Ferdinand Berg's Legacy
Ferdinand Berg, was born in Tittabawassee, Michigan on 15 January 1896. He was the fourth of nine children born of German immigrants George and Margaretha Henningsmith Berg.
Having been unfairly gypped out of their last five dollar coin when they arrived at the train station in Bay City, Michigan, George and Margaretha found themselves in a foreign country, penniless, and barely able to speak the language. Furthermore, the individual who was to meet them at the train was nowhere to be found.
A stranger who spoke German secured George and Margaretha a position working on a farm. Eventually, members of the community helped them purchase their own farm in Williams Township, Bay County, Michigan. Farm life was difficult and the Bergs remained poor.
Ferdinand's niece, Ursula Berg Anderson, tells the story of how Ferdinand looked out for her father Louis, the youngest of the nine children. "Because my father sat at the end of the table, the bowls would be almost empty by the time they reached him and father often did not get as much to eat as he would like. Uncle Ferdinand, would give my father food off his own plate so father would not go hungry."
During World War I, Ferdinand Berg served the United States as part of Company C, 311th Engineers (Sappers), 86th Division, National Army. He saw foreign service sometime after 1 May 1918 and was honorably discharged from Camp Sherman on 6 August 1919. After he returned home, he joined the American Legion.
On the 22 August 1927, Ferdinand married Emma J. Ehmann. They had two sons: Calvin Richard Berg and Lorain Ferdinand Berg.
Ferdinand, Emma, and their two sons lived in Unionville, Michigan. Their home did not have indoor plumbing. Lorain tells the story about how on pay days, his father would buy a small bottle of whiskey which he kept in the barn. "Going to the out house was cold. On the way back to the house, my dad would step into the barn and take a swallow from his bottle." Lorain still owns one of the whiskey bottles Ferdinand kept in the barn to warm himself on cold nights.
Except for his period of military service, Ferdinand was employed by the Robert Gage Company as a coal miner.
Ferdinand died on 22 January 1942 at the Wood Memorial [Veterans] Hospital in Wood, Wisconsin. Although he had gone to Wisconsin to be treated for tuberculosis, an autopsy revealed that the actual cause of death was "Carcinoma (bronchogenic) of the right lung with generalized metastases;" a condition that resulted in his having been gassed in France and from his work in coal mines.
Ferdinand Berg's funeral included a high mass sung by three priests: Fr. S. A. Van Gessel (Unionville pastor), Fr. A. P. Hafner (former pastor from Unionville), and Fr. Walsh (former pastor from Auburn, Michigan).
Because there was no Catholic cemetery in Unionville, Ferdinand Berg was buried in Sebewaing, Michigan on 26 January 1942.
On 29 August 1953, Ferdinand's youngest son, Lorain, married Julia Ann Liberacki whose parents would eventually donate the land for Unionville's Catholic cemetery. Lorain and Judy Berg had three sons: Steven Lorain Berg, Christopher Thomas Berg, and Michael Scott Berg.
On 24 September 2010, Ferdinand Berg's grandson, Dr. Steven Lorain Berg, officially signed the paperwork to fund the Berg Endowment as part of the Schoolcraft College Foundation.