February 7, 1960 – October 24, 2020
Born on February 7th, 1960 in Edmonton, Alberta, the son of the late Wally and Tony Yurkowski, Bernie Yurkowski finally escaped this mortal realm on October 24th, 2020 at the age of 60; with dignity, at peace, in his favourite Adirondack chair, watching the sunset over the trees of the property he loved so much, holding his sister’s hand.
Anyone who had the great fortune of knowing Bernie knew that he was a fiercely private person. He also very honorably carried the iconic Yurkowski trait of being steadfastly stubborn, and independent to a fault.
What may not be as common of knowledge were traits like his secret addiction to survival genre reality TV shows, a foodie’s love of cheese whiz, and a uniquely self-made identification with the Grinch who Stole Christmas.
Underneath the private-no-trespassing sign, Bernie was genuine. Always true to himself, he often proved a contradiction to those around him. He could sit for hours in the silence. He was a brooding temperamental man with a hidden loving soul; a seemingly callous exterior with a deeply caring heart. Inquisitive and mechanically minded he was hard press to share or volunteer his vast knowledge of construction, or anything really.
He was a complex man exemplified by his ability to shift between unprecedentedly quiet and overwhelmingly talkative. While typically reserved in nature and happy to sit back and listen to “good” conversation; he could easily flip some, strange, internal, switch and spin stories all evening like some great chronicler of old.
As if in answer to its authenticity, Bernie always loved the freedom of the outdoors.
As he settled on Vancouver Island later in his life, that love became a kind of spiritually deep bond that is seldom ever seen and even rarer to have known. From his humble outdoor origins in the river valley of Edmonton, Alberta, he grew into a solo speed hiker, an all-season tent camper, a night sky navigating kayaker, a soul bonded deer whisperer, and a screech speaking owl watcher. He enjoyed art, photography, whiskey, and as those close to him knew – he really loved being right (which was frighteningly often).
Bernie had the capacity for some of the best, driest, and darkest humor that I’m sure most of us will never forget. In homage, we can’t talk about Bernie without mentioning at least some of things he hated, which include double dipping potato chips, chewing too loudly, stating facts incorrectly, and *almost* every picture he was ever in.
Truly one of the most interesting and complex men to grace our lives. He was a dutiful son, a beloved brother and uncle, a loyal and fierce friend, at times a hermit, and always a Dr. Doolittle like animal whisperer.
His life was taken in exceptionally rare circumstances. Diagnosed with late onset ALS during a pandemic, he chose a medically assisted death to put an end to a ravaging disease that was stealing all quality from his life. It highlights the exceptionally rare human he was. His life was not an average life – it is marked by his freedom – he traveled where he wanted to travel, laughed inappropriately at every chance, learned what he wanted to learn, fixed what he wanted to fix and loved who he wanted to love.
Bernie would encouraged those who knew him to raise a dram of your favourite spirit while listening to an eclectic list of songs he picked out, “Enoy Yourself” by Louis Prima, “Breathe” by Pink Floyd, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” by Monty Python or “Man of the Hour” by Pearl Jam.
His family would invite people to share stories and reminisce over photographs, but we know that photographs of Bernie are as hard to locate and authenticate as ones of Bigfoot, so if you come across some – please share them, just not digitally!
He is survived by the privileged few who knew he was exceptional, who understood his love and who respected and accepted him, just as he was.
Cremation has taken place, please advise Rosanne Yurkowski if you would like a “save the date” to attend his “Bernie approved” memorial in the fall of 2021, COVID permitting.
In lieu of flowers please donate to ALSBC.CA or to the BC SPCA Wild Animal Rehabilitation Center (Wild ARC)
To send a condolence to the family please visit www.yatesmemorial.ca
Yates Memorial Services 250.248.5859
“Lives Cherished and Celebrated”
Yates Memorial Services
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