Our Uncle Hal

My dad, Robert William Bergeson, and his two brothers, Harold Parke Bergeson and Norman Bernhard Bergeson, were born in Chicago in the 1920s and lived there until they went away to college. All of them went to St. Olaf College and all of them began their families’ lives in Minnesota after graduation. Norman died in 1977 and my dad passed in 2006.

The reason for this post is to let you know that our Uncle Hal is now gone as well. He died on January 21, 2020 at the age of 91 and we’ll be celebrating his life this coming weekend, February 14-15, at Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Bloomington, Minnesota and Grace Lutheran Church in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. Click on this link for his obituary: https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/wisconsinrapidstribune/obituary.aspx?n=harold-parke-bergeson&pid=195238442

For me, Hal was always a larger-than-life figure in the family. He was an outstanding athlete in both high school and college (football and baseball). Hal was on the 1949 St. Olaf baseball team that won the MIAC Conference Championship and in 2001 he was inducted into the St. Olaf College Hall of Fame. He and Aunt Bev raised four boys who likewise were athletic standouts in high school and college. Even their grandchildren have had and continue to have amazing sports careers! They clearly had a parenting program that produced positive results!

Hal was full of enthusiasm for life and for everyone whom he met. I didn’t see him as often as I would have liked, but every time we were together he wanted to know what I was doing and how I liked it, and he would tell me how proud he was of the things I had accomplished. I never heard him speak ill of anyone in the 60+ years that I knew him. I’m certain that he was an inspiration to many, many people besides myself.

My uncle began his career as a high school teacher and varsity football coach in Austin, Minnesota. Somewhere in those early years he was introduced to the World Book/Childcraft encyclopedia company and he soon switched vocations, devoting the rest of his working days to selling educational material to families. In 1972 he received a promotion that involved a move to Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. It was always a treat to visit Bev and Hal in their warm and inviting house on the banks of the Wisconsin River.

I believe that he was as successful as he was in life because with Hal it was always about the team more than the individual. It was also true that the team couldn’t have too many players; the more the merrier! He was always in recruitment mode, partly because he needed to develop more talent in order for his production to grow, but also because he loved making new acquaintances. Just as importantly, the teacher in him was intent on providing a powerful educational resource to as many families with developing children as possible. As a result, the sales in his region often set company records. He was so persuasive that he even had my mother and me selling books for a period of time!

I mentioned earlier about Hal’s interest in my family and my activities, both vocational and recreational. In 2010, the last year that I raced in the Chequamon Fat Tire Festival, Hal decided to join my brother-in-law and me in Hayward, Wisconsin to see what mountain bike racing was all about. He’d never ridden a mountain bike or watched a race and was very curious about the whole affair. He was suitably impressed with the rollout of 1,500 bikes down the main drag in town! I was impressed that my uncle would give up a weekend to see his 60-year-old nephew struggle to get to the finish line before he gets passed by the sweepers. I was so grateful for his interest and companionship.

Hal is the last of his generation in the family on this side of the Atlantic. There are other Norwegian first cousins of his that are still living, but they’re all younger than him. The three sons of Ragnvald and Gladys Bergeson of 2917 Kilpatrick Avenue in Chicago each had four children. The twelve first cousins and their parents (mothers Patricia, Beverly and Sylvia and grandmother Gladys) are shown in the photograph below taken by Ragnvald in 1963. This is an iconic photograph in our family. There was never another photo taken of all of us together before life-changing events changed the composition of our families forever. I cherish this image. Just don’t ask me about the lime green pedal pushers I was wearing.

Ragnvald and Gladys Bergeson’s offspring in Northfield in 1963. The three brothers are in the back row: Bob on the far left, Hal in the middle and Norm on the far right. All of the adults in this picture have passed on. Of the twelve first cousins in the picture, two are no longer with us.

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