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Deceased Name: Longtime manager at Krenzen, known for his music, dies at age 87 Erwin "Bernie" Bernstein , a longtime general manager at Krenzen Auto, died earlier this month.

A Duluth man known for his trumpet playing, knowledge of used cars and loyal friendship died earlier this month. Erwin "Bernie" Bernstein, a longtime general manager at Krenzen Auto, was 87.


"He was different. He was something else," said Fran Bernstein, his wife of 37 years.


Bernstein's colorful music career included playing on river boats between La Crosse, Wis., and St. Louis, touring with the Time Magazine Coca-Cola Navy band and botching a tryout in Chicago with famous band leader Ray


Anthony but still landing the job after convincing Anthony he could improvise.


He played every night when he was a student at the University of Minnesota, his wife said.


"If you were in Minneapolis and went up and down Hennepin Avenue, he played at every one of the places," his wife said. "He called them joints."


Jack Krenzen can pinpoint the exact day he met Bernstein: Dec. 15, 1952. It was Krenzen's first day on the job at a dealership in Hopkins, Minn.


"He came to me and said 'I don't like to sell new cars' and I said 'I don't like to sell old cars,' " Krenzen recalled. "That's how we became friends for 62 years."


They were like brothers, Krenzen said, and never once argued.


Both moved to Duluth in September 1971, Krenzen running the dealership and Bernstein as the resident expert with used cars.


"Valuing them, appraising them, reconditioning them and such," he said.


Krenzen called Bernstein a second father to his sons. Steve Krenzen, the oldest, remembered him as a force behind the scenes, quietly helping people.


"He was a very aware person and did a lot of nice things, not just for the customers, but for people in general," Krenzen said.


It's the longevity and loyalty of the Krenzen-Bernstein friendship that is most remarkable to Steve Krenzen.


"When I was born and my mom was at the hospital with me, Bernie and my dad were at the house setting up the crib," he said.


Jack Krenzen recalled his friend as "good hearted," delivering hamburgers and french fries to people in need or, after his own time in treatment, giving assistance to someone else who needed help fighting addiction.


This kindness extended to his home.


"He never got up from the table without thanking me for dinner," Fran Bernstein said. "I don't care if it was wieners and beans. I'd say, 'It was just wieners and beans' and he'd say 'You did a good job on them.' "


Meanwhile, Bernstein was a go-to guy for touring musicians who needed a trumpet player for a Duluth gig. He ended up playing backup for Sonny and Cher, Patti Page, June Christy and more.


He approached these shows humbly, Fran Bernstein said.


One time he came home from a job and didn't even know who he had played with, but that they had played "Pretty Woman."


"It was Roy Orbison," she said.


He also played with the Randy Lee Big Time Jazz Band, the North Shore Big Band and other local groups before he had a stroke in 2001. He didn't like the way he played after that, his wife said.


Bernstein had recurring bouts of pneumonia and died June 4 at Bayshore Health Care Center.


There will be a celebration of life at 11 a.m. June 29 at Sunrise Funeral Home. There will be jazz played during the memorial.


Duluth News Tribune (MN)

Date: June 18, 2013




Deceased Name: Erwin "Bernie" Bernstein DULUTH - Erwin "Bernie" Bernstein , 87, passed away Tuesday, June 4, 2013 in Duluth.

DULUTH - Erwin "Bernie" Bernstein, 87, passed away Tuesday, June 4, 2013 in Duluth.


A full obituary will appear in a future edition of the News Tribune.


Duluth News Tribune (MN)

Date: June 6, 2013



Deceased Name: ERWIN "BERNIE" BERNSTEIN Erwin "Bernie" Bernstein , 87, passed away Tuesday June 4, 2013 at Bayshore Health Care Center in Duluth.

Erwin "Bernie" Bernstein, 87, passed away Tuesday June 4, 2013 at Bayshore Health Care Center in Duluth.


Bernie was born Sept. 30, 1925 to Berney and Anna (Pusin) Bernstein, and was raised in LaCrosse, Wis.


Bernie's lifelong passion for the trumpet began when he was 10 years old. He was given a bugle by his local Boy Scout troop's scoutmaster after attending drum and bugle corps rehearsals, which he was too young to join. He went home and self-taught himself to play. Played throughout high school, organized his own band, and played for all school functions.


After graduation in 1943, Bernie joined the Navy and was assigned to one of the Time Magazine-Coca-Cola traveling Navy Bands. When not on the road he played "Taps" at the base where he was stationed. After the service he attended the U of M and received his BA degree and pursued and received his Masters in Music Education from U of M McPhail. He taught for a short time but found himself selling cars during the summer and continued full time and met his longtime friend Jack Krenzen. Together the two men transformed struggling dealerships in the Twin Cities area and went on to do the same in Duluth. Bernie was General Manager for Krenzen Auto in Duluth, retiring in 1988.


Bernie was a gentleman whose gentle demeanor was only trumped by his tremendous musical talent. He traveled and played Burlesque, night clubs, Ice Capades, Circus and legitimate stage shows in the Twin Cities area before moving to Duluth. He performed backup for Patti Page, Zero Montel, Sony and Cher, Roy Orbison, June Christy, Dick Haymes, and many other performers. Bernie loved to play at the Club Saratoga, the Randy Lee Big Time Jazz Band, Hungry Five, Windjammers, and the North Shore Band until he was robbed of his talent due to a stroke 13 years ago. In 2009 he was given the prestigious Society of Promethean Award for a lifetime of musical achievement from the UMD School of Fine Arts.


He was a volunteer at St. Mary's Outpatient for 14 years. Bernie was a member of the Add Temple Shrine, and the Palestine Lodge No. 79. Bernie lived his life with humility and the AA philosophy for 51 years of grateful sobriety.


Bernie was preceded in death by his parents; son Michael Ellis; and a step-son Jon Scott.


Bernie is survived by his loving wife Fran; sister Nancy McParlan; step-daughter Lizabeth (Erich) Pearson; step-grandchildren Stefanie (Arthur) Taylor, Tyler Pearson, Alex (Katy) Pearson, and Page Pearson; great-grandson Mattis Taylor; niece Beth (Scott) Lennartson, and a nephew Patrick McParlan.


Our Sincere thanks and appreciation to Dr. John Van Etta, St. Luke's Hospice and Bayshore Health Center staff for their professional, compassionate and devoted care.


MEMORIAL AND CELEBRATION OF LIFE: 11 a.m. Saturday June 29, 2013 in Sunrise Funeral Home. Visitation will be held one hour prior to the service. Military Honors will be Accorded by the Duluth Combined Honor Guard. Memorials are preferred to the UMD Bernstein-Krenzen Scholorship Fund in Care of Bob Hofmann, UMD School of Fine Arts. Arrangements by Sunrise Funeral Home. To leave an online condolence see


Duluth News Tribune (MN)

Date: June 16, 2013







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