Bernice Bacharach: Lawyer, Feminist, Pioneer

Chelan County Bar Assoc. 1953 – Bernice is the only woman

Chelan County Bar Assoc. 1953 – Bernice is the only woman

Bernice Bacharach was a feisty attorney – a pioneer really. She was the first and for a long time, only female member of the Chelan County Bar Association. She represented local people of all stripes, people who she generally described as “people you never heard of.”

Bernice was a lady. But in some respects she defied even that convention. She swore like a longshoreman, never married and once piloted a mahogany speedboat in a race the full length of Lake Chelan.

Bernice’s swan song in Wenatchee came just as she was winding down her long career in the late 70s. Bernice Bacharach took on the self-appointed representatives of “Jeeeezus” himself – the Reverend Larry Titus and his entourage at the Bethesda Christian Temple – Wenatchee’s equivalent of Father Divine’s Mega-Ministry.

She defended the beleaguered Jim Eyre, the church’s business manager and designated scapegoat when he was accused of check kiting – depositing bad checks to cover other bad checks, all to serve a church that was chronically spending more money than it was taking in.

It happened like this: Reverend Titus’s ministry had outgrown its britches. The Reverend and his wife, Devi, had matching gold Cadillac’s in their garage. They repeatedly traveled to the Holy Land and brought back diamonds to sell at a profit.  The Congregation, mostly young people rescued from a life on the streets, centered their lives around the doings of the church. The church owned a radio station and planned a massive campus expansion envisioned by Reverend Titus. Some members of the congregation even mortgaged their homes to contribute toward the goal.

But the empire was crumbling from within. Bethesda Christian Temple was chronically overspending. The bubble burst in an avalanche of bad checks, a so-called “check kiting” scheme in which bad checks were deposited to cover other bad checks. This was in the days before instant bank drafts and debit cards. Ill-fated enterprises could be kept afloat, for awhile, by passing bad checks. The death knell for Bethesda Christian Temple came when one too many bad checks got passed to the bank.

In an effort to save the reputation of the Church and save his own skin Reverend Titus blamed the entire debacle on the church’s business manager, a man named Jim Eyre.  They threw him under the bus, as we would say today. The reverend chastised him from the pulpit and condemned him in front of his flock.

Arrayed against Eyre were the full potency of Christ’s Anointed on this Earth, at least the Wenatchee contingency thereof. The defrauded devout were convinced that Jim Eyre had stolen the church’s money and was the perpetrator of a villainous scheme that was about to destroy the holy work of many hands.

Bernice Bacharach agreed to defend Jim Eyre.

Like a Perry Mason courtroom drama, the case took a dramatic and unpredicted turn.  Bernice’s star witness was the bank Teller who received the kited check from Eyre as he was standing at the Teller’s window. But the Teller, testifying under oath, surprised everyone, Bernice included. In an unexpected moment of candor when she was shown a copy of the damning check, the Teller blurted out,  “Oh yes, Mr. Eyre handed me that check… But Reverend Titus was standing right behind him in the line.”

The walls of the temple came tumbling down. That blindside admission blew the case for the prosecution. Jim Eyre was exonerated. Reverend Titus left town. Bethesda Christian Temple closed its doors. The building is now a furniture store. A few veterans of the glory days maintain an online blog. Some still claim that the Temple’s demise was masterminded by Jim Eyre.

Bernice Bacharach, were she still living, would just cackle and shake her head. Some people never give up. But some people, like Bernice Bacharach, are tougher yet.

We can all be thankful for people like Bernice Bacharach.

Contributed by Stan Foster, lifetime Wenatchee resident, retired business consultant and real estate investor and a former board member of WVMCC.


6 responses to “Bernice Bacharach: Lawyer, Feminist, Pioneer

  1. As a history and museum related piece this article should at least print the correct name of the church. The name was Bethesda Christian Center, and never Bethesda Christian Temple.

  2. First of all, the church was never called “Bethesda Christian Temple.” The doors were not closed at all for several years after the financial situation was discovered. Foursquare International, understanding the truth of the entire situation, offered to become a “parent” organization to the church and institute corrections and safeguards in the operational practices. The church was renamed “River of Life” and continued to be a place of worship for many of the members. Although the building became too expensive to operate, the church moved to another location and continues to exist. Those who were not intimately involved in the church family, who were on the “outside looking in,” who had no knowledge of the hearts of those who were in leadership of the church, continue to perpetrate judgments and untruths as though they factually knew the “inside dope!” Yes, there were those who were hurt. Yes, there were those who left the Church as a result of all the wrongdoing. But there are countless lives blessed, saved, loved, and taught the principles of righteousness during their time at Bethesda. Many churches were started as a result of the life-changing teaching that went forth under the headship of Larry and Devi Titus. It’s ludicrous to stir up old prejudices against a young couple who, admittedly, made unwise decisions. And to purport to make correct assessment of the condition and motivation of their hearts is absurd! If you like to dig in the dirt, you can make mud pies to look like real images. But they still are just dirt!

  3. It’s unfortunate when people who don’t really know the entire body of fact surrounding a particular subject present only portions of facts, and then represent them to the public as truth. It inevitably leads to an uninformed and/or misled public. Stan Foster has placed himself firmly among those who mislead with this piece about Bernice, as he broadcasts his ignorance of essential information and his lazy reporting by launching into a treatise about Bethesda and the people involved in its’ life and demise. Bernice’s life and work were much greater than one trial. I know – she was my Father’s attorney. I believe Bernice would have chastised Stan for not telling “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”.

    James E. Eyre, Jr.

  4. I am still trying to make sense of this article.
    This was an ode to Bernice Bacharach:Lawyer, Feminist, Pioneer
    and yet very little is shared about her life…instead the focus is not even her famous client..but some sordid details about the trial. And clearly the writer had a biased agenda..
    Not only is this article me poorly written, it’s a slap in the face to this woman and her career.
    Absolutely appalling that this is considered any form of journalism!
    Not to mention that it is tied to the Wenatchee museum..
    Sad and disappointing on so many levels.
    This man should be writing for some rag like Star magazine..
    For shame Wenatchee museum, for shame.

  5. I am wondering why they aren’t talking more about Bernice and less about two men. I am wondering why they focused on one small part of her life?
    Additionally, I find the blog entry to be too full of opinion and too empty of historical information of the WOMAN that is is written about.

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