A graveside service for Ovonual “Berk” Berkley, who led the Madera County Sheriff’s Office from 1980 to 1986, is scheduled for 1 p.m. Thursday at Arbor Vitae Cemetery in Madera.
Berkley, who became a full-time deputy in 1964 and steadily rose into leadership positions, was the county’s 11th sheriff.
He “passed away peacefully on the afternoon” at the age of 87 of Jan. 22, according to his Jay Chapel obituary.
‘Touched the Lives of Many’
“Sheriff Berkley touched the lives of many people throughout his life and career, and we are so grateful to be a part of this wonderful man’s legacy,” said Madera County Sheriff Tyson Pogue in a Facebook post. “We send our sincere condolences to his family and friends during this time.”
Berkley was born on Nov. 24, 1934, in Bristow, Oklahoma, and his family split time between Oklahoma and Madera County before finally settling in Madera for good. In first grade, he met his future wife of 67 years, Maxine Brown. She died in April 2020.
Four years after joining the department, Berkley became the resident deputy in North Fork. A graduate of the FBI Academy, he received promotions to sergeant and captain before his election as sheriff.
Later, he worked for more than 20 years with the Department of Justice’s Campaign Against Marijuana Planting.
Deputies Go on Strike
In Berkley’s final year as sheriff, 39 deputies went on strike because they had been working for more than two years without a labor contract and were frustrated with the Madera County Board of Supervisors.
The summer before the strike, Berkley lost his re-election bid to a department lieutenant, Glenn Seymour, who backed the deputies’ walkout.
During the nearly month-long strike, Berkley and a skeleton force of undersheriff, captain, and three lieutenants, including Seymour, worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week policing the county.
“Thank God I will be able to walk away from this mess,” Berkley told The Los Angeles Times after the strike ended.
Enjoyed Golf, Fishing, Travel
In retirement, Berkley enjoyed fishing and golfing, and made trips with Maxine in their RV. They also spent time on California’s central coast hanging out with other law-enforcement retirees and their families.
A celebration of life for both Berk and Maxine will be held at noon on Feb. 26, 2022, in the North Fork Town Hall. To attend, RSVP to Debbie Berkley (559) 760-5769 by Feb. 11.