Bernita married Edson John Curtess when she was 16 and living in the oilfield area of Oilton, Oklahoma. They had two children, Jr. and Bobbie Louise, and four grandchildren. Bernita was a civic leader and served as surrogate mother to a succession of Asian students who came to Oklahoma City to attend school. She died in an automobile accident after visiting her mother's gravesite in Oilton on Memorial Day. Her husband, Edson, and one of the students she included as a part of her extended family were with her in the car at the time of her death - they were not seriously injured.