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Bret Haller, founder and curator of Yo! Venice, dies at 45

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By Paul Chavez

Venice Dispatch

Bret Haller, the co-founder and longtime curator of the popular online community forum Yo! Venice, has died. He was 45.

Haller died April 9 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after a nearly year-long battle against pancreatic cancer, said his brother Eric in a recent interview.

A memorial paddle out has been planned for Tuesday to honor Haller with participants asked to gather at 6 p.m. on Windward Plaza by the skate park.

Bret Haller, the founder of Yo! Venice who died April 9, is shown in this undated file photo. (Credit: Eric Haller)

Bret Haller, the founder of Yo! Venice who died April 9, is shown in this undated file photo. (Credit: Eric Haller)

Haller’s death was announced by his family on Yo! Venice and many took to the site to express their condolences and gratitude for the website. Haller went by the user name ‘Bret’ on the website and maintained a degree of anonymity among the community despite the site’s popularity.

Yo! Venice was co-created by Haller and his friend Keri in 2006 and has been a reliable source of news, crime reports, photos and wide-ranging opinions about Venice. Haller told friends that he started the site after having trouble finding a good club sandwich in Venice. The site won a 2011 Spirit of Venice Award at the Abbot Kinney Festival and also was a finalist in the 2013 L.A. Weekly Web Awards in the Best Neighborhood Blog category.

Haller received a terminal diagnosis in late May 2013 due to a rare form of cancer. His initial chemotherapy significantly reduced his tumors and he was upbeat despite the long odds. His health took a turn for the worse in recent months and he was being treated up until his death at Cedars-Sinai, where his father also died of cancer in 1998, his brother said.

Venice has been a longtime part of the Haller family with their great-grandfather once owning a house in Venice, Eric said.

Haller attended Harvard-Westlake School and graduated in 1987 from Campbell Hall, where his mother, Gi, was a teacher. His father was in the business and Bret and Eric also worked on movies together.

The 2003 movie Texas Boogie Woogie listed Bret as a producer in the credits. He and his brother also contributed songs to the 1991 film The Indian Runner that was written and directed by actor Sean Penn.

Haller played cello in high school and later moved to bass guitar. Bret and Eric played together in rock bands in the 1990s, including one called Current User, and performed at clubs such as The Roxbury on the Sunset Strip. Haller enjoyed playing guitar and had been spotted strumming and singing at The Whaler bar and restaurant near the Venice Pier.

Bret Haller, shown in an undated file photo, also was an avid photographer who took many photos for Yo! Venice. (Credit: VenicePaparazzi.com)

Bret Haller, shown in an undated file photo, also was an avid photographer who took many photos for Yo! Venice. (Credit: VenicePaparazzi.com)

He also was involved in auto racing for a time and in 2006 created the Unlimited Class with his friend Kevin Ward to allow modern cars to compete in the La Carrera Panamericana race from southern to northern Mexico. Race organizers put a photo of Haller and a condolence message on their website.

His brother Eric in the early 2000s met Matt Mullenweg, creator of the blog publishing software WordPress, and started blogging circa 2003 and urged his brother to do the same.

“Bret tried it and he wasn’t into it. He was not a fan of personal blogs,’ his brother said. “So he started Yo! Venice.”

Eric has been living in Costa Rica but recently returned to be with his brother.

“It’s been incredibly awesome to see this community and all these friends that he’s made,” Eric said. “The community spirit has been wonderful.”

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  1. Venice Dispatch Obit for Bret | Yo! Venice! Venice Beach, California - […] Paul Chavez over at the Venice Dispatch wrote a nice obituary for Bret, and it’s posted today. […]