Remembering a ‘bright light’ in Bellevue | Editor’s Note

Longtime Bellevue Police Department volunteer Bernie Krane passes away.

Being a journalist allows me the opportunity to effect change.

My reportage has helped rebuild homes and lives. It has assisted with restoring faith in humankind.

And then there are those people I have met along the way who have made lasting impressions on my career — and my life.

Meet Bernie Krane.

I first met the longtime Bellevue Police Department volunteer, who passed away unexpectedly this past weekend, in 2007. I interviewed him at the police substation by the Bellevue Transit Center for a story about how President George W. Bush honored him with the President’s Volunteer Service Award. This award originated with President George H.W. Bush’s “Points of Light” volunteer service program that honors individuals who serve their communities throughout the country.

Bernie described the moment he watched Air Force One fly in before Bush personally presented the award to him.

“As it gets closer it gets bigger and bigger,” Bernie, then 74, said. “Beautiful, sunny day, clear as a bell and Mount Rainier in the background. It’s the most awesome sight you ever want to see.”

Bush made his way down the tarmac, shaking hands with a politician, some Seahawks players. A fireman. A mother. And finally Bernie.

“He was going like this,” Bernie explained of Bush, who had brushed his finger over his lip, “because I said, ‘Mr. President, you’ve got lipstick on your face.’ And he said, ‘Oh the girls, they just love to kiss me.”

Bernie, whom police officials referred to as the department’s “iron man,” worked in the music business at CBS as a promotion manager and later in sales before he retired. During his career days, he wooed singers such as Neil Diamond, Harry Connick Jr., Bruce Springsteen, Tony Bennett and Billy Joel.

Bernie retired from the entertainment industry in 1994 and became one of the first Bellevue police volunteers in July 1995, when he helped to open the new Crossroads Community Station. He worked at the front desk there until June 2006, when he helped Officer Tory Mangione open and then staff the new Transit Center substation.

“People skills are very important to be a volunteer because you’re the first person a citizen sees,” Bernie told me in 2007. He spoke about the types of phone calls he received from residents: Barking dogs keeping neighbors awake all night, parked cars that have been in front of a residence too long, inquiries about accident reports. He often invited perturbed neighbors to the substation for coffee to help diffuse a situation.

He worked a four-hour shift at the substation desk every Wednesday, when he would often call me to talk about happenings in Bellevue and Kirkland, where he lived.

One Wednesday, he called to tell me that someone had vandalized an art sculpture near the Transit Center. When I told him I would ask around and see if vandalism was a widespread issue in the area, he objected.

“You have to come down here,” he said. So I met him at the station and he went outside to show me the damage firsthand. To Bernie, details mattered.

He returned to the Crossroads substation in 2010, where he worked until his death. Police officials said he was instrumental in planning and organizing the department’s National Night Out event in Crossroads since 2010, helping to make it one of the department’s annual flagship community outreach events.

For the past 10 years, Bernie called me every August to remind me about National Night Out and to invite me and Reporter staff to attend and cover the Crossroads event.

Susan Allen, a 24-year Bellevue police volunteer, worked with Bernie at the police stations and joined him in organizing National Night Out.

“We jokingly called ourselves the ‘partners in crime,’” Allen said in an email.

She recalled years ago when she, Bernie and other volunteers distributed sex offender notices to neighborhoods alerting them of an offender moving into their neighborhood.

“One particular afternoon, four of us drove to our location in a police car, the two volunteers in front getting out and walking away while Bernie and I realized that we were locked in the back of this police vehicle and could not get out,” Allen said. “Finally, the driver realized what was going on and let us out, and we all had a good laugh. Bernie was a huge part of our volunteer team, always checking in with volunteers, and officers, too, to make sure all was well with everyone.”

Bernie cared deeply about his community and was a passionate supporter and advocate for the Bellevue Police Department. In total, he volunteered almost 4,800 hours during his tenure with the department.

But Bernie’s legacy of volunteer service to the department goes way beyond the number of hours and years he worked, said Marjie Trachtman, the department’s volunteer program administrator.

“It’s more about the way he volunteered,” Trachtman said. “Bernie was an amazing ambassador for the police department because he had a passion for helping people. He loved our officers, his fellow volunteers and the citizens he served. He was a bright light and a bundle of positive energy. We have lost a truly remarkable human being.”

Bernie is survived by his wife of 53 years, Paige, and their daughter Danielle. He spoke about them often, and invited me on one occasion for tea and pastries with Paige, whom he credited for his happy outlook on life.

Bernie was a selfless and tireless community hero — he will be deeply missed. And his beacon of passion for the community will shine on.

He told me years ago that the best thing about volunteering is the personal satisfaction he got when he answered a question for somebody and they told him “thanks.”

“I didn’t do anything more than just give a little help.”