Funeral Service For Hall Of Famer Rip Bernert

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Bill “Rip” Bernert, one of the longest-serving members of the World Drum Corps Hall of Fame passed away on St. Valentine’s Day, Tuesday, February 14. He had been a Hall of Fame member since 1979, just three years after the organization was founded in 1976.

Viewing will take place the evening of Monday, February 20 from 5 to 8 pm at St. Agnes Church, 701 Little Gloucester Road, Blackwood, New Jersey. Blackwood is located just south of Philadelphia.

A second period of visitation is scheduled for Tuesday morning from 10 to 11 am at the church, followed by a funeral mass. Burial will take place at St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Blackwood.

‘Rip’ Bernert began his drum and bugle corps activity as a soprano bugler in the Howard C. McCall Junior Drum Corps and was their soloist when they won the American Legion (AL) national championship in 1947.

He was music and drill arranger and instructor for the all-girl Bon Bons drum and bugle corps from Audubon, New Jersey from 1950 until 1977. More recently, he arranged and conducted music for the Bon Bons Alumni chorus. Both his parents were also involved with the Bon Bons: his father, Joseph, founded the corps in 1938 and his mother, Florence, served as head chaperone and corps president until 1977. The corps was runner up for several national titles and won 12 major all girl titles.

He joined Archer-Epler, of Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, in 1951 and became their drill arranger and instructor in 1952, retaining those duties until the mid 1960s. He was also the Musketeers’ horn instructor for many of those years.

He was employed by a major engineering and construction company for 38 years as a site and home office manager, retiring in 1992. He coached high school varsity girls’ basketball from 1985 till 2002, winning seven state championships.

Both Archer-Epler Musketeers and the Bon Bons are among the most famous and best loved corps of the 1950s and 1960s. Archer-Epler, widely known by the nickhame “Archie” originated in the early 1930s as a junior corps, winning the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) national championship in 1938 and again in 1941. The corps disbanded in 1943 because of constraints created by World War II, but returned to activity as a senior corps eventually known as the Musketeers, again winning the VFW national title in 1954.

In addition to winning many titles in all-girl competitions, the Bon Bons earned high drums and general effect scores in the 1957 American Legion national championships in Miami, placing second to Holy Name Cadets of Garfield, New Jersey. The Bon Bons took the high brass score in the AL championship contest in Miami in 1960. The World Drum Corps Hall of Fame has selected the Bon Bons as the best all-girl corps of all time.

For more information about the World Drum Corps Hall of Fame, including biographies of members and a listing of corps of the decade since the 1940s, visit the Web site at

Posted by on Friday, February 17th, 2012. Filed under Current News, DCA News.