Arthur Bergen

March 16, 1950 — August 3, 2017

VIDEO TRIBUTE PRODUCED ARTHUR'S DAUGHTER, HEIDI.

ARTHUR BERGEN

A celebration of Arthur's life will take place on August 10th, 2017 from 2-4 pm at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Winnipeg, 603 Wellington Crescent.

Arthur's Life Story

Our husband, father, son, and Opa was born March 16, 1950 in Neuland Colony, Chaco, Paraguay. His parents were Agnes Neustaedter and Kornelius Bergen. He had few memories of his time in Paraguay, but remembered clearly arriving in Winnipeg, in 1956, during one of the coldest and snowiest winters on record. He talked of high banks of snow, taller than his 5 year-old self.

 

He remembered starting Kindergarten that March or April at Wellington School. His elementary years were at Wellington and Grosvenor schools in west Winnipeg. When the family bought their first house in East Kildonan, on Roberta Avenue, he attended Lord Wolseley and Angus McKay. His memories included sleeping in the front porch during warm weather. When Mom and Dad bought the old house in Wolseley, he often slept in the porch there. It brought back memories of that time in his life. Arthur continued his schooling at John Henderson and River East Collegiate, graduating in 1968 with a 98 in Math and 52 in English (or so he always told Mom when they compared their gifts of intellect and lack of them). Mom was the exact opposite: 99 in languages and low 50 in Math. But interestingly enough, he mostly beat her at Scrabble. So his spelling was not too shabby, and his use of English excellent.

 

He went on to study engineering at the University of Manitoba and graduated with a B. Sc.in Mechanical Engineering. He never practiced this profession, choosing instead something more practical and suitable as a profession. He became a bricklayer through Red River College and worked for Otto Klassen Masonry.

By this time he had married Mom, Lorie Fast. They were married in January 1973, another memorably cold winter day in Winnipeg.

Dad loved to work with his hands and his mind. He built fireplaces, house fronts and planters, and did so with great skill and a gift for perfection. To see him plan and prepare a project and watch him at work was a joy for our mom. He often spoke of nights spent creating, detailing and planning how he would build whatever he was working on. He said he built the project over and over in his dreams before ever touching a tool.

 

The ten short years he worked at the trade count as the happiest in his working life. He started as a bricklayer for Winnipeg Building and Decorating after the building industry collapsed briefly in the early 80s. By this time there were three children: Adam in 1976, Heidi in 1978 and Paul in 1981. He had built two houses by this time: the first house on Linden Avenue and the second on Solace Key. We children grew up here and our parents enjoyed working hard and watching us grow. All three of us attended the German Bilingual school programs at Donwood and Princess Margaret schools. We later attended Westgate and graduated from there. Dad started at Winnipeg Building as a bricklayer but ended up in the office as an estimator. He missed working physically and to fulfill his need to work our parents bought a cottage at Lee River. What a great time we had, planning and fixing up and rebuilding. He gave us all a place we could enjoy for the past almost 30 years. It was the best investment, dad always said.

After his work at Winnipeg Building ended in 2003, which was also when his first grandsons were born, he took on the renovation of Adam's first house on Greene Avenue. Mom was still teaching. Because she loved to see him doing such a great job of Adam's house, she suggested they buy an old house somewhere and renovate that. Since she had always wanted to live downtown in an old two storey house, she found one on the corner of Wolseley and Arlington. She fell in love with its "good bones", Dad not so much. But, in his own words "to humour her", and never believing the owner would accept his low offer, he couldn't back down when this was accepted. Now they had two houses, one in the suburbs of North Kildonan, completely finished and beautiful and one in Wolseley, in dire need of much work. So he began renovating this rundown shell and made it so beautiful, in Mom's opinion. So what began as a toss-up to see which house would sell faster, ended with moving across town to the old house in Wolseley, mom's dream home. He told her he'd had his way with new houses, now it was her turn. He gave her a frame to fill in and she loved him for it. The backyard became a flower garden for mom and a lovely playground for the seven grandchildren that came quickly into their lives.

He never shied away from hard work, especially for his children. All of them benefitted from the houses he renovated for them. He babysat when needed and did so with a love they could sense. He was a devoted and loving husband, father and grandfather. Not obvious to outsiders was his joy at finding pleasure in very simple things ­— playing Scrabble at the cottage and on dark winter nights at home, listening to mom play the piano, just for him, enjoying the babyhood of his seven grandchildren. He was the first to feed Jacob after a stressful birth. He did so with nurses' guidance by taping a straw to his finger and encouraging Jacob to suck formula, preparing him to learn to feed from his mother. He took care of Colin and then Max while their parents worked.

He was well-read, not in philosophy or literature, but in history and politics. When mom would struggle to understand a political or scientific article, he could clear things up for her. He could connect today's events with the past and they had many good discussions. Our mom will miss not going to him for advice in so many things. Dad loved sports, all kinds. From a young age he followed teams and kept statistics on their progress. We have boxes filled with notebooks. And he could recall trivia with alarming accuracy. He never had a chance to play organized sports as a boy or young man so when David Wiebe approached him about playing slo-pitch baseball when he was already 44 years old, he jumped at the chance. He played for 15 years and yes, he kept statistics of every game and every player. When we knew he would not be with us much longer, Paul came up with the lovely idea of a reunion of the team. A backyard barbecue was to take place and give us all a chance to enjoy his memories of a time in his life that had provided him with an outlet for stress and a chance to be a boy again. Sadly, the day of the baseball party was the day he left us. He had really looked forward to this event, the food and drinks were waiting, and that morning he took a turn for the worse and the party was not to be.

Dad was a private man who did not readily talk about himself. He had a protective shell that was not easily penetrated, even by those who loved him best. But he showed his great love for his family through his always present support and his practical gifts of time and energy. He often said that he built the frame and Mom beautified it. When this energy lagged before and again after his heart attack in April 2016, and then with later health issues that followed, his sense of self and identity suffered. He could no longer do for us all and that caused him great grief. No amount of reassurance could give him back that sense of worth and fulfillment. And although no singer and dancer in public, he did so at home. He was an early fan of The Rolling Stones and a later fan of Paul Simon, Joe Cocker, Tom Waits and he and mom listened to Leonard Cohen for hours on end.

After receiving the last devastating news he grew calm and accepted the hand he had been dealt with quiet acceptance and a sense of peace that left us all in awe. He made things bearable these past few weeks and months.

 

When our mom would lament the fact that they were getting older, he would comfort her saying, if we weren't getting older we wouldn't have all these memories.

 

So here are some of these memories in mom's own words:

  • You inviting me in to your home on Cheriton for lunch as you caught me walking from the bus

  • Making me crepes which turned into scrambled eggs

  • Our wedding day in January and me weeping throughout the ceremony

  • Building our first house in the fall while expecting Adam

  • The smell of fall and of new lumber

  • Bringing Adam home from hospital in December in an overheated car so we wouldn't get cold

  • Heidi's birth and us so proud of our beautiful babies

  • Our home on Solace key where everything was finished by you

  • The shower in the basement big enough for all of us to fit into

  • The birth of Paul, our only baby not confined to a hard plaster cast, you complaining how hard to hold a soft-bummed freely-kicking baby

  • Hot summer nights at the cottage without the children

  • The arrival of Jacob and Colin, 13 days apart

  • Long car trips and enjoying each other without having to speak

  • Long car trips and enjoying each other with you as captive audience and I could speak without interruption

  • Knowing you and then again being surprised by things I never knew

  • Loving you and being loved by you was my great joy

Thanks for the memories.

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