OBITUARY: Bernie the Buzzard is dead. Born – 1997. Deceased – 2023.
Bernie was 26 years old (that’s 260 “bird years”) and died fitfully in his sleep after a stellar, but challenging, career as mascot for the Buzzard Bait Family Fun Ride. Bernie watched as the event went from five families gathering at Holmes camp to over one hundred families gathering in various areas of the Ocotillo Wells OHV Park and finally on private property south of the park near BLM land.
Bernie weathered the storm for all those years. He was confronted with Sobe bombs, fireworks, wind, dust, park rangers drawing down on him, police watchdogs, desert lifeguards, mud, alcohol abuse, rule changes, unreasonable permits and restrictions. It all became too much, and unfortunately, Bernie succumbed to the “bird flu” as he became homeless, when the park administrators and private property owners closed off his nesting sites and he had no place to land or call home. As you can see from his final picture, his right claw says it all! Race In Peace – Bernie
In all seriousness, this was the last year for the organized event known affectionately simply as “Buzzard Bait.” Mike and Sonja Reitmayer and Doug and Renee Weber are throwing in the towel after 26 years of successful events.
This event brought together fire department family and friends for a weekend of fun and camaraderie, with the intention of raising funds for the LAFD Widows, Orphans and Disabled Firefighter’s Fund. And successful they were, bringing in hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years.
Mike and Doug laid out the courses every year, with early years being poker runs, and a clue sheet that needed to be deciphered. Then Doug began making props that had different themes each year and they were assembled at stops along the course. This year was an Egyptian theme with “Scarab” beetles, mummies, a sarcophagus, and a jeweled sand dune where participants could sift for “priceless” jewels, worth an extra raffle ticket!
At the end of the day a raffle was held, with tables of prizes, along with a silent auction. The highlight of the auction was a beautiful quilt of LAFD shirts crafted and donated by Janice Munoa, wife of “Ten Bears” also known as “Quack Quack.”
The end of an era is upon us. Both the Reitmayer and Weber families want to thank everyone who has participated over the years. They said it has been as enjoyable for us, as it was for you. We want to thank the Relief Association for all their support over the years as well.
The traditions of the LAFD have been carried forward by these two iconic fire department families. Your legacy is now part of the fire department lore; you, and your event, will be talked about for years to come. You truly are “Legends” of the LAFD.
Addendum: Mike said there may be an informal gathering in the same area, on the BLM land, at the same time next year. No organized event, just everyone getting together for some off-roading fun.
By Bruce Galien