John Jackson III, one of the higher ups in the safari community – and a serious elephant hunter, introduced our family to Bert at the Dallas Safari Club show in January of 1997. John said: “If you want to hunt elephant, here’s a guy you need to know”. Bert was 71 (23 years my senior) and, by any measure, had lived a very full life. He was a legend in the international hunting community, and as I came to learn – justly so. He and his wife Brigitte were still very active, operating a booking agency from their home in San Antonio. They seemed to know just about everyone and all the best places to hunt and fish.
Bert was an agent for and introduced us to the Pasanisi family – of Nice, France, who owned Tanganyika Wildlife Safaris, operating in the Selous and Maasailand of Tanzania. We hunted with them many times over the years. For our family, safari hunting didn’t get any better than that. At least twice Bert and Bridgette accompanied us on those safaris.
He also introduced us to Warren Johnson, who operated Bear Lake Lodge, way out west on the Alaska Pennisula, near Port Moller, Alaska (brown bears and salmon). Many times Bert and Bridgett joined us on fishing trips there.
Bert had hunted and explored some of the most remote places on the planet, but the Selous in Tanzania and Bear Lake Lodge in Alaska were his favorite places to be. He was a Navy veteran of WWII, had owned - with his brothers - Jonas Brothers taxidermy studio in Seattle and Anchorage, been a professional hunter and a safari operator, and a booking agent – with his wife Brigitte. Riding with him in the safari car or just talking around the campfire, it was clear that he wasn’t afraid of hard work and was intimidated by nothing. Yet he had a humility and a patience about him that was admirable for a man who had accomplished so much.
Many people have helped forge or change my life; mom and dad – and my wife, Brenda have been the most important. My kids, grandmothers, aunts and uncles, cousins, friends, teachers and ministers have all influenced me in large or small ways. All of those people and the memory of Bert Klineburger’s persistence, hard work and humility will be with me forever and hopefully I can pass some of it along.