(Photos by Christopher Boffoli for WSB)
When Seattle Police Officer John Bernasconi pulled his motorcycle up to the curb near the start of the West Seattle Grand Parade route this morning, to join the Drill Team as its leader for one last ride, a colleague joked, “Hey, this is seniors’ parking.”
The officer laughed. Within an hour, there would be time for more somber emotions – though the hugs and handshakes began long before he and his colleagues reached the California/Charlestown intersection where a ceremony was planned to mark his last ride.
This year, he is retiring, not just from the Drill Team after 36 years (12 as Drillmaster), but from the force after 43 years. We told his story here on Thursday,
Though he has worked from the downtown-based Traffic Division, those who speak fondly of him include Southwest Precinct leadership past and present – Traffic Division vets – current commander Capt. Steve Paulsen, past commander Capt. Joe Kessler (who now leads the West Precinct and was at today’s ceremony), current operations Lt. Pierre Davis. “He is just the nicest guy” is something we heard often.
And fittingly for a nice guy, though the morning was a tribute to him, he brought the gifts – bouquets of flowers for his wife Cindy, daughter Alexandra (visiting from Australia), and his mom (visiting from California). Our nine-minute uncut video shows how the farewell unfolded:
(That video is by WSB co-publisher Patrick Sand; for a shorter clip, see Christopher Boffoli‘s video here.)
What made this particularly unusual was the fact it was held during the West Seattle Grand Parade – Officer Bernasconi’s choice, because he is a native West Seattleite, and it’s where he and Cindy, married 28 years, raised 23-year-old Alexandra:
Then after applause and more hugs ..
…off he rode:
…while his teammates, and their counterparts from Vancouver, B.C. – who as shown in our long clip also stopped to pay tribute – continued the parade.