When Bernabe Pelingon finished a 20-year stint in the U.S. Navy in 1997, he earnestly considered an array of second careers.
But it didn’t take long for him to choose the SIU. Pelingon joined the union and sailed for two years before becoming an instructor at the SIU-affiliated Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education, located in Piney Point, Maryland. He taught at the school for nearly 20 years, mixing in some ongoing work as an active mariner, before retiring in late 2018.
Pelingon, known to all as Bernie, cited health concerns when he retired. He died May 2 at age 68.
“He was beloved by staff and students alike, and his influence can be seen on many people working in the deck department throughout the SIU,” said Paul Hall Center Acting Vice President Tom Orzechowski. “He was around when I took my AB course and he was a sailor’s sailor.”
Stan Beck worked with Pelingon both in the armed forces and at the school.
“Bernie was one of my shipmates in the U.S. Navy,” Beck recalled. “We were on the USS Detroit together and we were both at the Paul Hall Center (as instructors) for 20 years each. He loved teaching students and was everyone’s mentor. He was always willing to help with anything we needed, and he will be missed very much.”
Another instructor, Tom Truitt, noted, “Bernie’s best interest was always for the student. He was always looking to give the students the most beneficial information so they could succeed after they left the school. He was a wealth of knowledge and I knew if I had a question, he would answer it or know where to find the answer. I really enjoyed working with him, and he was a true professional.”
Even after retirement, Pelingon lived on the secondary road leading to the school.
A native of the Philippines, Pelingon hailed from a family of educators. He received college degrees in nautical science and marine transportation and also secured his third mate’s license.
In the Navy, he served as quartermaster first class, earning many decorations along the way in addition to working as an instructor.
In Piney Point, he became the school’s lead instructor for able seamen – but he did far more than classroom work. Pelingon recruited other veterans to the school, both as students and instructors. He served as a peer tutor and mentor for upgraders, some of whom had English as a second language.
In his retirement letter, Pelingon said that working at the school “has been a wonderful experience, and I will cherish the memories.”