(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.