Fred  ‘Pete’ Bassler

Fred Bassler

BERNE — Fred “Pete” Bassler was an honest and caring man who could be just as comfortable in his cabin in Berne as he was halfway around the world. He died on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. He was 83.

“He was wonderful,” said his daughter, Sharon Forman. “He could connect to anyone.”

Mr. Bassler was born in 1934 to Peter and Sarah Weidman Bassler, and grew up in Berne, which his ancestors helped found over 200 years ago. He attended Berne-Knox-Westerlo high school and was an outstanding baseball and basketball player, and will be posthumously inducted into the BKW Athletic Hall of Fame this Friday.

He graduated in 1953, and shortly after joined the United States Army from 1955 to 1958, serving in Alaska during the Korean War, and then remained in the reserves until 1963. During his service, he returned home to marry his high school sweetheart, Janice Irene LeBuis.

“They knew each other when they were little,” said his daughter, who added that they had attended the same church and graduated in the same class in high school. They were married for 52 years, until Mrs. Bassler died in 2008.

When their children were younger, Mrs. Bassler worked weekends as a waitress on Warners Lake.

“My dad was kind of a single dad on weekends,” said Mrs. Forman.

She said her father would cook for them, and take them out in his station wagon to explore, or just to get ice cream.

Mrs. Forman said her father was very loving, both as a father and as a grandfather.

“He loved Abigail and Sarah; they were a very special part of his heart,” she said, of his twin granddaughters. He would swim with them in his pond, and take them for rides on his tractor. He had put two seats on the back of the tractor and blew a train whistle when driving it so it could be a train ride for his granddaughters.

Mr. Bassler built his family’s home in 1960, and 50 years ago began creating “The Peat Bog,” their pond and cabin next to their home. The cabin was eventually renovated in the 1980s to include a loft and kitchen, so that he and his wife could live there six months out of the year.

His daughter said he was always very welcoming of guests to his cabin, and even lamented in his illness that he couldn’t be a better host. Family and friends came from all over his world to visit, try his famous barbecued chicken, and be entertained at his impromptu shindigs.

For several years, Mr. Bassler trucked milk seven days a week. He gathered milk cans at farms throughout Albany County and brought them to the processor, Central Dairy.

“He was the type of guy that worked seven days a week,” said Mrs. Forman.

In 1967, he became a bus driver for Berne-Knox-Westerlo, safely transporting thousands of students over his 31 years of service. In the summers, he would use his talented carpentry skills as a builder and remodeler, which he learned working under his father-in-law, Leo LeBuis, who was a carpenter by trade.

Mr. Bassler was a life member of the Berne Fire Company, served as captain of the Helderberg Ambulance Squad for many years, and was one of its first certified emergency medical technicians.

“He delivered a baby one time, in the ambulance,” said Mrs. Forman. She described how, when arriving at a women’s hospital, and announcing that they had a baby on board, he was told that the hospital did not provide infant care, until he revealed that the baby had only been delivered minutes before.

She noted that their home phone received the ambulance calls, and that Mrs. Bassler would then have to call whoever was available to respond to the call. Sheets and towels from the stretchers were washed at the Basslers’ home, as well.

“That’s the type of person he was,” said Mrs. Forman. “He saw a need, and he gave back.”

He was famous for his unique skill as a dowser, locating underground water for those seeking to drill wells. His daughter described how he would use a split apple branch on property, or even a spinning pendulum on a map, to locate the source of water.

“He could feel the energy of the water down in the earth,” she said.

Friends and neighbors were always delighted to find some of Mr. Bassler’s homegrown corn or melons on their doorsteps. He will be missed by his friends, such as the two couples who shared dinners and travels with himself and his wife, as well as his coffee buddies, with whom he gathered every morning to get the latest breaking news.

“He would go down to the Berne store every morning,” said his daughter.

After retiring, Mr. Bassler found that he did not have to remain in the area as he did when he worked seven days a week. Always up for an adventure, Mr. and Mrs. Bassler decided to travel across the country and the world. Their first trip was to Germany, for their 25th anniversary. They visited all 50 states, as well most of Europe, South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia.

His travels, whether locally or globally, were documented with his love of photography. He processed slides so that he could show them to the whole family on his projector.

“He had so many carousels of slides … ,” said his daughter. “He’s very big on history and wanted to remember things.”

Mrs. Forman said her father was “always on the go,” never stopping, always moving forward. He unfortunately battled a rare infection in his spine that could not be cured, although he fought hard. His family is thankful for the support and care from Dr. Richard Blinkhorn, his team, and the staff at Albany Medical Center.

His daughter remembers him, she said, as honest and caring, and always giving back.

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Mr. Bassler is survived by his three daughters, Terrice Bassler and her husband, Brad DeYoung, of St. John’s, Newfoundland; Debra and Haytham Bajouwa of Berne; and Sharon and Scott Forman of Altamont; his granddaughters, Abigail and Sarah Forman of Altamont; his sister Eleanor Bassler; his close friend Patricia Walker; his special aunt, Margaret Filkins; as well as his extended Bassler and LeBuis families.

His wife, Janice Bassler, died before him, as did his parents, Peter and Sarah Bassler, his brother John Bassler, and his granddaughter Clea Bassler.

Services will be held Saturday, Oct. 7, at the New Comer Funeral Home, 343 New Karner Rd., Colonie. Visiting hours will be from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., with a Berne Fire Company Memorial service at 3 p.m. and Life Celebration immediately following. All are welcome to join his family after the services for interment at Woodlawn Cemetery.

Memorial contributions may be made to the “Fred Pete Bassler Memorial Award.” This award will be presented yearly to a Berne-Knox-Westerlo senior pursuing a career in a medical field, and who exemplifies service to community and a strong work ethic. Please mail checks to Post Office Box 6, Berne, NY 12023.

— H. Rose Schneider

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