Les Berg: quietly committed to community and beyondIt was just about two months ago that Les Berg died suddenly at his North Hudson home at the age of 70. His death was an immediate shock to his family and those who knew him throughout the Hudson area. But his loss will be felt for a long time to come.
By: Meg Heaton, Hudson Star-Observer
It was just about two months ago that Les Berg died suddenly at his North Hudson home at the age of 70.
His death was an immediate shock to his family and those who knew him throughout the Hudson area. But his loss will be felt for a long time to come, especially by the countless people he helped.
His widow, Meredith, said she just finished writing more than 400 thank you notes for condolences and memorials she and her two daughters, Kari and Kristin, received.
But she said she also received numerous notes from people who signed only their first names.
“So many of them mentioned things Les had done for them, helped them with. There was a woman he helped buy a car. She has been paying him back $25 whenever she could for years. I never knew anything about that. The same thing happened at the funeral. Strangers came up and told us things he’d done for them that we had no idea about. It has been amazing.”
Together the Bergs have taken 19 mission trips to more than a dozen counties over the years and have continued to support many of the communities they have visited.
But as much as he did for those in need around the world, Berg worked continuously and tirelessly in his own community according to those who worked with him.
The night he died, Berg had gone to work upstairs after a day out with his family to catch up on “We Do Feet” business, an organization he helped found that provided home furnishings to families in need, like those coming out of Grace Place and Turningpoint. The all-volunteer effort picked up donations, stored them and then delivered them to families who could use them. At the time of his death, he was spending as much as 50-60 hours a week on “Feet” business according to Meredith.
John Coughlin is the director of the United Way of St. Croix County. He knew Berg well and said his loss is one that will be keenly felt by the local non-profit community.
Coughlin worked with Berg on another project that was one of the first of its kind in the area.
“We Do Feet” was in need of a permanent home after moving from temporary spaces for several years. Berg approached Coughlin to see if the United Way might be interested in helping them secure a permanent location. At the time, the United Way was also looking for a home for what is now the Food Resource Center. Berg worked behind the scenes to solve both problems.
“Les was really the mover behind getting the church (Trinity Lutheran) to lease us the land. The United Way raised the money to construct the building and we had space for both “We Do Feet” and the Food Resource Center. It was and remains a unique partnership that benefits so many in the community. Les was the man who made it happen,” said Coughlin.
The United Way is also a longtime funder of Operation HELP, an organization Berg served for more than a dozen years on its board of directors, as president and as treasurer. “Working with Les was always a pleasure and he understood how important it was to keep track of things and keep the books in good order. He was someone you could really count on.”
Monica Weekes is the current president of the board of Operation HELP and she benefitted from Berg’s knowledge, guidance and support of that organization over the last dozen years. As treasurer he filed the taxes, took care of all the official documents and made sure that all the money taken in and paid out was accounted for.
“But he did so much more. He was our researcher — the chemical engineer brain figured out the computer programs we needed, fixed the phone/fax, etc. He was our printer. Les kept our donor list, printed all the envelopes and letters for our mailings. I am sure he wore out at least one printer for us. Les always was thinking, coming up with an idea to do things better or more efficiently. And he was my mentor, assuring me that I could do this job and that I was making a difference. Les always had a positive, can-do attitude and was self-effacing. He never looked for the praise or glory for “doing good,” he just did what needed to be done to make peoples’ lives better, said Weekes.
Berg and Weekes grew up ten miles and ten years apart. She believes she saw him play high school ball because “what else was there to do in a small farm town on Friday night?”
“Les was the quintessential, small-town farm boy. He knew how to work hard, put everything he had to good use to solve a problem or tackle the task. We will miss him so much,” said Weekes.
Meredith said her husband was motivated by his overriding faith. “He believed it was his commission to do what he could to help others where he was able. He had a servant’s heart.”