FORMER PBA chairman and La Tondena Inc. president Bernabe ‘Ber’ Navarro passed away last Tuesday after suffering from cardiac arrest.
He was 81.
Navarro is survived by wife Virginia Navarro and children Dada Navarro, Joy Ng, and Beng Feliciano.
A private ceremony has been prepared by the family for the former PBA official.
Friendly but straightforward, Navarro served for a long time as team manager and governor of Ginebra San Miguel when the legendary Robert Jaworski was the playing-coach of the ever popular franchise.
He eventually became the 10th chairman of the PBA board in 1998, which also proved to be the final year the team would be handled by its charismatic leader.
His partnership with Jaworski saw the franchise thread through the good and bad times.
In his first year as manager, the team, then carrying the banner Anejo Rum, pulled off an upset over heavy-favorite Purefoods Hotdogs in the best-of-five finals to give the company its first-ever All-Filipino championship.
But it was during his stint that Ginebra also found itself embroiled in one of the biggest controversies in league history. The team staged its infamous walkout in Game 6 of the 1990 First Conference Finals against Shell Rimula X for what it perceived was unfair officiating in a match the 65ers eventually forfeited, giving the title automatically to the Oilers.
The team was fined by then Commissioner Rudy Salud a total of P550,000, including P500,000 for walking out.
A year after, the team was quick to redeem itself.
Reverting to the Ginebra San Miguel brand, the Gins authored one of the greatest comebacks in PBA annals when they rallied from a 1-3 deficit to defeat Shell in the 1991 First Conference Finals. The title series will forever be remembered for Rudy Distrito’s dramatic game-winner in the dying seconds of the winner-take-all match at the ULTRA in Pasig.
Navarro would see the team win one more championship in the 1997 Commissioner’s Cup against Alaska, before finally leaving the franchise and the league two years later.
The former league chairman was the second top executive from the late 80s who passed away this year after Purefoods president Rene Buhain.