Home Notable Ithacan-Americans Richie Berg, takes leaves with his Vaudevillian humor and great love of family and tiny town

Richie Berg, takes leaves with his Vaudevillian humor and great love of family and tiny town

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Editor's note: From the obituary posted in the Ithaca Journal with some edits. Photo provided.



Richard Berg - known to almost everyone as Richie - died on December 24, 2015, at his lovely home in Ithaca, N.Y. He was 61. A loving partner and devoted father first and foremost, Richie was likewise a successful local entrepreneur, activist, and enthusiastic participant in the local community. He will long remain a treasured friend of many.
Richie grew up on Long Island, NY. He attributed his commitment to family as well as his generosity and entrepreneurial spirit to his father, Sol. He credited his mother, Miriam, for his sense of humor and appreciation of the arts.
Richie landed in Ithaca when he attended Ithaca College in 1973. He became involved in the anti-nuclear movement and went on to become a core leader of Ecology Action and the Community Self-Reliance Center, which promoted sustainability long before it became fashionable. He was a tireless and skilled political strategist and loyal member of the County Democratic Committee, helping many others to run for office (usually successfully); he was elected to Common Council in 1989.
He also served on the Board of Public Works and the GreenStar Co-op Council. But his first job was as a teen-aged member of Fuller Brush sales tteam. He went on to work as a bagel baker, bookseller, bus driver, cook at Cabbagetown Café, and promoter of artists including Arlo Guthrie, Bruce Cockburn and Leo Kottke.
In 1982, Richie and Alex Skutt opened Ithaca’s first video store, Video Ithaca, a successful business model for anyone breaking into the field.
Most recently, he served as a mentor and teacher with the Ithaca City School District. The two most significant events in Richie’s life were meeting Lori Yelensky in 1980, and the birth of their daughter, Hanalei, 18 years later – the two loves of his life. Lori was his devoted partner with whom he shared the adventure of parenting, gardening, gourmet cooking, as well as  traveling. Richie was a proud father who boasted with joyful pride in Hanalei’s academic achievements, creative talents, and a precocious wisdom. Richie knew he had hit the jackpot with Lori and Hanalei–he recently quoted Lou Gehrig who said: “You have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth.”
Friends and family recall Richie’s unbridled sense of fun and adventure, his passion for Bruce Springsteen, and his flair for hosting lavish, community events. His recovery from a near-fatal bicycle accident in 2005 and subsequent return to rigorous biking inspired everyone who knew him.
Richie is survived by his parents, Sol and Miriam Berg, his sister Diane, his brother David, his wife, daughter, and his three cats: Skye, Riley, and Sammy, as well as many dear nieces, nephews, and extended family. He was predeceased by his sister Linda. Richie will be remembered for his big heart, his relentless sense of humor and “his little nameless unremembered acts of kindness and love.” (Wordsworth) He has left this earth better than he found it, and has gifted the planet with a life of true love. There will be a private funeral and burial at Lakeview Cemetery and a public memorial service at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial donations to the Friendship Donations Network http://friendshipdonations.org/donate/ or the Finger Lakes Land Trust http://fllt.org/donate/.

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 December 2015 01:04  

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