteered at Holy Family and her dad once frequently walked the halls, “I see them everywhere on that campus,” she said. “I can tell my daughter, Elsie, ‘Granddad used to do this, grandma used to do this.’ It’s really nice.”

CJ was also instrumental in the construction of the current sanctuary at St. William, where he and Bernadette were active parishioners.

As she grew older and her faith strengthened, Delores (Dot) Ammons began to take notice of her parents’ approach to their faith. “It was humble; they kept it to themselves,” she said. “They were serving and doing by their actions.”

Her brother agreed. “Mom and dad didn’t preach it,” Kellerman said. “They led by example.”

According to Kellerman, his parents served as role models for what he wants to be — someone who gives back to the church and is a servant leader for their brothers and sisters in Christ. 

Through prayer and family life, CJ and Bernadette helped their children, and now their spouses and children, grow closer to Christ. “Our faith in God is there, and it’s helping us to get out into the world and to carry on the legacy that our parents put forth,” Kellerman said.

Leaving a legacy

In addition to supporting the church as Christian stewards throughout their lives, CJ and Bernadette Kellerman decided to leave a legacy for future generations.

Through their estate plan, the Kellermans made plans to contribute to an endowment in the Catholic Foundation — Diocese of Austin. This particular endowment is designated for Catholic education, allowing them to continue a commitment they held dear during their lifetimes.

The Catholic Foundation works with people across Central Texas to match their hopes for the future with their passions of today. If you would like to support the Diocese of Austin, your parish, Catholic schools or another ministry with a gift in your estate plan, please go to

Darci Swisher is a freelance writer who has worked with the Catholic Spirit for the last three years. She and her husband live in Michigan.