August 2012

Our family is sad to announce the passing of Werner Berg.

We are certain that Werner’s exploits will survive for a long time yet…whether for little things like brushing his teeth while driving, to taking care of his family and friends in time of need.  He provided for his brother, mother, and mother-in-law during their final years, and set a high bar for us to take care of him.  Werner was a kind man, and a great father.  He was rarely inhibited by what others thought of him, but was a good man for internal reasons. He will be profoundly missed.
En leu of flowers, please send donations to:
Camp Chai Scholarship Fund/Werner Berg
Jewish Community Center, Sonoma County
1301 Farmers Lane, Santa Rosa, CA 95405
The funeral will most likely be Thursday August 23rd, but it might be on Wednesday. We have not confirmed that yet. We will send out another e-mail with final arrangements. 
Werner was born in Langenfeld, Germany in 1936. His father left Germany in 1938 to avoid further arrests by the Nazis. He worked hard to make a living in the States and to provide for his family, who were stuck in Germany until their departure on the last ship from Rotterdam before the war broke out in 1939. Werner felt that in Germany he was the enemy because he was a Jew, in America he was the enemy because he was German. He learned English fast and made sure he spoke without an accent, he did not like to disclose his German heritage. If you would ask him, he would say that he was a “hidden person”, as social and humorous he was, he would joke away a serious question if he did not want to answer. He was a wonderful listener; his greatest love belonged to the children, so he became a child psychologist. He would not see adults.  “Adults lie,” he said with apprehension. Sometimes he would wonder and smile, people tend to ask him difficult questions and assumed he would know the answer. Although he could answer most Jeopardy questions and had a broad range of knowledge he felt he wouldn't write a book because he had nothing worthwhile to say. If you would ask him for his philosophy in life, he would keep it simple: “Enjoy life and play nice with the other children”. Werner had a strong emphasis on education.  It was very disappointing to him that his father died shortly before he achieved his Ph.D. and could not celebrate his success with him.
Werner could be quite competitive. When 12 year old Adam said he would be able to beat Werner in arm wrestling within a year, they agreed to a $100 bet.  Werner started working out daily at the gym to ensure that Adam was wrong.  According to Adam, the bout lasted a long time, and was very close.  In addition to the $100, Werner collected a healthy dose of Adam’s hubris, and established Werner’s daily habit of mornings at the gym, where he occasionally found time to work out between hours of socializing.
            Werner made friends easily, he used his “subtle” sense of humor to make people laugh and life felt lighter.  He also could be deadly serious in the matter of food. You better don't get in the way when he was dominating his kitchen. You may clean up if you like – afterwards. Werner was a good friend to many, absolutely caring and present when a family member or a friend needed him.
He was deeply moved and angered by the holocaust; many family members from his mother's and father's side of the family were murdered in the Shoah. He was most bereaved about his 12 little cousins (age 2-10) who were murdered by Nazi Germany. He would go to the schools and speak about the Holocaust with the young generation.
He founded Camp Chai in 1980, which is still going strong in Sonoma County.  He was president of Beth Ami, a conservative synagogue in Santa Rosa, CA. While it was important to him to give his children an education in Judaism and raise them as Jews, he did not consider himself religious. Nevertheless he could not hide his Jewish soul when he sang Kol Nidre and other High Holiday music or when he performed with his Klezmer Band Limonim. Music and song filled his life, no matter if he performed for an audience or if we were traveling and he sang in the car or at home. Werner's beautiful and powerful voice filled the room and the hearts of his listeners.
It was a tragedy that he lost his voice due to a massive stroke in October of 2010. His beautiful eyes and his expressive face never stopped talking to his loved ones. He developed a Zen existence and patience unknown of in his earlier years. We are grateful to have been able to accompany him on his last journey and thank him for the opportunity to take care of him and share our love and support for each other over many family dinners with his children and, most of all, with his grandchild Amalia – the sunshine of his old age.

Adam J. Berg