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Longtime Old World Wisconsin volunteer dies in tragic accident

Posted at 4:58 PM, Dec 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-01 19:05:29-05

A longtime volunteer at Old World Wisconsin in Waukesha County died in a tragic accident on Wednesday morning. 

The family of 77-year old Richard "Dick" Berner, of Watertown, said he had volunteered at Old World Wisconsin for more than 17 years. 

According to its website, Old World Wisconsin allows visitors to "travel back in time and experience rural Wisconsin a century ago and more, when waves of immigrants flocked to America’s heartland." 

The Waukesha County Sheriff's Department said Berner was killed while chopping down a tree on Wednesday morning.

Berner and another man were cutting down the tree with a chainsaw when it fell on him. 

In a statement, Old World Wisconsin's site director Dan Freas said, "We are heartbroken at the loss of one of our own. All of us at Old World Wisconsin express our sincere condolences to the family during this extremely difficult time." 

Old World Wisconsin added it's reviewing what type of tasks are delegated to volunteers. 

However, Berner's family said he wouldn't have wanted to be doing anything else. 

A lover of horses, Berner enjoyed cutting down trees and hauling the logs to Old World Wisconsin's sawmill. 

"He always wanted to be sure the sawmill had their logs, and that they could be doing their demonstrations," said his daughter, Nina Koester. "He did what he loved doing, and finished out his life doing something he loved and with great passion."

Dick's wife, Carol Berner, said the family has received an outpouring of support from friends and neighbors following his death.

"He would be so proud of that," she said.