COL Bernard H. McLaughlin, Jr., 69, of Lake Charles, LA passed away on Sunday, February 28, 2021 at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX after a brief but hard-fought battle with acute myeloid leukemia.
Born in Darby, PA, on September 19, 1951, Bernie was raised in Cocoa Beach, Florida. He often spoke about growing up with the children of NASA's scientist and astronauts. The McLaughlin family home was situated on the beach and his early ambition was to be a professional surfer, an idea he would laughingly say his parents did not encourage. Gifted in both academics and athletics, he was an AAU swimmer and won many awards and honors. It was this combination that brought him to Louisiana as a member of Louisiana State University's swim team.
While at LSU, Bernie was a member of Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity. He was an honors graduate, receiving a B.A. in history and political science. He received his J.D. from the Paul M. Hebert School of Law and was a member of the LSU Law Review. He worked offshore during the summers of his college and law school years as a means to pay his tuition and living expenses. He also managed the LSU Athletic Department's academic tutoring program which provided him with an athletic scholarship to attend law school.
Bernie moved to Lake Charles in 1976 to work with Oliver Stockwell, who would become his mentor. He was later named a partner at Stockwell, Sievert Law Firm. Mr. Stockwell introduced Bernie to duck hunting which would become one of his life-long passions. He rarely missed an opportunity to spend time hunting in the marshes of Cameron Parish. During duck season, it was not unusual to find Bernie shooting a limit in the blind at daybreak then appearing in court dressed in a suit and tie by 10 A.M.
Bernie loved the practice of law and received Martindale-Hubbell's AV rating, a peer-reviewed designation indicating the highest level of professionalism. He found his perfect niche when he moved to a practice as a full-time mediator and spent countless hours preparing for each mediation. Bernie took great pride in doing all he could to bring each case to a resolution. He held himself to the highest standard and gave his foremost effort on each of the nearly 4000 cases he mediated through the years.
Since his passing, many friends and colleagues in the legal community have shared how Bernie impacted their lives. Said one, "Bernie was an excellent mediator but an even better person". "He was such a warrior but was always a gentleman" and "Bernie loved three things, his country, the practice of law and most importantly, his family". They remember his great story-telling, his professionalism and how he always spoke with such pride about his wife, his two sons and their accomplishments. He was a mentor, friend and role-model to many in the legal community.
Throughout his lifetime, Bernie always believed that "a man's highest honor is to do his duty for his country". This would become his credo. He accepted a commission as a Judge Advocate in the Louisiana Army National Guard and his devotion to his country, state and fellow Guardsmen was unparalleled. He served during Operation Desert Storm and in 2004 was selected to be part of the special task force during Operation Iraqi Freedom that assisted in creating the Iraqi court system. For this work, he was awarded the Bronze Star. Over the course of his years in the Guard, he was also awarded the Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Served Medal, NATO Service Medal, among others. Additionally, Bernie was a graduate of the Judge Advocate General School, U. S. Army Combined Arms and Service Staff College and U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and was awarded the Royal Thai Army parachute badge, Russian parachute badge, Israeli Defense Forces parachutist badge and the Royal Jordanian Army parachute badge. His service in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina garnered the attention of author Douglas Brinkley who included Bernie's experiences in his best-selling book "The Great Deluge." Those who served with him coined the term "Combat JAG" to describe Bernie because he so loved the excitement of the infantry.
Bernie was a member of the Krewe of Contraband, Krewe of Barataria and was honored as a Duke by the Krewe of Mystique. He was an avid dog lover, owning many English Setters, Irish Setters, Gordon Setters and American Water Spaniels through the years. Bernie was P.O.S.T. certified and served as a volunteer member of the Welsh, LA Police Department. He loved his life in Southwest Louisiana and the special bond he had with so many friends. His other interests and accomplishments are too many to list. He often spoke about how he had lived his life to the fullest and reminded us that in the end, the only regrets are chances not taken.
Bernie was preceded in death by his father, Dr. Bernard McLaughlin, Sr. He is survived by his wife of 28 years, Elizabeth Spiller McLaughlin, their sons, Connor Jordan and Stratton Foy McLaughlin, his mother, Charlotte Foy McLaughlin of Blairsville, GA, and siblings Patti Cummins (Joe) of West Palm Beach, FL, Cathy Champion (Ken) of Merritt Island, FL, Dr. Michael McLaughlin (Donna) of Cocoa Beach, FL, Charlotte McLaughlin of Blairsville, GA, and Alicia Loving (Jon) of Murphy, NC, many nieces and nephews, as well as his beloved English Setter, Taser.
Visitation will be held on Friday, March 5 from 3 -6 pm in Hardtner Hall at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd and on Saturday, March 6 from 11 am – 1 pm at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception with a celebration of life immediately following at 1 pm. Pallbearers are Jamie Bice, Bart Caraway, Thomas Gayle, Bernard Leger, Chad Mudd and Michael Terranova.
In lieu of flowers, the McLaughlin family encourages gifts to the newly established Colonel Bernard McLaughlin Family Fund at the Community Foundation of Southwest Louisiana. The fund will continue his commitment to the region and state by supporting organizations important to him, such as those with military and coastal conservation interests. (www.FoundationSWLA.org
, P.O. Box 3125, Lake Charles, LA, 70602.)