Friday, December 21, 2007

Strathmere mourns the loss of Elizabeth Bergus


From The Press of Atlantic City -

Strathmere 'mayor' dies at 80
Elizabeth Bergus remembered fondly for activism, philanthropy
By MICHAEL MILLER Staff Writer, 609-463-6712 (Published: December 21, 2007)

UPPER TOWNSHIP - Elizabeth Bergus was the wife of a diplomat who raised a family in the Middle East and Europe through war, famine and peace.
In retirement - if you could call it that - she settled in Upper Township's barrier island, Strathmere, where she still volunteered with the local fire company and rescue squad.
Bergus died Tuesday. She was 80.
"I hope people in Strathmere understand what they've lost," Deputy Mayor Curtis Corson Jr. said. "She spent her whole life putting other people first."
Bergus grew up in Philadelphia and graduated from nursing school. She and her late husband, Donald, raised three children. As ambassador he served in some of the most dangerous places in the world, including Lebanon and Sudan. Where he went, she and her children followed, even when it took the family into international hot spots, such as Egypt after the Six Day War in 1967.
She and her family spent many years there.
"My father served in Cairo for two stints. Cairo was her love, really, of all the postings she had," her daughter Priscilla said. "She fell in love with the Middle East and the people of the Middle East."
After retirement, the couple moved full time to her father's historic home in Strathmere. They joined the local fire company and rescue squad. Bergus was an active member of both.
Residents who attended Upper Township Committee meetings knew better than to sit in the second pew aisle seat. That spot was reserved for Bergus, near enough to the elected officials so she could pipe up with a quip or a gentle reproach if they omitted something she thought was important.
She warned neighbors about imminent coastal storms and reported any property damage directly to township employees. Bergus was the mayor of this barrier island in everything but title.
"Everyone in this community contributes and wears at least six different hats," Bergus said in a 1996 interview. "Strathmere is a self-help community. The people band together and help each other always."
"She had this front. You thought, 'Boy, she's tough,'" Sea Isle Ambulance Corps Chief Dan Fay recalled. "Over the years she had to be when she was in the Middle East during all those years."
Bergus taught first aid and cardio-pulmonary resuscitation to most squad members, Fay said. She never hesitated in an emergency.
"If there was a call to Strathmere, you'd hear, '904 responding.' That was her call number. She would always be there," Fay said.
Bergus was a member this year of the township's Zoning Board. Though she occasionally took township officials to task, none dared patronize her with an insincere platitude.
"She was quick to praise you and quick to tell you when you messed up," Corson said. "You always knew where you stood with her."
The committee passed a resolution celebrating her 80th birthday in April.
"She was probably the most straight-shooting, fair and reasonable person," Mayor Richard Palombo said. "She always did the right thing. That's what I admire most about her."
Township Clerk Wanda Gaglione said Bergus was a generous philanthropist in town, helping local families in need. Some children will have a brighter Christmas next week because of her generosity.
"She kept the pulse," Township Committeewoman Barbara Camp said. "She kept us advised about what the public sentiments were. She was a fine lady. She's going to be missed."
The Township Committee will honor Bergus at its Jan. 4 meeting, Palombo said. Godfrey Funeral Home is handling memorial services, which have not yet been scheduled.

To e-mail Michael Miller at The Press:


No comments: