Dr. Bernard Ramon Ortiz de Montellano, age 78, passed away peacefully in the early morning hours of December 2, 2016 at the Querencia retirement community in Austin after a sudden diagnosis of liver cancer and a very rapid decline. He was born August 31, 1938 in Mexico City to Bernardo and Thelma (Lamb) Ortiz de Montellano.

Bernard had a lifelong passion for learning, rooted in four childhood years confined to bed after an accident, with reading and music as his primary escapes. He obtained a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of Texas at Austin and successfully merged his hobby of studying Mesoamerican culture with his professional training. His scholarly work was in the field of medical anthropology with a focus on the health and nutrition practices of the Aztecs. He spent most of his career at Wayne State University in Detroit.

Bernard met his life partner of 50 years, Ana Mercedes (Torres) in San Francisco in 1965; they married in Ana’s hometown of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Their sons were born in San Antonio, Texas, and were raised in Pleasant Ridge, Michigan where the family moved in 1976. Bernard and Ana settled in Austin in 1998 after choosing early retirement from the cold Michigan climate.

Bernard was a bright light with a warm heart and easy laugh who was admired and held in great affection by his family, friends, and students. He had an inquiring and curious mind and was a great believer in intellectual rigor and the scientific method. He was a fierce advocate for civil rights and social justice through his involvement with the ACLU and jail reform in 1970s Texas, and in volunteering for Texas Democrats since returning to Austin. As a promoter of culturally relevant science he was a founding member of the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS). Once retired he volunteered for years at the Volunteer Health Clinic and was a founder of and frequent lecturer at Quest. He was a big fan of swing music and loved dancing with Ana.

Bernard’s memory will be cherished by his wife Ana; his sons Bernardo and Victor; his grandchildren F, Kiara, Z, and Bernardo; his daughters-in-law Daniela and Melissa; his brother Paul; his sister-in-law Kirby; and countless other relatives and friends. Bernard was preceded in death by his parents and his sister Ana Luisa.

The family thanks the Querencia Plaza staff for the kind and thoughtful care provided to Bernard during his brief stay.

In lieu of flowers please honor Bernard’s memory with a contribution to the ACLU.


(Obituary published in the Austin-American Statesman on December 4, 2016.)

(The banner image is the Aztec gods Oxomoco and Cipactonal throwing lots with grains of corn for divination, from the Codex Borbonicus as used on the cover of Bernard’s book, Aztec, Medicine, Health, and Nutrition.)

10 Responses to Bernard

  1. Jim Ebenhoh says:

    A really nice description of a life well-lived and an intelligent, kind man. I’m glad I knew him.

  2. says:

    Bernard was a great human being, warm, intelligent, caring. We will miss him.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Ana sorry to here of your loss, our thoughts and prayers are with you. Love Cindy and Kevin

  4. Stacy Hansen says:

    My heart goes out to the entire Ortiz De Montellano family. I pray you’re surrounded with love and comfort always.

  5. Karen Flodin Donelan says:

    Dear Ana and Family, so sorry to learn of your loss. I had hopes of reconnecting with you since you moved to Querencia and I finally retired. My thoughts are with you and your family. What a loss of a brilliant and good man.
    Love and regards,
    Karen (

  6. Marj & Bob Krug says:

    Bernard was a caring man,deeply committed to benefiting others. He was knowledgeable in many areas and it was stimulating to discuss issues with him. He will be sorely missed.
    Marj & Bob Krug

  7. Tommi says:

    My deepest condolences to his loved ones.

    Bernard was an active and charished member of a discussion board, and I had the privilidge to get to know him and share thoughts with him through it.,609027

  8. Olga Wise says:

    We loved Bernard’s cheer, wit, and sharp intelligence. We are so lucky that he was our friend.
    Olga and David Wise

  9. Dr. Preston Reeves says:

    Bernard was a great friend. We met in graduate school and I have followed and admired Bernie’s academic achievements. He was a super guy and a true scholar.

  10. Wil C. Fry says:

    What a wonderful man, with a life well-lived. I know many who will miss him.

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