Losing a loved one is never easy, even after months or years of togetherness. It may be one of the hardest challenges that many of us face. One of Shakespeare’s quotes about grief – “Tears water our growth” – speaks about human beings’ natural resiliency.
At the age of eight, Dr. Arthur Bergman lost his mother and three years later his father. After a brief stay with relatives, he ended up calling Oak Park Academy and Union College home – staying in the dormitory year round and working in the broom shop to pay for his dorm expenses and tuition.
Dr. Bergman has been a volunteer at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists for 24 years – many at AWR. He has worked in various departments, lending helpful assistance with numerous office tasks. His nickname is Dr. B, and he is loved by many. Every year, different departments help celebrate his birthday; his 90th was an occasion for an extra-special surprise party.
Dr. B’s interest in service began decades ago. During World War II, he was drafted into the U.S. Army, where he served as an X-ray technician. Soon, he was stationed at the 177 General Hospital in Le Mans, France. When the time came for the Army to leave Europe, there were more than a million soldiers who needed transportation home. The War Department used a point system to demobilize soldiers from military service. Priority was given to those who had a certain number of points.
While waiting for his turn, Dr. B enrolled in a program that allowed soldiers to study at a European university on a short-term basis. At the University of Bern in Switzerland, he met a young Adventist woman named Liliane Brennwald. Two weeks later, he asked her to marry him. Over the years, the pair did everything together, often traveling back to Switzerland from their home in the U.S. Liliane shared his interest in service, faithfully volunteering at the GC alongside her husband until her passing in 2003.
Once Dr. B’s turn had come for him to be discharged from military service and leave Europe, he promptly enrolled in medical school at Loma Linda University. Following his graduation in 1951, he received a call to help start a new hospital in Cameroon, Africa. To prepare for this new life adventure, he spent five months in London, England, getting a diploma in tropical medicine, and then a couple of months in France learning French.
Once in the Cameroon, he worked alongside his brother-in-law, Dr. Fred Brennwald, taking care of patients in the clinic and hospital. In addition to his medical work, he found himself doing construction work, such as putting up the water tower and installing electricity and plumbing. On the medical side, Dr. B’s memorable moments included delivering his daughter, Astrid Sadler, in 1956. She now resides in Florida and is a registered nurse at Florida Hospital Waterman.
Five years later, the Bergmans returned to the United States. After his residency in anesthesiology at George Washington University, he worked at Washington Adventist Hospital until his retirement in 1984. Before long, he began serving his local community by volunteering once a week with Meal on Wheels, delivering meals directly to the homes of seniors whose mobility is limited. Most of his clients live in towering apartment buildings and are far younger than he is, “probably 60 to 70 years old.” He has faithfully continued his rounds for 27 years.
Dr. B inspired his son, Erik, to follow in his footsteps. Erik graduated from the Loma Linda University School of Medicine, where he specialized in ophthalmology. Soon after, he went to Swaziland, Africa, to serve as a missionary eye surgeon. He started an eye clinic there which is still in operation today. Sadly, after a short battle with cancer, Erik passed away two years ago, but his son Mark – Dr. B’s grandson – hopes to continue the family legacy by studying medicine at Loma Linda University soon.
Also carrying on the tradition of both health care and service are Dr. B’s two granddaughters, Erin Bergman-Sperco and Amy Bergman, who are dental hygienists. Amy served a year in China, and has aspirations of future mission service.