Paul Berg: Holland Spirit Award winner for 2009

Paul Berg at home on Lopez Island.

Paul Berg grew up on a farm with his grandparents. One of the first things he remembers is a neighbor on an adjoining farm.

“He was cantankerous and ornery. No one had anything to do with him, but then one day he got sick and had to go to the hospital,” Berg said.

“Everyone got together. They picked his crop for him; all of his fruit, apples, and so forth. And I asked my grandmother, why are they doing this? No one likes him. And my grandmother said, ‘Paul, he’s our neighbor. We always help our neighbor, no matter what their attitude is.’”

This is the way Berg has approached his entire life. On his tour of duty in the army he helped make sure an orphanage enjoyed Christmas. When he returned home, he helped build the props for the local school’s Christmas production of The Nutcracker Suite.

“I still remember seeing the fruits of our labors in the happiness on the faces of those kids,” Berg said.

He retired in 1995 from the Boeing Company where he worked for many years in the engineering department and moved to Lopez Island shortly thereafter in 1998.

“I still had energy so I got involved in Habitat for Humanity for four days a week and then I got into repairing wheelchairs for adults who had cerebral palsy. The rewards I got from communicating with people secondarily was just….immensely rewarding,” Berg said.

On Lopez Island, Berg was involved with the Friends of the Library for two years, organizing and running the book sales for the library. He was chairman of the Senior Advisory Committee, which oversaw the renovations that took place in Woodmen Hall on behalf of the Senior Center. Berg and the committee worked tirelessly to restore Woodmen Hall. He hired out jobs, such as electrical work and plumbing that he could not do, and then he and a handful of individuals rebuilt the south foyer and installed two lavatories there, renovated the kitchen, and built the ramps and the deck that provide access to the building. They repaired the north wall and built in a storage area under the stairs as well as replaced the insulation under the hall. Berg also refinished the floors and saw that the walls and interior molding received a fresh coat of paint.

Berg has also been president of the Shoal Bay Water Association for eight years and he sat on the board of the Community Center for two years.

The Holland award is presented to the individual, couple or partners whose community involvement makes them the island’s unsung heroes. Nominees are described as friendly, caring, reliable, helpful, unselfish, loving, generous and tolerant. They may be well-known or not, but they must belong to the Lopez community and have, in some way, worked to improve the lives of the people on Lopez Island. Dolly and Andy Holland were long time island residents whose involvement and commitment to the island community lives on through the individuals and organizations they touched during their lifetime. They are both deceased.

The past recipients in order starting in 2000 are: Gordon and Barbara Rydberg, Mary Ritchie, Bob and Jan Sundquist, Len Kanzer, Dick and Mary Schoenman, Bob and Vivian Burt, Bill and Norman Brimmer, Robert Herrmann and Ron Hall, and Rip and Julie Van Camp.

“I want to thank everyone who has helped me with projects, or the issues that come with projects … there’s so many people out there who deserve just as much recognition as I am getting with this award,” Berg said.

“My grandmother always wanted me to be humble, and recognize those around you who have helped you, rather than the other way around.”

Paul Berg will be honored at the LCCA 10th Anniversary Celebration on October 10.