Walter P. Bernhardt
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June 30, 1930 – July 15, 2012
Walter passed away on July 15th, 2012, in circle of his family after a long battle with cancer. He was a longtime resident of Vacaville.
Of particular pride was Mr. Bernhardt's contributions to fire safety from the years 1955 through 1985, effectively giving his second best years for the service of others. He was also President of the California State Fire Chief's Association in 1983. Walter was a fast friend and fierce adversary for all those paths he crossed. More than missed, his words will continue to be quoted by all whose lives he touched as an ardent educator of fire science.
Known simply as "Chief" at the California Medical Facility, few knew his varied past in World War II as an American citizen stuck in Germany during the years from 1939 to 1945 when he finally won the freedom to come back to the states. He finished his American education and joined the Army Air Corps to go back and risk his life again garrisoning an Allied outpost in the Russian zone – also taking part in the Berlin Airlift.
Such a background will explain to all the meanings of his relentless pursuit of perfection fueled by measured tolerance for an imperfect world. It sums up a man's personality that only the lucky handful of other men understood.
His best years were the last twenty-five indulging his favorite pastime of boating with his loving wife of 58 years, Dolores "Dee" Bernhardt. For forty years, Walter was regularly seen walking a black cocker spaniel named Butch (in four iterations) until his illness no longer allowed this activity. He leaves behind sons, Walter and Eric; sisters, Gerta and Martha; grandsons, David and Branden; and one great-grandson coming into this world in September, and the usual litany of family members.
We all lived in his shadow so long. We are now a bit confused in the daylight.
There will be a memorial service at McCune Garden Chapel at 212 Main Street, Vacaville on Friday, July 20th at 11 a.m. Reception to follow at Opera House, 560 Main Street.
In lieu of flowers donations may be made to the Solano County Fireman's Association Widows and Orphan's Fund, P.O. Box 409, Fairfield, CA 94533. Additional information about the fund can be found at solanocfa.org or by contacting Laura Wood at (707) 447-2252.
McCune Garden Chapel Funeral Home
212 Main Street Vacaville, CA 95688
Published in The Reporter on July 18, 2012