Tribute to Willard Berggren

December 14, 1926 to December 2, 2001

by Tommy Carlson

On Friday, December 8, 2001, family and friends gathered at Karmel Covenant Church in rural Princeton, Minnesota, to say farewell to Willard LeRoy Berggren who left this earthly home on December 2, 2001.

Willard grew up in Minneapolis, served in the Navy during WW II in the Pacific Theatre. He married Dorthea Berggren (Dorthea’s maiden name was Berggren as well) on August 16, 1952. After five years with General Mills, he continued his education at North Park College, Roosevelt University, and North Park Seminary where he received the Bachelor of Divinity degree that was awarded to seminary graduates at that time. When seminaries began granting Master of Divinity degrees, they offered those who had the B.D. to exchange their degrees for a Master of Divinity. Willard said, "When I received the notice that for a fee of $50 they would send me a Master’s degree, I sent the money in fast in case they changed their minds and wanted my Bachelor’s degree back instead."

He and Dorthea served churches in Rockford, Illinois, and Mount Washington, Virginia. He also served Elim Covenant, Saint Paul, Minnesota, the Minneapolis Police Department as volunteer Chaplain, and Bethany Covenant Home in Minneapolis as Chaplain. After retirement, he was interim pastor at Karmel Covenant Church in Dalbo and the Harris Covenant Church. In addition, he provided pastoral services at Big Lake Covenant and Elim Home in Princeton. Willard is survived by his wife Dorthea, his daughters and son, their spouses, eight grandchildren, many other relatives, and many, many more friends.

These are some of the facts of Willard’s life. For those of us who knew and loved him, there was so much more. A man of love, compassion and a great sense of humor, he never judged others but accepted each person as one of God’s creation just as he had been accepted. He often said that he had accepted Jesus as the Lord of his life at a Billy Graham Crusade in Minneapolis, and from that very moment, he just wanted to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He feared he had failed his Greek final at North Park Seminary which meant he would get a diploma rather than a degree. After the exam, he said: "All I wanted to do was serve God and preach, I didn’t need a degree for that."

Willard loved Pietisten—especially Waldenström. Before he left on a trip to Middle East, I went to wish him a good journey. In the midst of the turmoil of packing and looking for this and that, he wanted to make sure his subscription was up to date. He stopped everything he was doing and started looking for the checkbook so he could give me a check, which he did. Three weeks before his death, he renewed his subscription.

Anyone who met Willard and spent time with him has a story to tell. When Dorthea said there would be opportunity at the service to tell a story, I said: "We’ll be there for at least a week." Perhaps Rev. Jim Sundholm said it best when he told the grandchildren: "If anyone asks you if you have ever been given anything, you can say: `Yes, Grandpa.’"

It would be a wonderful tribute to Willard to collect the stories we know and pass them on to the family—especially to the grandchildren. Please take some time to send the stories you have to Pietisten and we’ll do something to put them together. Willard will be missed, but his presence continues with us through our memory of him and through the stories of this good and faithful servant of God. Peace to his memory.

Tommy Carlson remodels homes and is an editor of Pietisten.

See all articles by Tommy Carlson