Historic event during West Seattle Grand Parade: Officer John Bernasconi’s last ride as SPD team’s Drillmaster

(Photo of Officer John Bernasconi, courtesy Cindy Bernasconi)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Seattle Police Officer John Bernasconi, the SPD Motorcycle Drill Team‘s Drillmaster, will do this Saturday what no one before him has done:

He will relinquish his leadership of the team in a ceremony during the West Seattle Grand Parade.

Officer Bernasconi is retiring this year, after 43 years on the force, where he serves in the Traffic Division. He is also the longest active member of the Motorcycle Drill Team, which he joined 36 1/2 years ago – in January 1976, becoming Drillmaster in 2000. And – he is a West Seattleite, born and raised here.

That’s why he has chosen to have the changeover ceremony during the West Seattle Grand Parade, instead of a parade later in the season, as has been customary, we are told, for those before him.

It won’t happen at the start or the end of the drill team’s performance in the parade – but right in the middle. And you’re welcome to watch – but you have to be in the right place!

The ceremony is scheduled to happen at California and Charlestown sometime after 10:30 am (that’s when parade organizers say the drill team is scheduled to leave California/Lander, but it could be a little earlier if the Float Dodger 5K runners/walkers are all clear).

Officer Bernasconi will have family and friends in attendance including his 23-year-old daughter Alexandra, who grew up in West Seattle (attending Holy Rosary) and is visiting from Australia, and his mom, visiting from California.

We talked today with his proud wife of 28 years, Cindy Bernasconi, who says that her husband’s aspiration to be a motorcycle officer went all the way to childhood, when he would ride his trike and pretend he was chasing lawbreakers. She says he’s devoted a lot of time to it over the years – there are practices (he was at one when she and I spoke, in fact) and there’s lots of travel to other parades – including Washington, D.C., Las Vegas, Canada, and other locales far and near. Two years ago, she shared a photo of him (below, at right with fellow West Seattleite Rob Blanco):

Officer Bernasconi’s SPD career dates back to April 1969, and he joined the Traffic Division two years later, the Motorcycle Unit three years after that. Then after another year and a half, he joined the Drill Team, which has led off the West Seattle Grand Parade for many years (and has been in operation for 63 years!).

He’s also known in West Seattle for community/volunteer work including sports coaching, Cindy tells us, so the cheering section for Saturday’s ceremony and parade is bound to be big. Everyone we talked to informally about Officer Bernasconi says he’s a genuinely nice guy.

Once the ceremony is complete, he will “ride off by himself,” she says – and the rest of the team will continue on with the parade.


Again, this is all scheduled to unfold at California/Charlestown on Saturday morning. The SPD motorcycles begin the parade from California/Lander, followed by, as we reported here, the Seattle Police Pipes and Drums with their visiting mentors the Boston Police Gaelic Column of Pipes and Drums, then the Vancouver PD Motorcycle Drill Team, and the rest of the parade – including Grand Marshal Nancy Woodland of WestSide Baby and Orville Rummel Community Service Trophy honoree Shirley Vradenburgh, recently retired from Seattle Lutheran High School.

Remember that the parade route and staging area stretch along California between Admiral and Edmunds, with parking restrictions starting at 7 am and continuing as late as 3 pm, and enforcement earlier because of the parade-preceding 5K. There will also be parking restrictions on streets to the west and east of California as staging zones. (We’re working on a map with more specifics.) The official parade website is here.

17 Replies to "Historic event during West Seattle Grand Parade: Officer John Bernasconi's last ride as SPD team's Drillmaster"

  • Harold Reems July 19, 2012 (9:15 pm)

    43 years?!? Wow…..
    Thank you so much for your service to the citizens of Seattle.

  • Dale Kirkpatrick July 19, 2012 (9:45 pm)

    Hi John,

    Congrats on many years serving the public. (Bet you have lots of interesting stories!) Always enjoyed seeing and visiting you along the way. Going to miss seeing you in the parades.

    All the best,

    Dale kirkpatrick

  • M. July 19, 2012 (10:15 pm)

    I second that, well done and another thank you for all the years of service!

  • Big Mike July 20, 2012 (9:39 am)

    Congrats John, sorry I won’t be there to share in your last ride. I’ll be thinking about you. Hi to Cindy and Alex. What a milestone!! You will be missed my friend!

    Big Mike

  • Sharon & James July 20, 2012 (9:47 am)

    John is truly one of the best! It will be an honor to see John on his last ride. John, thank you for your dedication to the Seattle community for 43 years. Now the fun begins!!

  • Sharon & James July 20, 2012 (10:00 am)

    John is truly one of the finest officers and is a good representative for the SPD. It will be an honor to see his last ride. John, thanks for your 34 years of dedication. Now the fun begins!!

  • lani inks July 20, 2012 (10:09 am)

    John I have loved knowing you. Great times and always a pleasure to see you. You did it and job well done. Aloha nui

  • harriet benjamin July 20, 2012 (10:43 am)

    Here is to you John, Cindy and Alexendra. Happy and proud of all of you.

    May all the best be yours and those you love.

    Congratulations and well done.

    Harriet Benjamin

  • Steven Paulsen July 20, 2012 (10:46 am)

    Congratuations John on your retirement! It was a pleasure to work for you and the Drill Team during my traffic days…You are truly one of the classiest and always a true gentleman. The Seattle Police Department is going to miss your presence. Cindy, I hope he doesnt drive you nuts now that he’s home and not at work!

  • Dave B July 20, 2012 (11:13 am)

    Thank you Officer Bernasconi for your 43 years of service. You set the standard of exemplary commitment to the community. Enjoy your well-earned retirement!

  • tp July 20, 2012 (3:13 pm)

    Congratuations on your retirement! We’ll miss seeing you in uniform in parades and on the job. But, we still have you as a good neighbor.

    Terry & Sandy

  • Maggi and Rick July 20, 2012 (4:28 pm)

    Thank you Officer Bernasconi for your many years of dedication! We send our loving wishes for a wonderful adventure ahead. We are on the corner in spirit. xo

  • Joe Kessler July 20, 2012 (6:22 pm)

    Congratulations to one of Seattle’s finest. It was a pleasure to work with you during my time in the Traffic Section. You will be greatly missed and thanks for all you have given to our community and to the Police Department.

  • Rick Davis July 21, 2012 (12:19 am)

    I have had the pleasure of knowing you for about 37 of my 47 years. You are one of the best and you will be missed. I remember a particular night back in 1995 when I received a phone call from you in the middle of the night with some news that you did not want to deliver. Truth be told, I have always been grateful that the call came from you. We will always consider you family and I hope to see you soon. Take care my friend!!

    Rick, Catherine & Ryan Davis
    Son of Officer K.L. Davis EOW: 11 May 1995

  • Bill Grinnell July 21, 2012 (6:56 pm)


    Thanks for being the great person and officer you are. You were always available when we needed help at the bank. Your smile and personality bring a calming impact to all of us. Your presence on the Seattle Police Department proves that there are SPD Officers that serve and protect as outstanding members of the city.
    Enjoy retirement!

    • WSB July 21, 2012 (7:17 pm)

      We will have a separate story later this evening on the ceremony during today’s parade – including video of it in its entirety. I’ll add the link to this comment thread when it is published. – Tracy

  • Jerry hicklin July 23, 2012 (7:38 pm)

    John, what a great day. Thanks for sharing it with myself and Randi and Jen. Thanks for 25 years of having my back. You were the best partner a cop could have. Let’s hit the links!

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