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General => Conferences & Events => General Discussion => Obituaries => Topic started by: spiros on 30 May, 2021, 13:06:46

Title: William Berg [Γουίλιαμ Μπεργκ] (1938-2021)
Post by: spiros on 30 May, 2021, 13:06:46
William Berg [Γουίλιαμ Μπεργκ] (1938-2021)


Translatum has lost its resident classicist. His contribution in Ancient Greek boards was precious and his death left a huge and unfillable gap. He was a kind and gentle man. He will be sorely missed.

William "Bill" Berg was born on August 13, 1938 in Berkeley, California to William Berg, Jr., administrative assistant to Oregon Senator Wayne Morse, and to Dorothy Helen Shaw, descendant of pioneers who migrated from Indiana to Oregon in 1852.  He attended primary and secondary schools in Washington, D.C. and Boulder, Colorado, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Johns Hopkins University in 1960.  Bill attended Cornell for a Master's degree in 1962, and Princeton for a doctorate in 1966.  He married Beverly Brown, a fellow Classicist, in 1970;  they separated after seven years and were divorced in 1980.

After teaching Classical languages and Greco-Roman civilization at UCLA and Stanford, Bill left the academic world in 1974 to settle in Gearhart where he had celebrated his first birthday, and many summer holidays, in his great-great grandmother's cottage on the Ridge Path.  He took a number of odd jobs over the years in Clatsop County, including teaching languages, literature, and ancient civilization at Clatsop Community College through the 1990s.

In 1976, Bill was elected president of the Gearhart Homeowners Association, and subsequently served on the Gearhart Planning Commission, on the City Council, and on the Historic Landmarks Commission.  He organized and directed resource inventories, surveys, and data analysis for the original Gearhart Comprehensive Plan, and drafted the final 1978 text approved by the Oregon Land Conservation and Development Commission.  Also in 1978, Bill successfully applied for grants to complete an award-winning solar retrofit to the Gearhart Fire House.   

His frequent sojourns abroad began with a year in Greece as a Fulbright scholar in 1960-61, where he pursued field archaeology at ancient Corinth, followed by a summer of excavation on Samothrace (1964).  Over the following decades, he returned to Greece nine times for research in Classics and in the musical modes and singers of rebetiko, the "blues" of modern Greece.  He studied and wrote his Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Tübingen, Germany during 1964-65 through an award from the German Academic Exchange Service. 

After teaching a variety of courses at St. John's College in Santa Fe, New Mexico (1987-88), Bill accepted a Fulbright lectureship at 'Atenisi University in the South Pacific Kingdom of Tonga, where he lectured during 1989 on Classical civilization and American literature, and where he met his future wife Mami Kanzaki, a teacher in the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers program.  They were finally married in Japan in 2004.  In the meantime, Bill had again done extensive travel and research in Greece, Mexico, Thailand, and India.  He and Mami enjoyed further world travel both together and with their son Shota during the years following their marriage.

His publications included books and articles on ancient and modern Greek and Roman (and  early Christian) literature, history, religion, and philosophy.  Bill's scholarly output continued until shortly before his death.  A major historical work, Gearhart Remembered, was published in 2001, with a second edition in 2013. Further information can be found at his Wikipedia page ( He died in Portland, Oregon, May 16, 2021.
Title: remembering Bill
Post by: vbd. on 10 Jun, 2021, 20:52:44
I am very saddened to have received the news of Bill's passing a few weeks ago. He developed complications after being hospitalised with respiratory issues and passed away on May 16th. Bill was a friend, a mentor, and occasionally a father to me. His passing made me think all kinds of negative thoughts, about how I hadn't kept in touch enough lately and I should have done more, or about how I was in too much of a bad place when I was staying at his house to fully appreciate his company, or that one time I took him to a bar and it ended up being like the most expensive place in town and we wasted a bunch of money. But I can imagine that what he would say to me is to forget about it and to drink a few beers and enjoy life. Which I've just decided is exactly what I am doing tonight.

He dedicated a significant amount of his time in these forums and greatly enjoyed helping numerous people from around the world with their translation requests. I think anybody who interacted with him was better for it. He was not only a world class expert in Classics, but more importantly a generous and kind hearted human being. I remember his words of encouragement often and one that I usually come back to is when he said to me that no matter what is going on, life always finds a way for things to be OK; there is no other way, no matter how show stopping or terrible we think our reality is, life always goes on and things are OK. This is a good time to try and remember that.
Title: William Berg [Γουίλιαμ Μπεργκ] (1938-2021)
Post by: spiros on 11 Jun, 2021, 14:58:25
Thanks, Alex. I agree fully. To be honest, I still find it hard to believe that he is gone. It feels as if he is going to pop up in a thread any time now and fix my Ancient Greek references.

Larkin's poem The Mower ( tends to come to my mind.