David Berger Obituary
David Berger, aged 95, died peacefully, surrounded by his loving family while in hospice care at St. Mary’s Hospital, in Madison, Wisconsin, on October 28, 2023. He is survived by his beloved wife of 69 years, Barbara; brother Daniel Berger (Elena) of Baltimore, Maryland; four children: Michael Berger (Andrea) of Cincinnati, Ohio; Susan Berger (Tom Asch), of Chicago, Illinois; Deborah Berger of Monona, Wisconsin; Laura Gallagher (Brett Paufler) of Wonder Lake, Illinois; and Sean Gallagher, former son-in-law, of Arlington Heights, Illinois, as well as six grandchildren: Alexander and Helen Berger, William and Grace Gallager, and Hannah and Sophie Cole. He was preceded in death by his parents, Louis and Henriette Berger, and grandson Abraham Cole.
David was born September 22, 1928, in Paris, France. He graduated from Great Neck High School, in New York, and Columbia University, where he earned a B.A. in English, playing football four years and basketball and baseball freshman year. He earned an MBA from Harvard Business School and worked as an advertising executive, rising to the role of international director of market research for the Chicago-based agency Foote, Cone and Belding.
He participated in the Madison Paddle and Portage event for many years, loved camping and canoeing and felt sympathy with all life in nature. His trips to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area with his children were highlights of his life and theirs.
While his interests and accomplishments ranged across intellectual and cultural life, including writing plays, poems and memoirs, his identity and character were largely shaped by athletics. A star athlete in high school, he made the first string at linebacker and center for Columbia University his senior year. By his account, his Columbia education contributed to a successful and fulfilling career. He learned most about business team leadership and mentoring from athletic coaches. According to assistant coach Phil Bucklew, who worked reconnaissance in WWII and helped to found the Navy Seals, David “wanted to play more than any other boy” he had ever known. A Columbia trainer said to him, poking him in the chest, “You got it here, Dave, you got it here.” The spirit these men saw in Dave was partly the reason for his remarkable recovery from open-heart aortic valve surgery in 2017, at age 88, enabling him to live a full life to the very end.
A man of wit and insight, a sound counselor and loyal friend, David was idealistic, sincere, enthusiastic and kind, but also ironic, mischievous and humorous. His moral compass was steady and he disapproved of dishonesty and unkindness. He was a voracious reader, superb writer and charming companion. His marriage to Barbara was a model of love and companionship, full of fun and joy, a 70-year love affair. He cooked for her while she played jazz piano for him. When they went out to dinner at ages ninety-five and eighty-nine, they made the impression of a dating couple. To his children, he was an engaged dad in their childhood, a firm and caring guide in their youth, and a wise counselor and the best of friends in their adulthood. He would often say, “We’re in this together,” and he loved to laugh with his family. His work colleagues and protégés admired his intelligence, principle, diligence, tact, honesty and creativity. Friends and family, and sometimes strangers, remarked upon his smile, good cheer and positive outlook. He was a much-loved man of rare excellence.
While his loss is devastating to those who knew and loved him, his wit and presence shone through his physical decline even at the very end, as he was firmly embraced by the love of his family. A celebration of David’s life will be held at a future date. Memorial gifts may be made in the name of David Berger to Wisconsin Public Radio at www.wpr.org.