Obituary: Peter Bergh
Peter C. Bergh of Edwards, Colorado, formerly of Charlotte, Vermont, died on June 3. He was born in New York City in 1938, the son of Henry Bergh and Frances Glasgow Bergh. He was the great-grandson of the ship builder Christian Bergh and the great nephew of the animal-rights activist and ASPCA founder Henry Bergh. Peter grew up in Oyster Bay, Long Island, listening to the sound of Grumman Aircraft doing test flights overhead, swimming, fishing, and exploring the woods. As a teen, he got his pilot’s license and worked as a lifeguard. He graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in Forestry and the Harvard School of Design with a Masters in Landscape Architecture.
As a good friend of his wrote, “Peter used his considerable talents to do his best to make things better.” He was very involved in the communities where he lived, serving on the Planning Commission, School Board and Select Board in Charlotte, Vermont, and on the board of the Baird Center for Children and Families. Among the projects he worked on were Camel’s Hump State Park, Red Rocks Park and campus planning for the University of Vermont. He was an owner in the Sports and Fitness Edge and proud of his impact on the health of adults and children in the Burlington area. In Colorado, he served on the Berry Creek Metro Board, advocated for thoughtful land-use planning including public access to trails and playing fields, and inspired the planting of hundreds of trees.
Peter’s relationship with art is a significant piece of his legacy. He greatly admired the work of the painter Ogden Pleissner with whom he became close friends and in 1984 he wrote the definitive book on Pleissner’s work. Spending time in Peter’s home was like visiting a gallery. It was brimming with paintings, sculptures, decoys, rugs, furniture, and Inuit carvings of hunters, otters, polar bears and other critters. His fireplace was flanked by two totems, his walls lined with collected works by Pleissner, Benson, Wengenroth, Kent and others. Masks, etchings and lithographs lined his stairways. His collection was truly an extension of his personality.
His many other passions included flying, baking, skiing, hiking, fishing, windsurfing, and malamutes. His ideal day might involve hopping in his seaplane, a friend by his side, landing in a remote spot on the ocean or a lake, catching, cleaning and cooking a fish, and enjoying the solitude. Peter loved to engage in dialogue, whether in person, or via mail or email. He was intelligent, funny, grouchy, visionary, skilled, and opinionated, known for penning wise and often critical letters to the editor of the Burlington Free Press and Vail Daily. While he often seemed to have boundless energy, he suffered from serious bouts of depression. He said he moved to Colorado for the sunshine, choosing to try to help himself rather than seek assistance. Self-sufficiency was one of his core values.
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Peter is survived by his son Graham Bergh of Hood River, Oregon, his daughter Allison Bergh of Wilson, Wyoming, his grandson Tabor Bergh of Portland, Oregon, and his brother William Bergh and his wife Linda Staniar of Pennington, New Jersey. Peter took great pride in his children’s endeavors and instilled in them a healthy sense of curiosity and adventure, a love of nature and the outdoors, a commitment to making the world a better place, and an entrepreneurial spirit. His children remember their childhood in the home he designed, “Mud Hollow,” as filled with art, crafts, vinyl records, books, explorations, possibilities and many, many pets, including ferrets, geese, a pig, an injured great horn owl, two orphaned raccoons, guinea pigs, and numerous well-loved dogs.
Peter did not wish to have a memorial service. His children plan to have a private service together. They encourage those who knew him to gather in small groups at safe distances to howl, yodel, recite poetry, fly planes, tell stories or whatever else moves them to remember him. Gifts in Peter’s name are welcome at the Charlotte Land Trust, Western Colorado Community Foundation, or the Climate Accountability Institute.