Died peacefully on January 11, 2012, at the age of ninety. He was born to Otto and Mildred Bernitt of Monroe, Michigan on December 16, 1921.
A dual sports star at Monroe High School in football and baseball, Richard went on to play baseball as a pitcher at Michigan State where he was a teammate of Jack Breslin. In 1943, following graduation with a degree in Police Administration, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army and he served until 1946. In 1943, with only a few days available due to military orders, he married his high school sweetheart, Donna Jean Riegel of Monroe, Michigan on Halloween Day. From that time forward, Halloween always had a special meaning for Dick and Donna. In 1950, he joined the staff of Michigan State College as a fire inspector (later becoming the president of the Michigan Fire Inspectors Society from 1953-4) and later rose to become the Director of Public Safety at Michigan State University from 1960 until his retirement in 1986. In 1980, he was awarded the Jack Breslin Distinguished Staff Award (named in honor of his former teammate) in recognition not only of his professional contributions to Michigan State but additionally his community service as well. Following retirement, Richard then began a second career as a professional volunteer devoting himself primarily to helping the R.J. Scheffel Memorial Toy Project that annually gives toys during December to needy children and families.
An avid sportsman his entire life, Richard enjoyed hunting with his dogs, fishing with his son, and golfing with scores of friends and strangers (who later became friends). As a matter of fact, he even shot a 46 on the back nine of Groesbeck Municipal Golf Course on October 24, 2011, at the age of 89.
He is survived by the love of his life for 68 years, Donna Jean; his son, Captain Thomas R. Bernitt, USN (Ret) and his wife Vicki of Coronado, CA, and countless friends and associates who he helped, cajoled, and inspired through 90 years of trying to make this a better world.
A Service celebrating Richard’s life will be held at 1 PM on Wednesday, January 18, 2012, at Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church, 549 E. Mt. Hope Ave., Lansing with The Reverend James R. Lichtenberger and the Rev. Matthew A. Smith officiating. The Michigan State University Police Department will hold a reception following the Celebration Service at the Richard O. Bernitt Community Room at the Michigan State University Police headquarters on the MSU campus for friends and family. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church Memorial Fund and/or to the R.J. Scheffel Memorial Toy Project, P.O. Box 23181, Lansing, MI 48909.