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Devoted veteran dies in motorcycle crash

A small memorial is set up for Edwin "Ernie" Durr at the Santa Fe chapter of the American Legion. (Edmundo Carrillo/Albuquerque Journal)

A small memorial is set up for Edwin “Ernie” Durr at the Santa Fe chapter of the American Legion. (Edmundo Carrillo/Albuquerque Journal)

SANTA FE — Edwin “Ernie” Durr, 67, was on his way back from serving in an honor guard for a veteran’s funeral in Anton Chico when he lost control of his motorcycle and crashed fatally on Interstate 25 near Eldorado Thursday.

“Ernie devoted his entire military career to burying soldiers,” said Margaret Durr, Durr’s wife of 48 years. “He was very proud to be a veteran. It was very important to be (at funerals) and present that flag.”

The Santa Fe resident was a member of the state-chartered American Legion Riders, a group of veterans that provides escorts for funeral processions of other veterans. Friends and family say Durr rode honor guard in up to two or three funerals a day.

Santa Fe Sheriff’s deputies say Durr, who was the gaming manager of the Santa Fe chapter of the American Legion and a 40-year Navy veteran, was traveling southbound on I-25 when he started to lose control and was thrown from his motorcycle. The Office of the Medical Investigator pronounced him dead at the scene, according to sheriff’s office spokesman Juan Rios.

Rios said speed or alcohol don’t appear to be factors in the crash. “Right now we’re trying to determine what was the cause of the accident,” he said.

After serving in the Vietnam War and retiring as a master chief in the Naval Reserve after 40 years, Durr spent a lot of time as a volunteer and 12-year member of the American Legion, where he did everything from electronics maintenance to serving on the executive board.

“He was one of those guys that would do anything for anybody,” said Patrick Patterson, a 26-year member of the American Legion. “He’d be right there.”

“This post will never be the same because of his contribution,” said Dan Ulibarri, president of the American Legion Riders. “Three people are probably going to have to step in just to fill those slots. He’s just a guy everybody here leans on. It’s a huge loss. A lot of us here are going to have to get to work.”

Margaret Durr said her husband wanted to help veterans immediately after he returned from Vietnam. She said Durr and his fellow soldiers were spat on and called “baby killers” when they returned to American shores.

“When Ernie came home from Vietnam, there was no acceptance of the Vietnam warriors,” Margaret Durr said. “There was no hip-hip-hooray. There was no ‘atta boys.’ He told me that he will always make sure that every one of our veterans is respected, and he will give that flag to the dependent with honor. That was his whole life.”

And several veterans are expected to return the favor. Ulibarri said he wants to contact the Santa Fe Police Department and request the roads be closed from the American Legion branch at Cerrillos Road and Second Street to the Santa Fe National Cemetery on the north end of town to accommodate all the bikers that are expected for the funeral sometime next week.

“There won’t be less than 100 bikers that will be here for this,” Ulibarri said. “Everyone wants to be involved.”