BIDDEFORD — Fernand Bernier Sr. was a self-taught machinist who dedicated his life to mastering the art of making tools and dies in machine shops across southern Maine.

“He liked the creativity and the exactness of the pieces he made,” said his son, Fernand “Joe” Bernier Jr. of Dayton. “He knew all of his decimal equivalents to fractions, by heart. He knew them all.”

Mr. Bernier, an accomplished machinist who worked for many years at Portland Copper and then Corning Components in Biddeford, died Monday. He was 91.

Mr. Bernier, known to most people as “Jim,” began working on machines with his father when he was about 10 years old. Around the time he finished eighth grade, his father died. He skipped high school and went to work to help support his mother and eight sisters.

For most of his career, he was a machinist at Portland Copper. Most recently, he worked for about 10 years at what is now AVX Biddeford, retiring in 1982. His son said he was a tool and die maker.

“He could make the tools, grind the tools and use them too,” the younger Bernier said. “There was nothing in the shop he couldn’t do. He also grinded the tools to keep them sharp. That was an art, too.”

Outside of work, Mr. Bernier was the guy who residents asked to fix whatever was broken. His son said he could fix just about anything with mechanical parts. If he couldn’t find the part to fix it, he made the part himself.

“There was no one like him,” his son said. “He put everyone first. He was always willing to help. He would repair anything for people … any time of the day or night. If you called him, he would figure out a way to help you.”

Mr. Bernier was married to Beulah Bernier for 48 years. The couple raised four children.

His son said Monday that his parents met when she was stuck on the side of the road in a car with a flat tire. Mr. Bernier pulled over to help.

Joe Bernier said his parents were happy and had a good life together. “They both worked hard. It was all for us,” he said.

He said his father taught him how to hunt and fish and play baseball and football. His father encouraged and supported the children as they pursued their education.

“He thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread to see his kids graduate from college,” his son said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better father. I am an avid woodworker because of him.”

Mr. Bernier had a soft spot for his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

“When he was around (the kids), he did nothing but light up,” his son said. “Nothing pleased him more than to see them.”

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at: [email protected]