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Obituaries » Wayne Bearden


Wayne Bearden

July 29, 1929 - January 14, 2021

U.S. Veteran
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Alford Wayne Bearden, 91, passed away January 14, 2021 at his home in Howell, Michigan, surrounded by family. Wayne was born on July 29, 1929, in Albertville, Alabama to Ossie and Minnie (Geurin) Bearden.

Wayne was one of the leading owners and trainers in Kentucky going back decades. He raced at Turfway Park, Keeneland and Churchill Downs. He owned a farm in the Sadieville/Doubld Culvert area and also lived in Florence for a time.

Wayne grew up in a large & very poor family, and later when his father joined the US Navy for the war in 1944, Wayne suddenly found himself as head-of-the-household at age 14. Reaching only the 7th grade, Wayne dropped out of school to work full-time and help take care of his mother and five siblings. Wayne was a hard-working man his entire life, and never took a vacation day in his whole life. In his early years, he did many different things to earn a living, including as an auto mechanic and a used car salesman, before he was introduced to Thoroughbred horseracing. Growing up in Alabama, Wayne’s family owned work horses & mules, but not again until decades later did Wayne own another horse; a racehorse this time, that someone gave to Wayne; and beginning with that one gift horse, Wayne eventually built a successful career as a highly recognized Thoroughbred racehorse trainer.  Wayne’s published statistics are quite remarkable however the true results are even larger due to a secret unshared publicly until now… the secret is: Wayne was functionally illiterate. Wayne was incapable of reading the questions and writing the answers to the Application & Test to obtain a Trainers License. So, in the late 1960’s Wayne began training horses under the name of other trainers but doing the work himself. 

Over the years the racing stewards all had gotten to know Wayne; the stewards offered to make an exception and allow Wayne to take the test with them reading out loud the questions and Wayne orally answered them. Wayne passed his test and finally could officially run his horses under his own name as a newly licensed Thoroughbred Racehorse Trainer.  With over 7,300 race starts, over 1,300 (1sts), over 1,000 (2nds), over 1,000 (3rds) plus untold leading trainer titles, leading owner titles, multiple stakes wins, multi-state records as a trainer and as an owner, national records and once voted “United States Trainer of the Month” by the Turf Publicists of America.  He dedicated his life to the horses he trained, and frankly he got along better with them, than some people.  Wayne met his second wife, Brenda Samuel, and quickly thereafter, they were married on March 23, 1963 in Madison Heights, Michigan. He will be remembered as a devoted husband, caring father, loving grandfather, and beloved great grandfather.  Moreover, Wayne will be remembered as “The Legend”, one of the last old-school horse trainers, that did it his way, regardless of if it was the right way, and demanded attention and respect for those he chose to associate with.  If he could not motivate a high work level out of you or maintain your respect, you would likely be invited to or be dragged-out-back, behind the barn.  Even when his body no longer had the strength to perform the work necessary to be a racehorse trainer, his passion for it never left him.  Over the past couple of years, he was able to continue-on training (in a limited capacity) at Hazel Park Raceway, with the physical work coming from others, primarily & especially Michelle Bearden and Lori Wolf.  In 2018 when Hazel Park Raceway shuttered its operations and forced the remaining horsemen out without warning, Wayne for the first time in over 50-years found himself without a career.  Wayne’s unplanned retirement from racing lasted barely two days when he announced to his family, “I am going out tomorrow to find a job, I cannot just sit around doing nothing”.  Wayne came home with news that he got a job at Meijer grocery store as a Greeter; and while it was not doing what he loved, he loved the customers and the kids.  Wayne worked as a Greeter in both the Howell, Michigan and Brighton, Michigan stores, until the pandemic became too much of a concern and Meijer put his position on-hold, waiting on his return. 
His Family… Wayne will be missed by his wife, Brenda; his children, Elowayne “Ella” (fiancé, Mike West) Nowakowski, Tammy (Dan) Szymborski, Steven (Gwen Haggerty-Bearden) Bearden, Michelle Bearden, son-in-law, Bo Reinholz, ex-daughter-in-law, Carolyn Bearden; grandchildren, Melessa, Lori, Lynda, Thomas, Al, Rochelle, Jim, Stephanie, Andrew, Casey, Marty, Jake and Sophia; great grandchildren, Mark, Tylor, Alexis, Shane, Shelby, Emma, Grant, Brayden; many nieces, nephews, sons-in-law, extended Michigan & Alabama family, friends, Larry Frank and Wayne’s beloved cat, “Homie.” He is preceded in death by his parents, Ossie and Minnie Bearden; daughter Marilyn Reinholz; and siblings, Joe, Tommy, Gene, Linda, Paul, baby Donna Jo and Wayne’s Assistant Horse Trainer for 30-years, Janette Flogaus. 
Wayne’s family and friends will gather for a memorial service at a later time to be determined. Memorial contributions are suggested to: Thoroughbred Charities of America (TCA), Lexington, KY 
Please leave a message of comfort for Wayne’s family at 1-517-294-9252, or sign his guestbook at www.borekjennings.com/obituary/Wayne-Bearden