Howard W. Bergerson

Howard at about age 5

A unique and shining spirit passed into the next phase of existence on February 19, 2011 in Kirkland, Washington, in the arms of loving family. He loved people and had a gift for enriching the lives of everyone he met.

Howard at about age 7 with Louis (Ludvik) Bergerson.

Howard was born July 29, 1922 in Minneapolis, Minnesota to Margaret Jeske, who six years later married Ludvik (Louie) Bergerson, who adopted Howard. The family lived in mill towns throughout the Pacific Northwest.

He wed Nellie (McLaughlin) Wilson in 1967 and adopted her three youngest children, Gerald, Earl, and Merlla. After Nellie’s passing in 1987, he married Christine Stamm, and they were together about three years.

He was self-taught following a 10th-grade education. He served in the Army in WWII (Guadalcanal). He was a fine artist of drawings and paintings. A serious vocalist, he was offered a position as an operatic voice instructor at Carnegie Hall. Settling in Sweet Home, Oregon in 1951, he worked as a shingle weaver for over 50 years, writing nightly into the wee hours. He was nominated as 1957 Oregon Poet Laureate, and published Palindromes and Anagrams and a collection of poetry, The Spirit of Adolescence.

This is a picture of an unfinished pencil portrait Howard had started of his wife (my mother), Nellie, from her 1941 high school graduation photo. He abandoned it because he was not happy with his accuracy of proportion.

In 1972, he was in the Guinness Book of World Records for “Edna Waterfall,” the longest palindromic poem. He published games and puzzles in Word Ways, Reader’s Digest, other magazines, and achieved a reputation among colleagues as the master of wordplay.

Balancing his artistic and linguistic pursuits, he was also respected in the math community (among teachers and professors) as a creative mathematician whose original research included algebra, geometry, and number theory. In his final years, he was working on The Ethical Imperative, a metaphysical thesis based on a lifetime of inquiry in mathematics, physics, philosophy, and theology.
A celebration of life is planned prior to interment of ashes in Sweet Home, Oregon. Details will be provided later in The New Era.

12 Responses to “Howard W. Bergerson”

  • Geron Bergerson says:

    I never got to know him, but he sounded like a very intresting person. Sorry for the loss.

  • Sandra J McLaughlin, niece says:

    Everyone who knew Howard liked him. He was patient and kind, a wonderful listener and taught others in a simple straight-forward manner. I love his palindrome’s book and hope to enjoy his other work. His art was magnificent and his spirit touching. Nellie loved him completely and he took such sweet care of her. I learned a great deal from him, although only around him a few times. He taught by example. He led quietly. I have immense respect for Howard. May his new existence be all he imagined and more and may others enjoy his being greatly.

  • jamaica munson says:

    Uncle Howard was a brilliant man that really made you think. I’m going to miss you, and your coin trick. Say hi to Granny for me. I love you.

  • Becky Mitchell says:

    Everywhere Howard went the met new friends.
    He was a very intellagent man.
    He loved to walk to A&W,Laren,(mollies bakery),the book store,ohhhhhhhhhhhhh yeah,McDonalds,and the post office.
    He would walk sometimes 3 times a day.
    I was his caregiver but he never treated me like a caregiver,he talked to me like he new me forever.
    I grew to love Howard like a granfather.
    I’ll never forget you grandpa(Howard).

  • Greg Moss says:

    I grew up in Sweet Home from a pioneer family knowing Howard in my youth from his walks about the town. I was lucky to truely come to know him, when I would return (after my college education) often over the years, to visit with my best friend from childhood (Jim Musgrave) and we would occasionally meet and have coffee with him at the Frontier (a pleasure Jim took often). He was a remarkable mind. We would chat and then discuss “black holes”, “ethical comstruct”, “string theory” and the breadth of our lives. I would always leave filled and always regretful of a college education perhaps not used to my fullest, but well aware of the thirst for knowledge and many talents he had received. He truely broadened our world (Jim passed just recently as well). When I am met these days with conversation about the value of supporting education costs in the nation, Harold has and will always come to mind. A quiet and remarkable man …. and missed.

  • Paula Hamarr says:

    I first saw Howard shortly after I moved to Sweet Home in the summer of 1970. He was walking beside his wife Nellie as she rode a three wheeled bike, they were headed to the Santiam Broiler where they were regulars.

    Years later, in 1986, at the Sweet Home Public Library, a friend of mine said “Do you see that man over there? That is Howard Bergerson, he is very smart. He studied the brain and figured out how to cure himself of Epilepsy.” I was intrigued, as my daughter Christine had epilepsy.

    The first time I met Howard was on the sidewalk on Long Street. What started as a simple greeting turned into a long conversation that ended only when it started to rain.

    Anyone who knows Howard can relate to those long conversations.

    More conversations followed at Mollie’s Bakery, where I found he needed a caregiver for Nellie, who had multiple sclerosis. I suggested that they meet my daughter Christine. Christine was an excellent caregiver and brought much joy to Nellie until her passing in 1987.

    Later Howard and Christine were married, so he became my son in law. He enjoyed telling people that ‘he’ was my son in law always with a little smile.

    Howard was good to Christine and also helped her by giving her supplements that improved her health. They were often seen walking or riding their bikes around town. In a later marriage Christine had two daughters, Destiny and Savannah, and Howard enjoyed having them around.

    Even though Howard was no longer married to my daughter, he was still a part of our family, making frequent appearances at holidays and birthdays.

    In 2005 Howard decided to give away all of the books in his vast library, they were donated to The Friends of The library book store. Some of the volunteer’s joke that they thought he bought half of the them back. He did love books.

    Through the years Howard and I remained friends, sharing books, writings, ideas and many meals. He is a kind soul and I wish him well.

    Paula Hamarr
    Former Mother in Law
    Always a Friend

    Raise your Hand for Howard
    The Sweet Home Version

    If you ever saw Howard walking downtown……raise your hand

    If you were ever a waitress that waited on Howard……raise your hand

    If you ever gave Howard a ride……raise your hand

    If you ever had a conversation with Howard lasting longer than an hour….raise your hand

    If you ever gave Howard a ride then had a conversation lasting longer than an hour….raise your hand

    If Howard ever tried to explain something to you and you pretended to understand it….raise your hand

    If you knew Howard wrote a book but you never quite understood what it was about……raise your hand

    If you knew Howard’s house number was 1836……..raise your hand

    If Howard ever showed you a card or coin trick……raise your hand

    If Howard ever got you to play hangman or other word games…raise your hand

    If Howard ever made you an Origami sugar pot……raise your hand

    If you knew Howard from the Spring Restaurant, Mollie’s Bakery, A & W, The Frontier, The Skyline, The Library, the Friends of the Library book store, the Post Office, McDonalds or any of the above….raise your hand

    If Howard ever made you feel special…..raise your hand.

  • Michael Kuhn, M. Ed, LEAP Center says:

    Hello, I am a gifted resource teacher from St. Louis, MO. I was going through a batch of older texts that were about to be thrown out, when I came across “Palindromes and Anagrams” by Howard W. Bergerson. That day was Feb. 19, 2011. I read through this wonderful book, and decided to research the author. On page 40, he mentioned a book. “Biblia Anagrammatica” that was an obscure, possibly “lost” text. I found a copy of this book, and wanted to pass the good news on, in case he’d given up the search. When I googled his name March 9, I hoped to find an email address, but sadly, I found instead his obituary. I am impressed with the creative vigor that Mr. Bergerson gave the world. I think he is someone I would have enjoyed knowing. Please give my respects to his family, and let them know that Mr. Bergerson’s words were found by a teacher on the day he passed away. I consider this a special gift, as I will use his text to help teach the next generation of gifted writers the pleasure of anagrams and palindromes.

  • Mark Saltveit says:

    I knew Howard as a fellow palindromist, and visited him in Sweet Home around 2000. He was very generous with his time and knowledge, a friendly, fascinating self-educated guy with an amazingly curious and sharp mind. I’m sad I won’t get to find out more of what he has to offer. Is anyone planning to do something with the book he was working on? It should be published as an e-book at the least.

  • richard brennis says:

    I Have been searching for years for the wherabouts of Bergerson family..iam sorry to hear of passing of Howard,he must have been a fine man,my condolences.Howards father ludvig,was a great uncle of mine.If any body has info on ludvig and his passing please let me know. Thank You.

  • Melissa Palmer Wassel says:

    I remember Howard. He was the friendly man who used walk up 18th in Sweet Home to Busy Bee Cafe to order a cheese-burger every now and then. I was 15 then, and it was my first job; I really enjoyed talking to him; he had charisma. I also remember him explaining that he wrote a book in Palindromes and tried to explain it by telling me, “you can read it from beginning to end, or from the end to the beginning and it would start and end the same way.” I am 36 now, and I plan on reading some of his works. I am so sorry to hear that he has passed…I wish I had been more intellectual then, I might have learned more from him. I can definitely say though that Howard was a Genius.

  • Stefanie says:

    I first heard of Howard from working at McDonalds in 2007. Later that year when I started working at A&W Howard and I became close. That year for Christmas I colored him pictures and he wrote me a few of his poems. Howard was a very smart, amazing man and even though I did get in trouble a few times for “talking too much to Howard” when I was supposed to be doing the daily duties, I sure did like to hear all the interesting things Howard would have on his mind that day. It has been a while since I have really spent time in Sweet Home but every time I pass through I think of Howard speed walking down main street with his cane tucked under his arm. Rest in Peace Friend. You have made so many people feel so special to have known you.

  • Jared Duddles says:

    Uncle Howard was a wonderful man. I only got to meet him for a short time, while I was in Eugene for my mother Karen Lauzon’s funeral… and I read these posts and it’s good to know he was well taken care of by friends and family…. and I definitely have to raise my hand, for in the few hours I spent talking with him, I learned a coin trick, I learned his address, and much more about him. He was a remarkable man, and will be missed. R.I.P. great uncle.

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