The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi


with 37 comments

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Bernard Ente died this morning. Master photographer, historian, community leader, advocate for Newtown Creek and all things maritime, Bernie is survived by his wife and daughter- who for the time being, ask Bernie’s many friends to abstain from attempts at contacting them. They know and appreciate that you want to reach out, but require some private time during which to come to terms with their loss. As does the entire City, for losing Bernie from our collective community is a body blow.

Bernie was one of the guiding lights at Working Harbor Committee, Newtown Creek Alliance, and one of my very favorite people. His knowledge of the history of New York was second to none, and Bernie was the one who encouraged and nurtured an entire generation of bloggers and photographers to step forward and publish (including your humble narrator).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Bernie would call me up late in the evening and ask “So, what are you doing tomorrow?”.

No matter what, I’d say “nothing”, and resolve to clear my schedule or call in sick to work because when Bernie called there was an adventure to be had. Whether it was riding on a Fireboat, or taking a group of tourists on a walking tour of some distant and long forgotten locale, or showing off New York Harbor to a class of inner city kids- it was always an adventure. His sense of humor was legendary, and he was one of the most honest people I’ve ever met- possessed of an incontrovertible sense of “right and wrong”.

More on Bernie will be said in the coming days, but I’m a bit overcome by the loss of my friend at the moment.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 8, 2011 at 10:05 am

37 Responses

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  1. Bernie will be missed – photographer, urban explorer, (to say nothing of husband and father) he will leave a void that will never be filled.

    There are very very few people whose work I respect.

    Bernie was one of them.

    “Requiescat in pace”

    “ya·vo·v sha·lo·vm ya·nu·chu al-mish·ke·vo·v·tam ho·lech ne·cho·chov”

    Bob Singleton

    Bob Singleton

    April 8, 2011 at 11:27 am

  2. The shocking and untimely loss of such a dear friend fills me with sorrow. Our thoughts and sense of loss are shared with Joanna and Emma both of whom he loved so much and was so proud.

    Bernie was that rare individual, a funny, gentle, sardonic and keen observer of his fellows, each of whom felt they were his “best friend”. His skills as a photographer were unquestioned and his love of the harbor, renowned (ironic for someone who could easily become seasick!). He gave freely of himself to others, selflessly and with a generosity of heart which is very rare in these times.

    He will be terribly missed. I am sorry that his demise came so soon. It is even more tragic that, for someone who did his best to allay the fears and upsets faced by others, he had to suffer in his last days.

    Our hearts go out to his family. Bernie will be long remembered by all who were lucky enough to know him and experience his bonhomie.

    George Bulow

    April 8, 2011 at 12:29 pm

  3. Devastating news, I know Bernie had been struggling for quite some time. A truly Great Man even if you put aside his amazing accomplishments. Will have a hot dog at Hiram’s tonight, this one’s for you, Bernie!

    Larry Steller

    April 8, 2011 at 1:06 pm

  4. Not only a master photographer, historian, neighbor, and friend; Bernie was an inspiration and a great person to know. I will miss him.

    Al T

    April 8, 2011 at 3:05 pm

  5. Oh My Gosh. Bernie. Bernie Bernie. Why? I am screaming! Why. Bernie: a colleague, a dear friend, a schmoozer; a story teller of the highest order.. We talked regularly, often, at all hours of the day and night. We covered deeply a range of mutually enjoyable topics from all aspects of NYC maritime of course, Eats, Hasidic Jews, Newtown Creek, Bridges, Trains, historical photos of NYC, the art and business of photography, each other’s noses, Judaica, pastrami, helicopters, and with his own refined sense of borscht belt humor of which he was a master. Bernie’s prodigious gifts were many. What was so special is that Bernie single-handedly brought a wildly disparate range of friends, colleagues, artists, urban explorers, crazies, foodies, photographers, walkers, train spotters, and more under his charming and genuine self-deprecating umbrella. He brought a sense of understatement as well as respect to all he met. A restaurant server. A tour boat captain as well as deckhand. Tug operators and harbor big wigs. Even the often vexing school kids he prodigiously photographed throughout NY State. He reveled in doing real things. And enjoyed the passion of others who also matched his passions. He was a welcome and honest critic as well as quick to offer genuine praise His was a gift that he freely gave to all of us. Thank you Bernie.

    Jonathan Atkin


    April 8, 2011 at 5:21 pm

  6. I’ll miss my friend. His humor, his advice, his being “Bernie”, his generosity, the list can go on and on. While most know him from his activity with the harbor, it extended into railroad history, industrial history, nature photography (both in human and the winged variety)
    Untold numbers of school photos that reside in family scrap books.
    His love of his family. My heart goes out to them at this time.
    Rest well my friend.

    John McCluskey

    April 8, 2011 at 6:37 pm

  7. Bernie was absolutely the most generous photographer I ever worked with. He shot so many waterfront events, tours, outings, happenings, parties… he was such a great fixture. More a chock than a bollard, maybe. Thank you Bernie for all your great effort. You inspired many and you guided many, many, many more. I’ll look for you on the Hot Dog walk this year. Who wants to join me? OR who can I join? my best to you, and your family, and your memory, and their future,
    carter craft

    Carter Craft

    April 8, 2011 at 7:11 pm

  8. I cried all afternoon. I’m going to miss Bernie very much.

    Laura Hofmann

    April 8, 2011 at 8:42 pm

  9. Very sad news…we had a lot of fun…..I will always remember the secret weapon…breadcrumbs…that he would enlist if the birds did not cooperate willingly…he could bribe them to pose…I will miss him very much…

    Bob Bodenstein

    April 8, 2011 at 11:40 pm

  10. I am really a a loss for words…Bernie and I had become good friends through the Working Harbor tours…Bernie you will be missed. I will get to “Skelson Beach” as he called my favorite photo location (Bard Ave Staten Isl) this weekend and take some photos in your memory.

    John Skelson

    April 9, 2011 at 8:36 am

  11. […] lived near and advocated for a rebirth of Newtown Creek;  some friends went there yesterday to … remember him and to carry on.  Here some white flowers float on […]

  12. Whenever I asked to use one of Bernie’s photos to assist a preservation effort or illustrate a history, he never said no–he’d send a better, higher resolution one. It wasn’t just that he was generous with his work, he really delighted in sharing it, as all the photos of birds and cats and boats in the Ente folder on my computer will attest. He never failed to make me laugh with his dry sense of humor. No doubt this was a reflection of that keen eye of his, he could always see the irony.

    Mary Habstritt

    April 9, 2011 at 1:28 pm

  13. I am way upstate NY in Horseheads. Whenever Bernie was up this way on business, I was his scout out on the rails. We always had an adventure. I am at Milepost 271 – a favorite place to come after a day of shooting. His 1969 Camero was awesome. We always had breakfast at Sullivans Diner. Even our yardmaster just e-mailed me – shocked as Bernie used to spin tales with us.

    Bernie even shot my first wedding way up here in Finger Lakes Wine Country. See his affect on people even hundreds of miles away? Bye Bernie and stay strong Joanna and Emma.

    Drew Guild (K4Pacific)

    April 9, 2011 at 4:32 pm

  14. I was shocked when I saw this earlier today and had no idea of his illness. I became friends with Bernie 15-20 years ago when I contacted him about his photo-op event of the Cross-Harbor Railroad in Brooklyn and was in contact ever since.

    The last time I saw Bernie was at the annual tugboat event when he was standing on the control house of a tug taking pics of the ‘tug shoves’ and I was inspired to photograph him doing it. I kiddingly teased him that I shot his essential self in action. Little did I know how little I knew.

    My sympathy goes to his family – he’ll be missed by all of us.

    It reinforces my quest to do as much as I can as soon as I can.

    Joseph M. Calisi

    Joseph M. Calisi

    April 9, 2011 at 11:02 pm

  15. Bernie came to me through a railfan discussion group; he took the school photos for our community association’s nursery school in Rockaway, NJ, and told me he’d be in my neighborhood. We went and watched trains during his lunch break. We’d always have fun. He got me interested in Working Harbor as well.

    Gary Kazin

    April 9, 2011 at 11:52 pm

  16. I’m really sorry to hear of Bernie Ente’s passing. I knew the guy years ago. Always thought that I would see him again one day. Rest in peace, Bernie

    Torin Reid

    Torin Reid

    April 10, 2011 at 12:14 am

  17. I knew Bernie for over 35 years, he was our nursery school photographer. He was a dear friend, he always brought joy, laughter and smiles and was so generous with his many photos of my staff and their pets. He was much more than our picture man he was a rare and beautiful human being, several of us are in tears and wishing for one more funny time.

    Betsie Lynn

    April 10, 2011 at 12:12 pm

  18. Bernie somehow combined toughness (you knew he was in it for the long haul), sensitivity (he cared about details, creatures and people along the way), and that unique eye we’ve all enjoyed. He was unique and I’ll miss him. I reposted one of his greatest photos here:


    April 10, 2011 at 12:29 pm

  19. I just heard this sad news. This has been a year of true loss for the waterfront. Bernie generously shared his photographs for Going Coastal’s guidebook and his skills in helping me to become a better photographer. I joined that trip up the Hudson on the fireboat thanks to Bernie and enjoyed his company and comments on the train ride back. Bernie – you will be sorely missed.

    Zhennya Slootskin

    April 10, 2011 at 12:36 pm

  20. Bernie was a great man. He was a customer of Master Mount for many, many years. We considered him a friend. I always looked forward to his visits! He always made me laugh.
    He will be sorely missed, our thoughts and prayers go out to his family

    Trisha Downes

    April 11, 2011 at 9:12 am

  21. We will miss him .He was very special to us. Raymond aufiero w/New York and Atlantic RR. My husband close friends with Bernie for years also passed away 1/5/2011–Bernie took our daughters wedding pictures 10 years ago as a wedding gift to us and took our other daughter Sarah to our neighborhood schools to help take pictures because she loved photography. Sweet person he will be missed I would like to think that he is now with one of his good friends Raymond.Our sincere condolences. The Aufiero Family

    patricia aufiero

    April 11, 2011 at 6:48 pm

    • I agree Pat. I worked with Ray at NYA and Bernie introduced me to both, him & NYCH back in ’93.
      Both men were taken far too early.

      If there’s anything that they’ve taught us is that none of us knows how much time we have and we should enjoy like they did; what we have while we have it.

      I’m happy to have met them both; they taught me so much and I will miss them both for years to come. I hope they’re both up there talkin’ carfloats 🙂

      Ray Schloss

      April 13, 2011 at 9:18 pm

  22. I still cannot believe it. We always talked about the Mets an d hoe (good) they were doing. I cannot even look at his yearly calander anymore. He was a good friend and I will truly miss him. I’m still crying! He was a vey lovable guy!

    Mike Hofmann

    April 11, 2011 at 7:18 pm

  23. I first met Bernie on his ‘Hottest Day of the Year’ New York & Atlantic sponsored tour of the Bay Ridge branch of the LIRR (believe it was 1999). I remember riding on the caboose’s platform so that a couple and myself avoided the hot and non-air conditioned passenger car where most riders were located. Now that’s air-conidtioning of the olden days!

    Bernie will be missed by many. A great guy with always a quick whit and a smile. My most heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.

    Doug Diamond

    Doug Diamond

    April 17, 2011 at 6:34 pm

  24. Hey Bernie,

    Thanks for all the informative and funny e-mails.

    I promise I’ll get around to editing that interview we did a few years back at the Creek.


    Keith Rodan

    April 19, 2011 at 1:25 am

  25. I heard about Bernie’s passing recently, and I am deeply saddened by it.

    I met Bernie at Fresh Pond in 2000, and he was nice enough to bring a few of us in his vehicle into the yard for photos.

    Thanks to that very kind and small gesture, I got talking with Alex Martinez, who since then, for 11 years has been a friend of mine.

    Little gestures go a long way. Life is too short.

    I lost my father recently at 57, so I will pray that his family and friends may find the same strength I have endured, and to remember all of the fond memories, because with them, Bernie will be with you always.

    Be well friends,

    Michael Foley

    Michael Foley

    April 23, 2011 at 9:53 pm

  26. I also just found out.

    A great man, showed me all of Queens.

    I am crushed.

    Alan Schenkel

    April 23, 2011 at 11:34 pm

  27. I met Bernie when he was taking school photos for the Susquehanna School in Binghamton NY, itself now a memory. He would come up and spend the better part of a week, shooting not only school pictures, but whatever else crossed his mind, including a lot of railroad photos. We would always get together, and he enjoyed teasing my kids, who enjoyed the attention, and gave back as good as they got, and both parties enjoyed the exchange. It was fun for all of us. I still have photos he took of them. Bernie was one of those high energy type of guys who always got you going, and went full tilt at anything he did. It was always a rush being around him, as his enthusiasm for whatever he did was infectious. I did not have a lot of contact with Bernie over the last few years, but every now and then we’d trade emails and catch up. He was one of a kind, and we are not going to see the likes of him pass this way again.

    Tom Beckett
    Siloam Springs Ark.

    Tom Beckett

    April 25, 2011 at 5:55 pm

  28. Anyone know where he is buried? I would like to pay my respects next time I am back there.

    Alan Schenkel

    April 25, 2011 at 9:42 pm

  29. I was shocked to hear of Bernie’s passing. Where can I send a condolense card to his wife and daughter?

    Brian Hager

    April 27, 2011 at 1:46 pm

  30. Mitch, and Fellow Members,

    Bernie was one of my leading mentors in railfanning and was a true professional. I’d like to have future slidewhows of his work and collections to honor him

    Have several places in mind
    Please email me with your thoughts

    thank you Les

    Les Sugai

    April 28, 2011 at 11:38 am

  31. Working in a PK in new jersey, we came upon and outstanding photographer. Mr. Tuna Fish, by name to the Children, Bernie to the adults, but , we to became children when Mr. Tuna Fish was around. Missed is not the word I would use, because he will not be missed in our hearts we will always remember him. How could we ever sleep in the bathtub filled with spaghetti O’s and not think of Mr Tuna Fish. Anything for a laugh. He could get a smile out of a dried tomato. Always brought a bit of East New York Humor into a day that was foggy and dark. Always made you feel younger than springtime. And, Never complained about anything. And oh that Monkey. He made the world smile, sitting on top of Bernies head. Well we loved Mr. Tuna Fish and we will all be walking the same path one day, and I hope when I reach the golden gates, that he is there with his camera, making memories even still, as he did for all the children that waited for him to say the silly silly words to make them laugh. Even at this moment, I can smile thinking about him. Our prayers go to his family. Now I must go and fill the bathtub with memories of mayonaise, noodles, and most of all memories of Tuna fish. We loved him and we will keep him forever in our thoughts. Bookends Theme (1:23) MIDI
    P. Simon, 1968

    Time it was, and what a time it was, it was
    A time of innocence, a time of confidences
    Long ago, it must be, I have a photograph
    Preserve your memories; They’re all that’s left you.
    Alice Kantor, a PK in NJ

    alice kantor

    May 24, 2011 at 9:31 pm

  32. IT is july 3 and i was wondering why i have not seen bernie at the UPS customer counter.I have sent many emails with no return.I thought he was upset with me for some reason.I had googled his name and read the sad news.Bernie was a tall man with a JOKING Gentle heart.He is missed by me.Miss you Bernie.I pray for your daughter who i am sure is missing you.


    July 3, 2011 at 10:38 pm

  33. […] In April of 2011, the world lost one of its best people and my official “partner in crime”, Bernard Ente. […]

  34. […] 2010, the late Bernard Ente passed through and his pictures can be viewed on this […]

  35. Bernie Ente was a teammate of mine for 5 years as a “Panther”. He did the photos of my wedding “gratis”, at his insistence. Always a grand sense of humor and an uplifting spirit. I only heard of his passing yesterday and I am broken hearted and profoundly disappointed I did not attend services on his behalf. Bernie you were a beloved teammate, a good friend and a great human being. Wherever you are, you are making someone laugh. Love you, Arthur Trakas

    Arthur (Artie) Trakas

    April 29, 2015 at 1:13 pm

  36. […] time I came back here by boat was back in 2007 or 2008, and it was a tour led by my future friend Bernie Ente with Working Harbor Committee acting as the organizer. Bernie was one of the founders of Newtown […]

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