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Obituary: Harry G. Bernier

Harry G. Bernier obituary

Published on September 27, 2017 8:24AM

Harry Bernier

Harry Bernier


March 15, 1929 — Sept. 14, 2017

“Captain” Harry Bernier was born and raised in Astoria, Oregon, the son of Arnold G. Bernier (Estacada, Oregon) and Mary Constance Bell (Astoria, Oregon). Harry was a descendant of an early Oregon pioneer and Oregon statesman, Samuel Terry McKean, who came out on the Oregon Trail in 1847.

Harry was raised by his mother, Connie, his late uncle, Burnby Bell, and his grandmother, Polly McKean Bell, a Clatsop County historian.

Harry graduated from Astoria High School in 1948, enlisted in the Air Force, and served as an air traffic control operator during the European Operations following World War II, including the Berlin Airlift. He was accepted into flight school in 1952, and during the Korean War he flew F-86-D fighter jets, serving in the 445th Fighter Squadron. Later he served in the 497th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, supporting Strategic Air Command operations from Fairchild Air Force Base, Spokane, Washington, as a first lieutenant.

He married Margaret L. Wallen in 1956, and had one child, Mark. He served as air traffic controller for the Federal Aviation Administration at Boeing Field in Renton, Washington, in 1957, and then was back in the air flying cargo in C-46 and DC-3s in Alaska in 1958. From 1959 to 1966 he flew cargo, and then air retardant bombers (TBM’s and B-26s), for forest fires in the western U.S.

In late 1966, he was recruited by Continental Air Service — Air America, and flew contracted military missions in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War until April 1971. He flew C-45s, DHC-4s and C-123-Ks, supplying food and arms to insurgents fighting the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army, and in support of CIA operations in Southeast Asia. In 1971, he returned to Astoria and started commercial fishing. He worked as a mate on ocean tugboats, and then got his master’s license. He worked various shipping jobs up and down the West Coast. He was a cruise ship master in the Inland Passage, up the Columbia River, on the East and West coast of the U.S. and in the Caribbean. He worked in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, in support of the oil industry, assisted with the Exxon Valdez oil spill cleanup in the late 1980s, and was master of a research vessel in Puerto Rico in the early 1990s.

He was captain of the Oregon Responder during the New Carissa shipwreck off the Oregon Coast in 1999. Later in his career, he was a captain of the Portland Spirit on the Willamette River, and his last job, at 75, was piloting the Canby Ferry in Canby, Oregon. He was a lifelong member of the American Legion Post 12 in Astoria, Oregon, and the Order of Elks No. 180 in Astoria, Oregon.

He is survived by his former wife, Patricia Brock Winter, formerly of Astoria, Oregon; his cousin, Thomas M. Bell of Portland, Oregon; son Mark (Bernier) Mousseaux, and granddaughter Kora Mousseaux, of Phoenix, Oregon; siblings Joy, June, Donna, Jack and John; and nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by a brother, Jim Bernier.

He resided in Gladstone, Oregon, with his cat, Kitty Kat, and is now free to fly and sail again.


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