There is a beat in some music that vibrates through your body, engulfs your heart and fills your head. There is richness from a meal stirred with love that nourishes your soul. There is a kindness in a few humans that is felt deep within before you even know their name. William Ernfred Berg was that beat. He was that richness. He was that kindness. And forever more we will all yearn to feel those feelings again in exactly the way that we felt them from him.
William died suddenly from a heart attack doing the work he loved with people he adored. It is all unimaginable really but the fact that his heart was so full of lived experiences and so full of a vast network of people perhaps only meant that it was time for him to explore another place — after all standing in one place was just not his style. In all of our sadness and grief we feel almost certain that he is already on another grand adventure that he will one day share with his beloved wife Katherine (Katie), his boys Quinnlan, Remy, and Soren and his dear family including: mother, Elizabeth Vinka Berg, father Robert Kenneth Berg (posthumous), brothers Rick Berg and Anthony Edward (posthumous), sister Mary Berg Sutton (Harold), in-laws Debra Zilavy, Rory LaGrotta, Dennis and Lorry Zilavy, and brothers and sister- in-law Ed, Chris, and Jenny.
Maybe you only met William once, or maybe you knew him for a lifetime. Maybe you knew him as a child of a Navy Commander, or you knew him as Bill from his own Navy service as a chef on the USS Cavalla SSN 684, a fast attack submarine based out of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Or you knew him as an Executive Chef and General Manager at the Union Hotel in Benicia, Calif. Or as a French antiques dealer and entrepreneur (William’s Antiks/Will & Atlas). Or maybe you are a Surly Burner who rode with him on The Bird or connected on the Playa. Or maybe he did you a favor and fixed something or carried something or asked you to lift something. No matter how you met, you knew you just met someone exceptional. In fact, to know William wasn’t just an opportunity to know him, it was the gift he gave of knowing you. Indeed, knowing William was the opportunity we all crave yet so often dismiss — the chance to receive a sense of belonging, of feeling loved, or somehow being important. William reflected often that “we connect with others and that gives us what we need.”
William lived his last days the way he lived most of his days by connecting and talking with more than 70 people on his cell phone as he drove from his home to L.A. These conversations were not just a cursory “hello” but full-hearted explorations where he told stories of his life and let us live through them. Lucky us, he wanted to know our stories and laugh and cry with us. He wanted to know something personal about everyone he ever met. Even better, he would remember those things and build upon them
to create a deep and amazing root
system for friendship to thrive. In fact, knowing him made us know ourselves better and to feel love in the deepest of ways. This was his gift to each of us
that knew him.
William loved all things French, noting once that his ability to speak the language was “one of his only superpowers.” His zeal was sealed forever when he moved to France in 1997. As a connoisseur of the intersection of beautiful and practical, William and Katie built a wonderful career as French antiques purveyors through William’s Antiks and built their latest business adventure, Will & Atlas, an importer of Fairtrade housewares. To know this maven, this beacon, this gentle human was to understand that there were teachable moments within grasp if you wanted them. To know William was to know a man who was deeply in service to his family, his communities, and to his country. His unbridled passion for friends, burners, neighbors, British classic cars, music, politics and cultural experiences was immense, but not greater than his dedication and devotion to his family as a husband, dad, son, uncle, cousin, and family member. You could practically taste how much he loved them with each word and act of service.
He was truly proud of his boys and his nieces and nephews (Ben, Sam, Katie, Evelyn, Dylan, Addison, Brooke, Makenzie, Benjamin). You will be missed, William, but your light shines through every person that you connected with along the way. Know that what we see now, in this unexpected stillness, is that all your movement and all of your spinning was really just you weaving a net that could hold what you loved the most and within it all the grief, memories, joy, and all the precious things. Thanks to William, we are all in this net — your conversations, your shared experiences, your laughter, and your tears — he made sure of it.
In lieu of flowers, the family invites you to give a gift of unexpected kindness, to tell a corny joke, to play a favorite song, or appreciate a friend by listening and learning for what they have to share. You may also make a donation to the Down Syndrome Connection of the Bay Area. (www.dsconnection.org). A celebration of this very amazing life will be held later in 2020. More details to come.