At the September 12, 2023, Regular Board Meeting, Ron Bernardi, a beloved figure in Northbrook, was given a Key to Northbrook by the Village Board of Trustees.
You may know Ron from Sunset Foods. It was started by Ron’s uncles, the Cortesi brothers. By 1965, the family business had expanded to Northbrook. At age 23, Ron was given an assignment – his uncles sat him down and said,
“ok, you’re going to Northbrook, and the first thing you’re doing is you’re joining Rotary.”
This conversation is the origin story of a resident that is commonly referred to today as ‘Mr. Northbrook’.
Ron’s head was spinning at this news. He remembers being a deer in headlights because he deeply feared public speaking. He knew that his new journey would demand he face this fear. Ron set off on his adventure and it wasn't long before he was asked to be an auctioneer at a Rotary event. Ron knew little about auctions and even less about auctioneering.
He immediately made a beeline for the Northbrook Library and checked out a book on the subject. Ron was a hit at the event, and he went on to hone his skills as an auctioneer, raising substantial amounts of funds for various charities over the years. Rotary transformed Ron’s fear into a gift that he turned into a force for good. Although Rotary was thrust upon Ron, being 'voluntold’ by his uncles to join, Ron found his calling amongst his fellow Rotarians. He found a moral compass that would lead him on his path. The organization’s foundational 4-Way Test made a significant impression on Ron to the point he had it printed on the back of his Sunset business cards to help spread the concept to others.
He lives by the notion that if you can answer yes to each of the four questions of the 4-Way Test, then you're on the right path, and it can be applied to any facet of life. The 4-Way Test allowed Ron a platform to direct his life and help others.
Ron recalls his many interactions at Sunset endeavoring to go above and beyond for customers in need. He recalls changing more than one flat tire for customers. He has also made numerous house calls. This includes a time when a customer called upset because her bag broke in her kitchen, splattering a gallon of milk in all directions. In less than 10-minutes Ron was on his way with rolls of paper towels and cleaning supplies to help clean up. Ron has a knife set and tweezers used for tasks like deboning white fish and processing meat and poultry that wasn’t done correctly at the store.
Ron is heavily involved in the community. Readers may have seen him at Shermerfest as the Cow Pie Moo-lette auctioneer, or at the Illuminate festivities working the Sunset Foods’ popcorn wagon, or at Sunset Foods under his current title of Servant/Community Service Representative. In addition to Rotary, Ron has served on the boards of the Northbrook Chamber of Commerce, Civic Foundation, Northbrook Historical Society, and North Suburban YMCA.
Ron is happiest when the attention is on other people, and not on him. His service is often administered with small deeds of kindness that do not see the glare of the limelight. Ron sums it up best –
“It is the law of compounding interest... I have never done any great things, but I have done many little things. Most were almost unnoticeable, but over time, I think they made a difference.”
We know you have and continue to make a difference, Ron. The Village of Northbrook is proud to have Ron Bernardi as this issue’s Northbrook Strong Neighbor Spotlight.