Aug. 17, 1928 — Nov. 16, 2016
BANCROFT — A funeral Mass for Paul Bernhard, 88, of Bancroft, was held on Monday, Nov. 21, 2016, at 10:30 a.m. at St. John’s Catholic Church in Bancroft. Burial was in St. John’s Catholic Cemetery, Bancroft.
Paul John Bernhard was born Aug. 17, 1928, on a farm three miles east of Bancroft, the son of Maurice and Ella (Elsbecker) Bernhard.
He grew up on that farm and was a graduate of St. John the Baptist Catholic High School in 1946.
A resident of Kossuth County all his life, his hobbies included bowling, golfing, hunting, and flying. Paul was lucky (or smart) enough to marry Ersel Bierle on June 28, 1950, at St. John’s Catholic Church in Bancroft. They were both kept very busy farming and raising 11 children.
One of the most common phrases used in an obituary is, “(insert name here) lived life to the fullest.” This expression was most likely penned after an encounter with Paul Bernhard. He was completely and unapologetically himself all of the time. If Paul were to have written his own obituary, it would have been wildly hilarious and maybe too inappropriate to read in a church.
He was the life of the party and he filled up the room with his boisterous laugh and his huge smile. His signature look featured a tan jumpsuit paired with black shoes. In the summer, he accessorized this ensemble by sporting a white Mr. Pork Chop hat decorated with red pigs, a black apron and pink beaded necklaces. His fashion sense was minimal, but his love for life was maximal.
Many knew Paul Bernhard as Mr. Pork Chop — a name born from Paul’s creation of the famous 1.5-inch thick cut that later became known as the “Iowa Chop.”
In 1979, he began serving his pork chops to hungry bikers along the roadside of the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa. You could find him every summer for the next 25+ years standing next to a huge pink pig bus, enticing bikers in with his “POOOORK CHOOOOP” rally cry and handing out huge slabs of meat, served with a napkin and a side of humor.
We were blessed to learn countless valuable lessons from Paul during his 88 years with us. He taught us that butter and love are the two best ingredients in life and that a pork chop is always best when shared.
As the father of 11 kids, he raised them with the motto, “Work hard, play hard, Bernhard” and instilled in his children the values of hard work and an unwavering passion to help others.
Paul was so many things to so many people — husband, father, grandfather, and brother; president of the Iowa Pork Producers; restaurant owner; 4th degree member of the Knights of Columbus; Mayor of Bancroft; “justice of the peace”; an active volunteer of the school, church, and Kossuth County; RAGBRAI celebrity; a farmer; but most of all, he was a friend.
He had an amazing ability to light up a room and tell stories that could leave you with a belly ache from laughing. He used to fly planes and had a pig tattoo in a place that should not be mentioned out loud. He taught us that you can be old, but act young.
Paul had a true love for people and claimed that he had, “never met a biker that he didn’t like.” The outpour of stories and condolences from the thousands of individuals he had met over the years says more about his huge heart than anything that could be put into words. We will miss him very much.
If there is a quote that could sum up Paul Bernhard’s life, it would be this: “Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.” His “POOOOORK CHOOOP” call will never be forgotten and we will carry his huge smile and love for the world forever in our hearts.
Paul is survived by his children, JoAnn and her husband Erwin Quinn of Kansas City, Thomas and his wife RaeLynn Bernhard of Shorewood, Ill.; Brenda’s husband, Darryl Vaske of Bancroft; Audrey and her husband, Phil Lampe of Burt; Jerry and his wife, Angi Bernhard of Mason City; Angie and her husband, Jodie Dostal of Darien, Conn.; Matt Bernhard of Bancroft; Tony Bernhard of Chicago; Chris and his wife Cindy of Des Moines; Sarah and her husband Tom Thelen of Alden, Minn.; 25 surviving grandchildren; and 14 great-grandchildren. Also surviving are Paul’s siblings, Dave and Darlene Bernhard; Mary Celeste and Bill Goche; Bill and Marilyn Bernhard; Phil’s wife Patty Bernhard; and Mark and Barbara Bernhard; and many nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his parents; his wife Ersel; a daughter Brenda Vaske; a son Kenny Bernhard; a grandson Jayden Thelen; and his brother Phil.
Oakcrest Funeral Services of Bancroft in charge of arrangements. Online condolences may be made to www.oakcrestfuneralservices.com.