Ken Berger did indeed have the lean frame and the picture-frame beard, but he also had a thoughtful mien, a way of considering things carefully as he spoke, that seemed Lincoln-esque, too.
I wrote about Ken Berger many, many times in my decade with the Monroe Monitor, and though many of those stories were about his 2005 political troubles, he never lost that equanimity.
That he should have kept his patience with the Monroe Monitor surprised me in the early years. Before I came along, we had a couple of editorial writers that denounced his political ideas frequently. And when he was found guilty of secretly passing a donation to a friend’s campaign and was slapped with the biggest PDC fine in state history, we spent weeks covering it.
But Ken never pulled his ad from the front page of the Monitor, and he would sometimes call, suggesting in his careful tones that we might be interested in something or other he had done.
And man, did he do a lot.
I visited his office to see the water feature he built outside, to see the way he’d joined two old homes to make one large office space and to see the townhouses he’d built in another historic building. I wrote about the time his wife, Deb, became one of the two women who were first to be granted membership in the Monroe LionsClub. He was quite proud.
I wrote about his plane crash on Lake Isabel, and then wrote about his epic effort to get the plane out of 230 of water and fix it back up.
One of the highlights of my journalism career was the day I went on a flight in that plane after it was restored. We flew back toward Lake Isabel, but as we approached the mountains, the plane bucked violently in the strong winds.
Although we were lurching madly in the sky, Berger never lost his laid-back tone. He, in fact, seemed mildly amused as he muscled the plane to smoother air. I enjoyed the heck out of that flight.
I enjoyed Ken Berger.
I came to learn things about him that I found interesting. He was a Democrat; he was Jewish; he was an extremely avid mountaineer who climbed Mt. Rainier at least annually and who, with his friend Monroe dentist Richard Lowell, had climbed mountains all over the world; he was a vegetarian.
And I recognized in him a bit of a kindred spirit. He was as hungry for experience and adventure as anyone I’ve ever known, fighting to do it all; college, a family, adventure, career, civic service, and myriad personal interests and hobbies. Few have the energy or the courage to live at that level of intensity and with that much determination and curiosity.
Ken Berger was a Renaissance man, if ever one has lived in Monroe.
I admire people like him; eager to experience the world, not afraid of danger or of unpleasantness as he pursued his interests.
Ken’s political life wasn’t always calm, but his long service on the health board and the city council, and his devotion to parks and to the community, were profound contributions. I hope one day to see that the city has put his name on something in the parks system that reflects his accomplishments and service.
His importance and contribution to the city of Monroe, as well as his colorful life, will forever be a part of this town’s history. It was my honor to record part of that history, and set it into print.
Rest in peace, Ken.