Friday, April 12, 2013

Remembering Bernie

I was thinking of my buddy, Bernie, today and wondering what he would be up to these days were he still alive. Then I had the kooky idea of 'googling' his name and up popped his rather flattering and accurate obituary.  Below is Bernie's obituary, and a mighty fine one, too.


Bernard Stoffer -- union activist, jazz enthusiast
Jim Herron Zamora, Chronicle Staff Writer
Published 4:00 am, Tuesday, December 9, 2003

Bernard M. "Bernie" Stoffer of Oakland, a retired television cameraman, sound engineer, jazz drummer and union organizer, has died unexpectedly of a heart attack. He was 75.
He was struck down Nov. 30 in the midst of a benefit fund-raising party that he organized in El Cerrito for a close friend, pianist Tony Archimedes, who had been severely injured in a car accident.
Mr. Stoffer was born on June 15, 1928, in St. Paul, Minn., the youngest of five children. He was a drummer in a high school jazz band and became active in left-wing political causes, marching to support integration, civil rights and labor activists.
He moved to the Bay Area in 1952 and got involved in both politics and the local jazz scene -- passions that continued his entire life.
"His first passion was playing music," said his nephew Lincoln Bergman of Richmond. "But out here, he became more of a fan than a player. . . . In fact his last words were 'the band sounds great.' "
In addition to his avid and lifelong support for big-band jazz, Mr. Stoffer was one of the first employees when KQED-TV, Channel 9, began in San Francisco.
As an innovative sound technician and creative cameraman, he played an important role in many notable programs and interviews and later became a member of the special projects and experimental film team. He helped organize the first union at KQED.
After he retired from full-time work at KQED, Mr. Stoffer became a taxi driver for many years, saying he preferred the constant person-to-person communication and exciting adventures.
"He loved being sort of a tourist guide," his nephew said. "He loved to drive. But he loved the social aspect of driving. He loved to talk about nightspots and places, he loved to hear stories and tell them, too. He was extremely positive."
Mr. Stoffer is survived by a daughter, Robin Reisberg of Sonoma; a son, Woody Stoffer of St. Paul, Minn.; a sister, Dorothy Broms of Berkeley; and seven grandchildren.
His ashes are scheduled to be scattered today. A public memorial service and jazz concert will be held later.

I first met Bernie in 1994-5 through his granddaughter, my friend and then roommate, Rebekka.  He used to swing by our apartment in his large sedan in order to take us out for a night of big-band jazz music.  Bob Enos's Soundwave was the name of the group and they had a standing gig at a joint in Alameda, CA. called Rooster's.  Bob Enos and his big band play some of the best music I have ever had the pleasure of listening to.  If you're inclined, then have a nose around YouTube and you'll find oodles of videos recording bits of their live shows. 

In addition to being a passionate music lover, Bernie was also an amazing artist.  He made sculpture out of recyclable goods, plywood and cardboard.  During my study abroad year in Germany, Bernie and I exchanged letters.  Enclosed in his missives were snaps of his current art pieces.  I recall his writing to me that there was interest in his work from a gallery.  There had been an offer to show his creations.  He wrote to me wondering if what he making was good enough to be exhibited.  I gave him a hearty thumbs up.  In a subsequent letter he thanked me for being supportive of his work.  He made it seem as if I had somehow had a hand in getting him to have his work shown.  That was the thing about Bernie.  He always made you feel vital, included, a part of things.  

I think this three inch piece was a study for what eventually became a much larger composition.

3-D RecycleArt!

Oh, and, Bernie told me that when he drove a taxi he hated being referred to as 'cabbie'.

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