Joe Bergman of Pincher Creek, Alberta, passed away after lengthy illness on the 25th of May, 2021 at the age of 77 years. Born July 21, 1943 in Maywood, Illinois, on the territories of Kiikaapoi, Peoria, Kaskaskia, Bodéwadmiakiwen, Myaamia, Očhéthi, and Šakówiŋhe people, he graduated from Regina High School in Iowa City, and obtained a BSc from the State University of Iowa in 1965. Joe continued on to complete a Master of Arts in Chemistry at University of Missouri, and his PhD at University of Saskatchewan in 1971. He met his beloved wife, Anita, in 1966. Shortly after their marriage in 1968, Joe and Anita were both accepted into graduate programs in Canada, and made the decision to emigrate, gaining their Canadian citizenship in 1974.
Joe was a dedicated boy scout and marksman in his youth, and wilderness canoeing in Canadian Shield country became a lifelong passion for Joe. Early trips found Joe and Anita getting to know the territory of the Anishinabewaki and Michif Piyii (Métis) people (Boundary Waters of Quetico Provincial Park), sometimes including Anita’s younger brothers in their adventures. They would later remark how formative these experiences had been, as they later were for Joe’s children. Following a postdoctoral position at St. Francis Xavier University concluding in 1974, Joe and Anita spent a summer with their young daughter living in Cree Territory in the remote wilds of northern Saskatchewan beyond the reach of all roads. Camped at Deep Bay on Reindeer Lake, they were quickly discovered by a Cree family concerned for their well-being. Joe was, however, unsuccessful in bagging a moose, but remained grateful to the rifle owners, whom they occasionally visited with on future trips. Astronomy was another of Joe’s keen interests. He spent many evenings of a few cold, Saskatchewan winters in his basement, hand grinding a nearly 2’ diameter precision lens for his custom telescope. Summer nights were often spent stargazing with his children, sharing with them some wonders of this universe.
Settling in Niitsítpiis-stahkoii and Očhéthi Šakówiŋ territory in the community of Balgonie, Saskatchewan, Joe was employed as the chief chemist for water quality and testing at the Provincial Laboratory in Regina, Saskatchewan for 17 years. In 1982, they moved to a small acreage outside of Lumsden, Saskatchewan, where they expanded their already massive garden to over an acre, growing abundant food, with plenty given to family and friends along the way. In 1994, Joe took a new job as the head chemist at the Regina-Moose Jaw Buffalo Pound Water treatment plant until his retirement in 2004. He greatly enjoyed the daily commute over the grid roads of the Saskatchewan prairies, having numerous adventures along the way.
Joe and Anita continued to make annual explorations of the lakes and rivers of northern Saskatchewan, centering on the intricate waterways of the Missinipe (Churchill) River. When Noah and Carey left home, Joe and Anita continued their annual paddling expedition, with a favorite camp they repeatedly returned to on Davin Lake, Saskatchewan. Joe’s later years were spent with Anita at his home west of Beaver Mines, Alberta, nestled against the dramatic backdrop of Table Mountain in Niitsítpiis-stahkoii, Ktunaxa, and Tsuu T'ina territory. He sometimes fretted about the grizzly bears, cougars and wolves that patrolled outside the home at night, but he never tired of the wilderness that surrounded him to the end. Joe is survived by his beloved wife, Anita, his daughter, Carey (partner Caroline), and son, Noah, as well as his constellation of nephews and nieces, Cathy, Mary, Matthew, Paul, and Tom, and their families. Joe was predeceased by his parents, Elmer and Hilda Bergman, and sister, Lila. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, a memorial service will be held at a later date. For those who wish, memorial donations may be made to Napi Friendship Association (Pincher Creek, Alberta), Quetico Foundation (Toronto, Ontario), or Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition (Pincher Creek, Alberta).
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