Bernice “Bea” Heiderman

Bernice Marilyn Heiderman, 24, beloved daughter of Julie (nee Jenkins) and Bill Heiderman of Inverness; treasured sister of Grace and William Heiderman; and loved niece and friend of many. Bernice passed suddenly on January 9th while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Comoros. There was nothing more important to Bernice, or which made her happier, than her work helping her new found community. In lieu of flowers, we ask that donations be made to help continue her work in Africa for the Peace Corps. Donations can be made through Bernice’s Legacy Fund.

-From the obituary published in Chicago Suburban Daily Herald on Jan. 17, 2018

Peace Corps Press Release:

Washington, D.C., January 9, 2018 – Acting Peace Corps Director Sheila Crowley is saddened to confirm the death of Peace Corps volunteer Bernice Heiderman of Inverness, IL. Bernice, 24, passed away after an illness while serving in Comoros on January 9, 2018.

”Bea’, as everyone called her, was a remarkable volunteer, who was admired by the students she taught and the members of the community where she lived,’ said Acting Director Crowley. ‘Bea shared her love of museums with the students who joined the Junior Explorer’s Club she started. They and Peace Corps will miss her dearly. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family as we mourn this tremendous loss.’

Bernice served as an Education volunteer in Comoros, an island nation along the east coast of Africa. She taught English at the public junior high school in the community of Salimani, on the island of Grande Comore. She also started a Junior Explorer’s Club and worked to secure funds to conduct field trips to the National Museum of Comoros, a botanical garden and other historical sites on the island. Through the club, Bernice introduced its members to sites they had never before visited in their own country. In addition, Bernice worked closely with the curator of the National Museum to help create written descriptions for artifacts on display there.

At the certificate ceremony for the Junior Explorers, Bernice said, ‘I am so proud of my kids. They have enjoyed the explorations and I am happy to I see them grow and become great leaders.’

One month prior to beginning her Peace Corps service, Bernice received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Illinois at Chicago. While living in Chicago, Bernice was a Discovery Squad volunteer at the Field Museum, where she was a photography assistant and shared her knowledge and interest in the museum’s historical artifacts with visitors.

She is survived by her parents, Julie C. and William Heiderman, her sister, Grace Heiderman, and brother, Billy Heiderman.

Inverness Peace Corps volunteer remembered for starting junior explorer’s club

By Sarah Schulte,

A suburban family is in mourning after a young Peace Corps volunteer died suddenly Tuesday.

Bernice Heiderman of Inverness was volunteering in Africa when she became sick with an unknown illness on New Year’s Day and passed away Tuesday.

The 24-year-old is being remembered as a hard working outspoken person, who strongly believed in the mission of the Peace Corps.

Known as “Bea” to her family and friends, Bernice Heiderman was determined to make a difference in her life. One month after her graduation from University of Illinois at Chicago, Bernice joined the Peace Corps. She served as an education volunteer teaching kids in the island nation of Comoros, located off Africa’s east coast.

“She wanted to represent the America she loves, the America that strives better the world through peace, friendship and education,” said her brother Billy Heiderman.

Bernice had plans of staying with the Peace Corps as long as she could, but on Tuesday she died from a sudden illness.

Her death was devastating not only to her family, but to Inverness neighbors such as Lisa Reardon who has known Bernice since birth.

“She always had a sparkle in her eye, too and as she became older, she was always laughing, a lot of fun, she’d grown into such a beautiful young woman and she was so adventurous,” said Lisa Reardon, a close family friend and neighbor.

Family and friends say while in Comoros, Bernice was most proud of starting and securing grants for a Junior Explorer’s Club, which exposed kids to sites they had never seen in their own country.

Bernice also never forgot home and brought a bit of Chicago with her. She even taught her class how to sing “Go Cubs Go.”

The youngest of three children, the Heiderman family said Bernice will always be remembered as a wise-cracking outspoken person who wanted to be extraordinary.

“She didn’t live an ordinary life, I just wish she had more time to show us how extraordinary she could have been,” her brother Billy said.

Before leaving for the Peace Corps, Bernice worked as a volunteer for the Field Museum.

The Heiderman family is determined to keep Bernice’s Junior Explorer’s Club going in Comoros.

The Peace Corps is setting up a memorial fund in Bernice’s name and all proceeds will go directly to the Bea’s Junior Exploration Club. In the meantime, donations may be made to St. John’s UCC, 1475 Algonquin Rd, Palatine, IL 60067.

If you are a family member or friend of this volunteer, and you would like to personalize this page – please reach out to We would like it to be meaningful to those who knew and loved her. -With deepest sympathy.

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