Sequim Sunrise Rotary members, friends and family are searching for answers as they mourn the loss of longtime Sequim pharmacist and pilot Jon R. Bernhoft, his fiancee and two of her grandchildren after his plane crashed Thursday, Dec. 29.
Bernhoft, 63, and his fiancee Carla Parke, 61, were within a couple of months of getting married, friends say.
Her 9-year-old grandson and her 5-year-old granddaughter, both of Bellingham, died in the crash with them.
Bernhoft’s friends said they’ll remember him as a generous Rotarian who loved the outdoors, flying and Parke.
“He was truly happy,” said Patricia McCauley, who has known him for more than 25 years. “I’m sorry they couldn’t have gotten married and had a long life together.”
He was a charter member of the Sequim Sunrise Rotary Club, which had its first meeting in January of 1987, and attended King’s Way Foursquare Church in Sequim with Parke.
In the last couple of months, Parke had started the process of becoming a Rotarian, McCauley said.
The Rev. Mike Van Proyen of King’s Way said Bernhoft had for the past 10 years dedicated himself to Jesus Christ and God and did whatever he could do to help others.
Often that came in the form of auctioning flights on his plane to help fund a good cause, helping in international church and Rotary efforts and just taking people for flights, Van Proyen said.
“He’d use his plane to bless a lot of people,” he said. “He loved the Lord and wanted to do what was right for God.”
Van Proyen said during his last conversation with Parke, she had tears of joy because she had discovered that God truly loved her.
While he didn’t know Parke as well as he knew Bernhoft, he said they were a perfect match for each other.
“He really had fallen in love with Carla and Carla was bringing the best out in him,” he said.
Bernhoft had worked as a pharmacist across the North Olympic Peninsula, his friends said.
He had owned his own pharmacy in Sequim for about a dozen years before working at Safeway in Sequim, Olympic Medical Center, Albertsons in Sequim and the Forks Community Hospital.
McCaulley said he was a compounding pharmacist, meaning he could make pills specific to each patient.
At one point he was a traveling pharmacist serving small villages in southwest Alaska, said Jim McEntire, a member of the Sequim Sunrise Rotary Club.
“I never would have thought about doing something like that, but that was Jon,” McEntire said.
He said he and Bernhoft had a lot of similarities and often enjoyed ranting and raving with each other about politics.
But when it came down to it, politics and beliefs didn’t matter — everyone was his friend, McEntire said.
“He’s just that kind of guy,” he said. “Jon was a tremendous friend.
“We have lost a terrific citizen.”
Russ Mellon, a Rotary member and longtime friend of Bernhoft, described Bernhoft as an outdoorsman.
Bernhoft would take Mellon and other Rotarians up to Alaska to go fishing and hunting, he said.
Andrew Sallee, president of the Sequim Valley Airport, said Bernhoft was a big supporter of aviation locally and that he loved to fly.
“I know he really enjoyed taking people flying out over the San Juan Islands,” he said. “He just loved airplanes and getting out in the sky.”
Like many others, Sallee is looking for answers as to what actually happened.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Jon’s family and the other passengers’ families,” he said “It’s going to be a hard thing for them to deal with and digest.”
A fund was recently created to support the family who lost their children with funeral expenses here.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.