Friday, June 27, 2008

Rest in Peace - Don "Doggie" Berg

On Wednesday, my father in law Don "Doggie" Berg passed away. It was a sudden heart attack that took him on his way back from his daily power walk. The doctors say that it was so sudden that he did not suffer at all. This is a comforting thought for me. If there is anyone on this earth who did not deserve a second of suffering, it was Don.

I went to River Falls, WI as soon as I got the news from Mimi (my mother in law). It was the longest hour in the car I'd ever spent. Phillip and I hugged Mimi for a very long time and cried with her. See, Don wasn't just some guy that I met in 2003. He wasn't just a step-father-in-law. He was probably the nicest, kindest, most generous man I'd ever known. He would do anything for anybody. And that is absolutely not an exaggeration. He was one of my favorite people, and I looked up to him like a father. He was always there to offer advice and guidance, and that's what I will miss so much about him.

Don was an accomplished Jazz musician, playing drums in many bands in Minnesota as well as around the world. He was the founding member of the Hall Brothers Jazz Band, which was recently inducted into the Minnesota Historical Society, and part owner of the Emporium of Jazz located in Mendota, MN. He's also played with the The Bill Evans New Orleans Jazz Band and has toured extensively all over the world. He would play the last Tuesday of every month at Mitch's Supper Club (now called Bennett's) in St Paul. I got to see him play last year and I only wish I'd gone to more of his shows.

Don was also a super funny, extremely intelligent man. He loved to tell jokes and goof around. He always made me laugh. But he also engaged me in really deep, meaningful conversation, usually over a can of Leinenkugel and a cigarette. I'll never forget how warm he was toward me the first time I met him, hugging me at the airport as we met him and Mimi at the baggage check. It was like he'd been my friend for years.

And he gave a wonderful speech at our wedding. I was also happy I got to dance with him that night, too. He bonded with everyone that day. There wasn't a person in the room who didn't fall in love with Don. He and my brother bonded within minutes, and Don always asked me how Chris was doing. He cared and asked about my family, even though he didn't really know them.

Don will be missed by friends and family all over the world. He had no enemies at all. There will be hundreds of people coming to the funeral on Monday. Mimi is planning a traditional New Orleans funeral for Don. It will be a wonderful event with wonderful people talking and sharing stories about a wonderful man we will miss so deeply.

Donald Lee Berg
April 21, 1930 - June 25, 2008

Donald Lee Berg "Doggie"
Renowned Jazz Drummer
Spanish Professor Emeritus:UWRF

Don Berg, a long time resident of River Falls, was born April 21, 1930 in Wausau,WI.He died suddenly and unexpectedly on Wednesday, June 25. He was 78.

He leaves behind him a stellar career as a college Spanish Professor who specialized in Linguistics and Latin American Studies. He was the catalyst for the Semester Abroad Program to Mexico for UWRF students in the early 80's.

His famous connection with the world of traditional New Orleans Jazz music titled him "the best snare drummer of his generation." He was the founding member of the Hall Brothers Jazz Band and part owner of the Emporium of Jazz located in Mendota, MN.

He and his dedicated wife of 20 years, Mimi Trudeau, traveled the world to various jazz festivals having just completed a European tour in June of 2007.

Doggie was nothing short of a class act: a raspy, bluesy singer, a wordsmith and a walking dictionary. His life was filled with optimism, joy and hilarious jokes.

He is survived by his wife and sons, Clint (Freya Larson) of Nashville and Jason (Wa Stella) of Minnetonka. Also two step sons, Brent Griffin of Burnsville and Phillip (Jeanne) Griffin of Uptown, Mpls. Also one brother Stuart Berg of Wausau and three special grandchildren: Derrick, Juliana and Charles Berg all of St. Paul. Plus many, many affectionate nieces, nephews and in-laws.

Don enlisted in the Marines following high school school graduation during the Korean War. He then attended the University of Wisconsin at Madison and joined the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity.

He continued his graduate work at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and was hired as a teaching graduate assistant while he completed his Ph.D. Don retired from teaching in 1995 and spent 18 glorious years of retirement visiting New Orleans every spring as a driving force with his drumming and singing, playing primarily with the Ponchatrain Owls International Jazz Band and the Happy Pals from Toronto.

Locally he has been a long standing drummer for the Bill Evans New Orleans Jazz Band and the Moldy Figs and various others. He also played with the Norrie Cox New Orleans Stompers based out of Milwaukee.

During his college years in Madison he played and sang with the Riverboat Rascals, the hottest band in town in the 50’s.

Loved and respected by all, the world has lost a true gentleman with a whit and style uniquely his own.

Memorials are preferred to:
New Orleans Musicians Clinic
2820 Napoleon Ave # 890
New Orleans, LA 70115.

Don and Mimi

A Celebration of Life will be held Monday, June 30th at the River Falls Golf Club, 101 County Road M, with social hour beginning at 4pm and remembrances beginning at 5pm. Interment of his cremated remains will take place at Fort Snelling Cemetery with full military honors and a New Orleans style funeral march at a later date.


soapboxhero said...

I'm so sorry for your family's loss. What at a fantastic life he experienced! A Celebration of Life is very fitting.

Anonymous said...

What a cool guy, sorry for your loss.

78, good long life & a heart attack is the way to go. Screw cancer.

“No matter what I do or try I'll never get out of this world alive” Hank Williams