Along with each of you reading this, my heart aches with Berk’s passing, but it is also filled with joy that God blessed us with Berk and his passion for making our community and world a better place.
It was a privilege to work with Berk on a plethora of community projects. From Save the Park to the Okoboji Foundation, from Dickinson County Trails to the Pearson Lakes Art Center, from Lakeside Laboratory to the Bedell Family YMCA and many more, Berk could always be counted on to provide leadership, support and was a master at fundraising. His boundless energy and “better together” attitude inspired me to do things I had no idea could be accomplished. With Berk, no goal was too lofty; no mountain too steep to climb and to paraphrase him, “No giant that couldn’t be tackled.” Because of Berk, our community is healthier and happier!
Not only was Berk a great mentor, but also a wonderful friend that gave each of us so many great memories. With a kind and generous heart, he had a way of making each of us feel special. God puts us where He wants us to be.
With a grateful heart, I wish you God’s blessings and peace,
In May 1977, I moved from Estherville, IA to Washington, DC to work in Berkley’s congressional office. That was the beginning of a 42 year career in DC! I will never forget those wonderful years. Berk and Elinor welcomed me with open arms and took me under their wings. They quickly became my “DC parents” and I will never forget the kindness and the opportunities they provided to me. They were both such wonderful people and I have so many fond memories from those years. I even rented and lived in their Townhouse basement on Capitol Hill for a couple of years, a short 5 minute walk to his congressional office.
And once I left his office and up until 2019, I continued to stay on their Christmas newsletter list which I always enjoyed receiving and reading word for word. It kept me up-to-date on everything they did throughout the year as well as their families who I had grown to know very well during the years. I even had the pleasure of babysitting Sarah and Charity (Ken and Kathie’s girls) when they were young. The other annual event Berk always remembered was Valentine’s Day. I treasured the little Valentines that he personally signed and mailed every year. I missed it this year.
Those are just a few memories from the years with Berk and Elinor. I hope they are resting in peace. They both left this earth leaving their mark in making our world a better place to live. I miss them very much.
deepest sympathies to the entire Bedell family.
I’m so sorry to miss the boat parade on Saturday. What a wonderful way to celebrate his life.
Cindy (Tholkes) Yaworske
Jim, Carol, and Cindy Tholkes pictured with Congressman Berkley Bedell
In 1994 the Clay County Fair employed me as general manager. I was there until 1999 when I left for an opportunity in the Twin Cities.
It was fall of that year and the Save the (Arnolds) Park campaign had achieved its astonishing success. Of course I was aware of the campaign and knew some of its principals but only a few well. Paul Hedberg was one I knew well from both the Spencer fair and my time at the Minnesota State Fair; Berkley Bedell was not.
Paul and I kept in touch and in 2003 he contacted me to ask if I was interested in taking a look at the park’s operations. I said I wasn’t. Later Paul sent an email updating me on some of the issues being faced and asked again about my interest in being involved, a very nice and flattering message to which I again said no.
Paul is a very persuasive guy but the next time I declined he decided to send in the A team and asked to have Berkley Bedell give me a call. If nothing else I thought it would be fun to chat with Berkley, who I had not met, so I said sure. A couple of days later he called and the next day we were sitting on his lakeside deck talking about the park.
In retrospect I see that afternoon having two hugely important influences on my life; for both I will be eternally grateful.
First, the erstwhile teen-aged entrepreneur, soldier and aviator, family man, successful businessman, member of Congress, philanthropist, community pillar and cancer survivor with whom I was speaking, asking questions and then using quiet persuasion laced with determination, was not going to back away from what he started. Two days later I went to work helping the park.
Over the years I’ve learned what I did not know then; that’s the way Berkley went about getting things done.
Second, no doubt like others who knew him, I got to know a man who became for me a wonderful combination of best friend, older brother, mentor and even father figure.
We worked together on many things over the years since—a blog, books, op-ed pieces and research about political and societal issues of concern to him. We spent time in Washington, D.C., speaking about his issues with two of his close friends, Tom Harkin and Rick Nolan, as well as others, including Bernie Sanders, and the folks at Common Cause, founded by another close friend, Bob Edgar (1943-2013).
His concerns included proliferation of nuclear weapons; the need for the United States to spend an inordinate amount for defense; financial burden for students to become college educated; failure to adequately explore medical alternatives; failure to provide adequate healthcare for all; climate change; and at the root of all—an impediment to finding solutions—the influence of money in politics.
I do not intend this to be a political screed but these are real issues. The day he had the stroke that ultimately caused his death they were on his mind; only the stroke forced him to give up seeking solutions. My message on his behalf to all: We honor Berkley Bedell’s memory by continuing to pay attention to what was of concern to him.
Along with our time in Washington, the best times for me were our road trips; travels all over Iowa meeting with supporters or friends, including a 7 a.m. appointment at the Capitol with former governor Terry Branstad; a wonderfully memorable RV ride north from Naples with Elinor; and most of all our annual summer trips from MSP airport to Spirit Lake and back.
That’s a three-hour, one-way trip during which Berkley never failed to let me chat away but during which I now wish I would have listened more. And even more than that, I wish we could do it again.