Beaverton businessman Leonard Bernhardt dies at 88
Leonard Bernhardt came to Beaverton after his service in the Korean War and built a still-thriving business that emerged from occasional landscaping jobs into construction of golf courses, athletic fields and practice facilities.
Bernhardt, featured in the 2019 Salute to Veterans published by Pamplin Media Group, was buried Jan. 2 at Willamette National Cemetery in Portland after a funeral at St. Cecilia Catholic Church in Beaverton. He died Dec. 23 at age 88 of cancer of the esophagus at his home in Beaverton.
He is survived by five children: Douglas; Darnell Adgers; Donna Wright; Dannette Liebreich, and Darryl — who is in charge of Bernhardt Golf — plus 22 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. Darnell Adgers, his oldest daughter, also works in the family business.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Georgene (Gullickson) Bernhardt, who died Jan. 24, 2018, after 65 years of marriage, and two sisters, Cathleen Bernhardt and Linda Kjerstad.
Bernhardt and his wife arrived in Portland in their 1954 Ford from North Dakota after he was discharged from the Army and found that he was not invited to help run the family farm where he grew up.
He acquired the skills under GI Bill educational benefits to land a machinist's job at Tektronix. But on nights and weekends, he found himself doing residential yard work — and he transformed it into a full-time business, Leonard Bernhardt Landscaping.
In 1957, it changed its name to Bernhardt Golf — a division of Bernhardt Industries — to reflect its expansion into commercial landscaping and golf course construction, and later, to athletic fields and practice facilities in the Portland region.
Leonard and Georgene Bernhardt were big supporters of international adoption programs.
In mid-November, a month before his death, Leonard Bernhardt traveled to Washington, D.C., as a 2019 Angels in Adoption awardee of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.
The Bernhardts were longtime supporters of Holt International, an adoption agency based in Eugene, Heart of Hope Ministries International in Vancouver, Wash., and Medical Teams International based in Tigard. Leonard Bernhardt said he had visited India, Mongolia, Romania, Uganda and Vietnam
"He was so happy he could make the (Washington) trip" despite his cancer, Darnell Adgers said. "He thought I would still take him to Vietnam this month. He gave more than his money to those kids."
Bernhardt was both Nov. 7, 1931 near Taylor, N.D., the second of eight children of Sebastian and Katherine Bernhardt. He worked on the family farm, and after he married on Nov. 8, 1952, he began a two-year stint in the Army.
He saw combat in Korea in the three months before a truce was signed July 27, 1953 — there is still no peace treaty ending the war — and stayed there for several more months.
"I was lucky in that I did not get hit or injured in any way. Guys got hurt and guys got killed, but it wasn't a hundred at a time in the area I was in," he said in an interview in mid-October. "It was not unusual that we lost 200 men in one day in one battle, but either you were in heavy stuff (combat) or light.
"I'd seen enough, heard enough, and was there long enough to know what it was like — and what has to be done."
NOTE: Fixes error in Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute name.
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