ORANGEBURG—Nobody knew Lucinda Bernard was involved in an abusive relationship until the night she was killed.
Her family members recall that night, filled with pulsing blue lights as they stood outside her house blocked by crime tape, in utter shock and despair. Bernard’s husband was convicted of her murder, and three children were left without parents.
But from tragedy, the close-knit, devout family was determined to find a positive outcome.
Kim LeDee, an associate art professor at S.C. State University, joined her family members in Texas and Louisiana to figure out a way to help.
Originally, the goal was to support the children, who are now being raised by their grandparents and aunts, and to find a way to pay for Catholic school.
LeDee had long wanted to create a children’s coloring book, and suggested it as a way to pay for tuition. Tiffany Mack, her cousin in Conroy, Texas, where the tragedy occurred, loved the idea. She became a driving force for the sale of the book, along with other outreach projects that blossomed from there.
“It was definitely a family project,” LeDee said. One of her nieces, Laresa Pierre, came up with the title “Color Me Creole.” The children and other family members also contributed to the drawings and storyline.
LeDee said the Creole theme comes from childhood memories of growing up in Louisiana. Her grandfather had a farm in Lebeau, and she spent a lot of time there with her cousins — including Bernard and Mack — playing music, catching crawfish, and swimming in the pond.
“I wanted to honor our family memories and celebrate the past,” LeDee said. “When I think of her, I want to think about the positive things we shared. I know she’s still smiling — looking down and smiling at everyone.”
Funds from the book helped send the children to the parish school of Sacred Heart Church in Conway, where all three, teenagers now, were baptized.
After the coloring book, the family felt compelled to do more.
“I just felt the call to do something about domestic violence,” said Mack. “I just couldn’t see another family go through this — especially the children.”
They started a remembrance Mass and a parish campaign directed at teens to stop abuse at the root. They also created a non-profit website, www.askseekandknock.net, based on the words of Jesus in Mt 7: 7-8, and secured support for it from the Archdiocese of Texas, Mack said.
Over the summer, the coloring book was revised to include a storyline, LeDee said, and they are developing plans for a children’s book. The people Bernard left behind wish they had known about the abuse. They can’t help their loved one now, but hope to reach out to others in the same situation.
Updated Nov. 27: Clarified who came up with the title “Color Me Creole.”