THE BUZZ: Farewell Bernhard

By on September 29, 2015

A family friend marvels over impressive search effort that resulted in the discovery of the missing hunter’s remains.

Local, state and regional officials along with community volunteers banded together for seven days to locate  Wilson resident Bernhard Rietmann. His remains were discovered Tuesday. (Photo: reitmann family photo)

Local, state and regional officials along with community volunteers banded together for seven days to locate Wilson resident Bernhard Rietmann. His remains were discovered Tuesday. (Photo: reitmann family photo)

Jackson, Wyoming – The body of Bernhard Rietmann was found Tuesday just before noon. The 85-year-old hunter who hitchhiked to Jackson Hole in 1964 and opened the German lodge, the Heidelberg, had been missing for seven days. His disappearance prompted a massive search that included dozens of Teton County Search and Rescue team members, county law enforcement and numerous volunteer citizens.

Despite the efforts of hundreds of searchers covering 20 square miles of the Granite Creek area, the German-born Rietmann was eventually found after a tip from another hunter provided a key clue.

Dispatch received a call early Tuesday morning from a hunter from Green River, Wyoming, who said he found a rifle in Boulder Creek on Monday. The hunter was unaware of the ongoing search when he found the weapon. He had marked the spot with a handheld GPS and took the gun home. Later, after learning of the search for Rietmann, the hunter called and provided authorities with the exact coordinates. According to Charlotte Reynolds, Teton County public information officer, Rietmann’s body was discovered nestled between two deadfall trees one half mile up the Boulder Creek corridor from Little Granite Creek. Boulder Creek is in the search grid covered by SAR during the operation but earlier information from Rietmann’s family led searchers to believe the lost hunter was probably using the Highline trail the day he disappeared – a little more than two miles north of where Rietmann was eventually found. Rietmann’s body was transported to the county coroner’s office Tuesday afternoon to determine the cause of death.

The following was penned by Ariana Snowdon, a family friend of Rietmann’s who spent several days as part of the tireless team that scoured the area looking for him. – Eds.

Bittersweet. It is the only word I can use to describe the time I have spent in the field these past few days, helping in the search for Bernhard Rietmann. Bernhard was a dear family friend, a close friend of both my parents for several decades. His son was a childhood friend of mine, and a high school Nordic teammate. The past few days have been a roller coaster of emotions for so many people, most especially his wonderful family and the many friends who loved him deeply. After nearly a week, and the heartbreaking news that this dear man has finally been found, the sadness is eased slightly by the outpouring of love that has carried every one of us throughout this search.

 I am nowhere eloquent enough, nor is there enough space in this paper, for me to fully express my appreciation and admiration for the extraordinary people who ran the search efforts this week. From the moment I walked through the door, the people who comprise Teton County Search and Rescue blew me away with their professionalism and dedication. I have always known they were good at what they do, but until I was in the thick of it, I hadn’t fully grasped just how exceptional they are. Many of them knew Bernhard personally, and many more did not, but the energy with which they approached the challenge of the search was inspiring for every one of us who had turned up to volunteer. This was, I think, the most impressive thing to witness, even beyond the monumental task of managing logistics and organizing hundreds of volunteers. As the days progressed, and the inevitable wisps of fatigue and frustration began to creep in, their energy was a constant, keeping everyone else afloat.

 While TCSAR led the charge, this week was truly a team effort, and I was similarly impressed by the collaboration between all parties involved. I’m sure I am missing some of the groups, but for my part, I worked alongside the TCSAR team, members of the Teton County Sheriff’s Office, staff from Grand Teton National Park, Forest Service volunteers, SAR teams from Sublette County, and law enforcement officers from Bonneville County, Idaho, and Salt Lake City, Utah. Many of them drove for hours, some of them sleeping in their cars, in order to show up and help. I doubt they will ever read this, but I hope they know how much they are appreciated, and I hope that our community can rally for them when the need arises.

I do my best to never take for granted the privilege of being a part of this community, but like most people, there are times I slip up. I occasionally forget to marvel at not just the physical beauty, but how so many deeply compassionate, dedicated, hard-working people are drawn to this place. And while tragic and challenging circumstances often incite feelings of pain and grief, in this town, this week, it illuminated this exceptional community of people.

 When I heard a few hours ago that Bernhard had been found, my heart broke for his family and friends, and all those who were touched by his kind and generous spirit. While we knew this would likely be the outcome, in a town with so many wild stories of people beating the odds, the most stubbornly optimistic of us kept uttering, “stranger things have happened.” But there is comfort in knowing that every person who was a part of this search gave everything they could. I am so grateful to everyone who made it possible to bring him home, to offer his family the dignity of saying goodbye, instead of leaving them with the agonizing limbo of the unknown. I hope that they can take comfort in knowing how well-loved Bernhard was by this community.

Ruhe in Friden, Bernhard. We will miss you. – Ariana Snowdon

About Ariana Snowdon

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