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Old Boys Club be damned.

Politician Milly Oberhansley was not about to let her gender get in her way as she rose through the ranks of the town council, state Legislature and Public Service Commission.

Oberhansley, who became Mildred Bernard when she married her third husband in 1972, died Monday in her Kearns home at the age of 85.

She was born in Nebraska, put herself through business school in Denver and was one of the first residents of Kearns.

Her political career began as a member of the Kearns Town Council. Bernard became the first woman member of the Salt Lake County Planning and Zoning Commission.

She first joined the House of Representatives in 1967, describing herself as "a minority, minority, minority" - being a woman, a non-Mormon and a Utah transplant.

Current state Sen. Mike Dmitrich, D-Price, served in the House with Bernard and remembered her as a "hard-nosed" politician.

"She got her way more than she ever lost," he said. "She was a very tough woman. She could handle herself in any situation and you didn't have to mince words around her."

Bernard served as the majority whip when Democrats controlled the House in 1971, then as minority leader until the Democrats came to power again in 1975.

She is the last Democrat in Utah to hold the position of majority leader. And she could have been the Speaker of the House if she had wanted it, according to Ron Rencher, who ultimately took the position after Bernard told him she would rather be majority leader, a post from which she led the budget effort and showed her concern for social service issues.

"She had a great sense of fairness," Rencher said.

Former state Rep. Beverly White said Bernard was her mentor.

"She was a real defender of the women legislators," she recalled Thursday. "She was a beautiful person. She was kind and she was sensitive and yet, she was tough."

Dmitrich and White said Bernard was an advocate for higher education and women's rights.

"She was a great supporter when we started the child-abuse laws," White said.

Bernard spent 10 years in the House. She left when Gov. Cal Rampton appointed her to the Public Service Commission, where she served as chairwoman for six years before retiring in 1982.

Her daughter Carole Jakeman will most miss her mother's "strength and wisdom."

"We used to say 'She was 5-foot-2 and eyes of blue with a chore list as long as you can keep going.' "

And she taught her family to persevere as she did.

"She would say you just have to deal with life on life's terms and do the best you can. That is all that anyone can expect," Jakeman said.

Her husband, Justice Court Judge Bud Bernard, died in March 1987. Milly Bernard leaves behind two daughters, seven grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

Funeral services are scheduled for today at 1 p.m. at McDougal Funeral Home at 4330 S. Redwood Road.

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