On Feb. 5, after 100 revolutions around the sun, Sarah Bernice Broomfield Comstock, another of Boise’s grande dames, blithe spirits, and few remaining survivors of “America’s Greatest Generation”, slipped the confining infirmities of her mortality and eased peacefully into the next dimension. “Bee”, as friends called her, was an ambitious, intelligent, talented, and creative woman, perhaps best known as a charming, vivacious, and elegant hostess with a sparkling wit and personality and a cheerful smile and laugh that instantly won her friends wherever and whatever the occasion or task might be. She made entertaining guests a veritable art form, at which she was a virtual tour de force; and throughout her life, she found ways to employ those skills to the benefit of others, via fundraising for schools, hospitals, the arts and humanities, service clubs, and local, regional, and national charities.
A community-minded civic and social servant, she was first and foremost a loving, actively supportive wife and partner of Ralph J. Comstock, Jr.; a caring, devoted mother of three—Ralph III, Christine, and Robert Stephen; and a devout, lifelong member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. A savvy student of business, she founded and studiously participated with friends from the Hillcrest Country Club in Women in Finance Services, a successful investment club; and after graduating from the University of Utah in 1939 with a BA in nutrition and a minor in speech, she taught homemaking skills for the Utah Power and Light Co. before moving to San Francisco and developing nutrition programs for military wives in behalf of The Homemaker’s Bureau, a Safeway subsidiary also known as Home Economics Women in Business. The latter led to an offer she declined to work in New York City for GE.
Born November 22, 1916 in Bountiful, UT to Robert Stephen and Mary Lydia Riley Broomfield, Bernice was the first of five siblings—Clara Lorraine (Peggy), Ramona, Robert Stephen, and Riley Chandler, each of whom preceded her in death. Learning to read and write at an early age, she began elementary school at the age of 5, skipped the third grade, and at 16, entered the University of Utah, where she pledged the Delta Gamma Sorority, and ultimately became the “sweetheart” of one dashing Sigma Chi from Pocatello, ID named Ralph J. Comstock, Jr. As this was the era of America’s Great Depression, theirs was a modest courtship that included dates to Snelgrove’s for ice cream sundaes, attending school events and fraternity functions, and whenever possible, on extra special occasions, shaking a leg to the up-tempo music of America’s best known big bands at the Saltair Pavilion, a famous dance hall on the southern shore of The Great Salt Lake about 15 miles from campus. Their sorority and fraternity houses were close enough that the two could exchange late night candlelight messages, and it was at the Sigma Chi house that she became pinned and then engaged.
At the University of Utah, Bernice lived up to her nickname—modeling for local women’s clothing stores, riding English saddle as a member of the Trotters Club, winning the title of “Miss Personality”, writing for Delta Gamma’s national publication “Anchora”, and serving as vice-president of her senior class and president of Mortar Board, a national honorary society. As Bee pursued her home economics career in nutrition, Ralph enlisted in the U.S. Army, attending officer candidate school at the Presidio in San Francisco and then in Carlisle, PA, graduating a lieutenant and transferring to duty at Camp Robinson in Little Rock, AK, on his brief leave from which the two wed in her family’s Bountiful home on July 3, 1942. In Little Rock—and before Ralph’s military service took them to Framingham Center, MA in 1944—Bernice served as Co-Chairwoman of Nutrition for the Council of National Defense. In Framingham Center she became pregnant; and when Ralph shipped out to the European Theater of Operations as an adjutant to the general in the medical corps, she moved to Pocatello to live with his parents—under the watchful supervision of a trusted family physician. As Ralph fought in The Battle of the Bulge, she gave birth to the first of their three children.
Following the War, Bernice and Ralph settled in Pocatello, where he formally entered the banking business and she pursued her own personal homemaking career, simultaneously organizing benefits for local charities and related organizations—fundraising highlights of which included developing supper clubs and modeling for fashion shows. Christine and then Robert were born in Pocatello; and as Ralph, Jr. climbed rungs on the banking ladder and became more and more actively involved with civic activities, Bee’s children entered school, where she found new challenges and more opportunities to help the less fortunate, especially needy school children, many of whom she took into her home to bathe, feed, and nourish. In Pocatello, the community-focused partnership between Bee and Ralph blossomed; and when First Security Bank moved the family to Boise in 1962, their teamwork flourished.
Together, the two had chaired the 1961 Idaho Bankers’ Convention in Sun Valley, Ralph supervising business sessions and Bee organizing social events; and in Boise, they lifted their service to another level, among other achievements chairing and organizing the National Governors Conference, helping to organize FUNDSY, and annually hosting a business community Christmas party at Hillcrest Country Club. For their civic efforts, they received national awards, honorary university degrees, distinguished citizen recognition, and more. Besides WIFS, Bee’s affiliations included the Beaux Arts Society, Boise Philharmonic Guild, Women of Rotary, the Morrison Center, the Assistance League, the St. Luke’s and St. Alphonsus Hospitals, and Delta Gamma. She was a member of the College of Idaho Women’s Symposium and Friends of Terteling Library and was elected to the College of Idaho Board of Trustees, and her awards included the March of Dimes “White Rose” for “outstanding community service” and the Idaho Governor’s Arts Award.
Besides her parents and siblings, those preceding Bee in death were her husband Ralph in 1995 and her grandson Steve Poole in 2016. Survivors include her children Ralph (Beth), Christine Poole (Brad), and Robert; her grandchildren Chris and Hester, Burris Wollsieffer, and Jackson and Will; and great-grandchildren Calvin and Ava Belle, Louis and Khalil, and Celina, Blake, Ella, Jack, James, Joshua, Anna Leah, Heather, and Isabella.
Services include a closed casket viewing 6-8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 16 and funeral 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 18, both at the LDS North Stake Center, 8620 Goddard Road. In lieu of flowers, the family recommends gifts to the St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital.