The 1991 graduate of Theodore Roosevelt High School in Kent had battled a brain tumor, his third bout with cancer in 13 years.
In June, the staff at Roosevelt hosted an auction to help offset more than $270,000 in medical bills. Among the items auctioned was a football autographed by the hosts of ABC Monday Night Football.
The football was purchased by Joe DiBiase, who gave it to Mr. Bernaciak, said his father, Dale, who knew DiBiase's family through his work as a wrestling coach at Roosevelt. Afterwards, DiBiase gave Jeff another autographed football, Bernaciak said.
"He felt it would be something that would help Jeff's spirits, and it did," he said. "It really picked him up. It made him feel special."
When he was in high school, Mr. Bernaciak had a brain tumor which went into remission with radiation treatments. In 1992, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer which also went into remission.
But in 1996, after he collapsed at work, doctors discovered he had another brain tumor which, unlike the others, was larger and more difficult to treat.
Mr. Bernaciak was a 1992 graduate of International Culinary Arts School of Pittsburgh, and a manager trainee at Wal-Mart. During his childhood, he enjoyed wresting, baseball, football and soccer but after his doctor told him he could no longer participate in contact sports, he turned his attention to fishing, bowling and golf.
"He's absolutely the bravest person I've ever seen," his father said. "His attitude was always positive. He didn't have down moments. He picked us up when we were down."
He was born Feb. 27, 1971 in Akron, he was the son of Dale and Diane (Trefney) Bernaciak.
Besides his parents, who live in Hudson, survivors include his grandmother, Laverne Bernaciak of Wellington. His grandparents, Edward Bernaciak and Joseph and Rose Trefney, died previously.
Calling hours will be held 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Friday at the Bissler & Sons Funeral Home in Kent, where services will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, with the Rev. David Bittinger officiating. Burial will be in Standing Rock Cemetery in Kent.
Memorials may be made to the Hospice of the Cleveland Clinic, One Clinic Center, 9500 Euclid Ave., Cleveland, 44195-5236.
Diane and Dale,
I have learned of Jeff's passing through a series of strange coincidences. Please accept my deepest condolences for your loss. Of course, I have the fondest memories of you two and I remember the days of Jeffrey and Zoom and Scott. I live in California now; my days at Kent were so long ago.