Local stunt actor who died on Walking Dead set to be honored at Emmy Awards

The mother of a Hollywood stunt performer talks about her grief after he died on the set of The Walking Dead.

He was a New Orleans native who was successful in the entertainment industry, but in July, John Bernecker was only 33 when he died doing what he loved, being a stuntman.

The television industry is planning a tribute at the Emmy Awards this weekend, and his mother plans to accept the honor. 

"I've cried so much in the last two months that's why I am not breaking out now, because it's like, how much can you cry?" said Bernecker.   

Susan Sherlock-Bernecker got an invitation this week from Hollywood TV producers to go to the Emmy Awards. Her only child, stuntman John Bernecker died while performing on the set.

"I've never heard of them doing that for a stunt guy, you know. It's usually the big actors. And she goes, 'Oh no, we loved him.' And I said, 'You too?'

John hit his head on concrete and was in the ICU in a coma. Extra rooms at the hospital had to be open to hold the visitors.

"We've never seen anything like this. It was a constant flow of people for five days," remembers Bernecker.

The words used to describe John were: humble, a people lover, mentor, always positive, humorous, big hearted, professional, meticulous and joyous.

"He was paying other people's rent to help them make it. Now who does that in a movie and TV business? So he was helping other people. He wanted them to be just as successful as he was," said Bernecker. 

Cards from people in the entertainment industry are pouring in, so has gratitude from strangers, like from parents whose son was suicidal.

"He said your son was the only person that put him under his wing, and he wouldn't let him go. And he said he took his son through that time."

John was an athlete and star from day one. He was cast with Michael Jackson in a commercial when he was only 12. His natural talent and success never went to his head.

"He always said to me, 'Mom, people first. Money second.' And the money came to him," Bernecker added. 

Susan is taking her fitness model and stunt woman niece to the awards. Mallory Thompson was John's cousin and best friend. But when they walk the red carpet, French Quarter jeweler Franco Valobra is making sure they will stand out.

Her son dedicated his life to this form of art, and I think she should be, for that night, celebrated and honored just like a big star should. I am going to have her sparkle of jewelry like the Queen of England," said Franco Valobra, owner of Valobra Jewelry in Houston, Italy and New Orleans.

Susan already is a star. She gave John's organs to others so they can live. And she read a note to the doctors before they went into surgery and harvested John's gift of life.

"Before you today is an unusual, almost perfect, human being inside and out...." her note began.

She says the man who got his heart has no idea of its physical and spiritual strength. 

You can watch the Emmy Awards live, beginning at 7pm, Sunday on WWL-TV, Channel 4. 

© 2017 WWL-TV


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