Donald Dean Bergner, age 86, entered heaven on Thursday, September 30, 2021, after a
courageous, but excruciating 16-year battle with Alzheimer’s.
Born to Ella Wilhelmine (Larsen) and Carl Louis Rudolph Bergner on July 22, 1935 as the
youngest of five children, including sister Marian (1919), brother Lee (1922), sister Lucille (1925),
and brother Charles (1933), he enjoyed the typical, simple lifestyle of a boy of that era. Amazingly,
he met the love of his life and future wife of 62 years, Joanie Hansen, when he was only 15 years old
at her 13th birthday party! They started off as friends (obviously) and then dated on and off
throughout high school where Don was a school photographer, which would lead him into an
extended career later on.
He learned the hard lesson of independence at a young age, losing his father when he was only
15 years old, and his mother at age 24. This independence and his love of photography pulled him
head first into a career at WBAY-TV2 in 1953, right out of high school and just as they began
broadcasting. He started as a photographer, but quickly transitioned to the film room, where he
managed the airing of commercials during the frequent breaks in programming. He also was
charged with prepping the film for Vince Lombardi on Monday mornings. He loved the job and was
very proficient at it, becoming known for his editing skills and impeccable timing.
In December 1953, Don joined the Navy Reserves, where he served faithfully for 21 years.
Though he was never called up for active duty, his readiness to do so and pride in the military
lasted his entire life. His “Navy Retired” cap was a nearly permanent fixture on his head wherever
he went in later years.
In 1959, he and Joanie made their love affair since childhood official by marrying and quickly
began building a family. Scott Alan was born just 10 months later in 1960, followed by Sondra Gail
in 1962, Joseph Lee in 1964 and Anthony Jay in 1966. The Bergner home of the 70’s was a wonder
era of trips up north to our trailer in the woods or grandma’s cottage on Rose Lake for fishing and
swimming, extended family get-togethers and the occasional road trip vacation in the family station
wagon. Dad was always at the helm, safely carting his family wherever the action was, occasionally
stretching his arm over the seat to try to swat out whatever fights were brewing in the back.
Early in his 32 years at WBAY-TV, Don moved into sales where he spent the rest of his time
before moving on to various other sales jobs in related media fields like radio, outdoor, and
printing. He didn’t have the passion for sales that he did for other things, but he was very good at it
and his customers adored him. He also served for decades on the board of WBAY’s credit union—
later called 1st Security Credit Union—eventually serving as the Chairman of the Board.
Throughout all his working years, Don was remarkably reliable, never missing work, never sick,
never late. He came out of retirement several times to earn some extra money by driving delivery
vehicles, but had to retire permanently when forgetfulness began to make his emerging disease
During the golden years of retirement, between the kids moving on to their own lives and the
trials of age settling in, Don and Joanie got heavily involved in the Ashwaubenon Volunteers in
Policing (VIP) program. For 20 years, they enjoying serving those that so selflessly serve us, by
volunteering in the court system, helping direct traffic at Packers games, cleaning highways, and
other services. It was a wonderful time of fun and fellowship with many friendships forged with
police and other volunteers.
And throughout his life and retirement, Don enjoyed the simple pleasure of yard work,
tinkering in his garage and at his workbench, model-making, hobby trains, grilling, etc. — all amid
the familiar hum of his favorite Glenn Miller Band music playing in the background. That music was
so beloved to him, that it really has become the soundtrack of his life for all of us. In fact, near the
end during his time in the memory unit, it was one of the things that could briefly pull him out of
the depths of the disease. With “Moonlight Serenade” playing on a cellphone, he would lean forward
to listen, softly clap his hands and say “that’s beautiful.” It seemed new and familiar to him at the
Perhaps that’s the hardest thing for us to have endured, especially mom— to have forgotten
your life and family. But we were given a gift near the end. In an unplanned, impromptu visit just
weeks before he died, dad was suddenly quite lucid and talkative, although difficult to understand
at times. At one point he said, “Joanie would like … (then something unintelligible) … she would
really appreciate that.” Although we missed what he was intending to say, the fact that he
mentioned his wife’s name verified that she was still there deep inside and beloved by him. And the
fact that one of us was prompted to go there at that particular time to catch it is evidence that God
was watching over him and desired for this comforting connection to be made.
After that visit, he declined rapidly until his final breath around 10:00 PM on the last day of
September. The staff at Reflections were wonderful to him and loved him dearly. We thank you. He
was known there for being funny, for dancing and singing (early on) and for being a bit of
prankster. That was dad, for sure.
We love you dad, we miss you terribly already, all over again, and forever while on this earth.
But there is victory in our sorrow. You are free of the torment of Alzheimer’s, of the fog of memories
lost, and the pain of your failing body. You are restored and in your eternal home. As we visited you
for the last time, we saw not you, but only where you were. You have moved on. You were not a
body that had a soul, you are a soul that occupied this temporary body. And we all imagined what it
might be like as you are reunited with your son Scott again, also restored, and greet him in one of
the goofy manners that only you could pull off.
So in that spirit, we say farewell for now, you old fart.
Those of us that continue on in his memory, in addition to his aforementioned family, are
Sondy’s children Zak and Lindsey and Zak’s partner Erin, Joe’s wife Joan and their children, Simon
and Audrey, Tony’s daughter Sophia and husband Garrett, Scott’s widow Angela and her son
Brandon. Don was preceded in death by his siblings and his son, Scott.
A private goodbye was held for immediate family on Friday, Oct. 1. Additional arrangements
will be announced at a later time through Lyndahl Funeral Home and Cremation Services. In the meantime,
we welcome all prayers and messages of encouragement for Joanie and family.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Donald D. Bergner, please visit our floral store.