A Letter from Dennis Cathcart to his friend Wally Berg

This letter was read at the Memorial Service for Wally Berg held March 30, 2000, at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Sarasota, Florida.

Wally Berg and Dennis Cathcart
Wally and Dennis returning home from one of their many bromeliad collecting trips

As a member of the bromeliad community, Wally's 'second family,' I want to express the great sense of loss that we feel at Wally's passing.   Within this group of his peers, Wally was a superstar.   His achievements were many but the enduring memories are of Wally's humanity.  His love for bromeliads, for adventure, for his friends and the strangers he met on his many expeditions were and will remain an inspiration to all those who share Wally's love of the bromeliad hobby. 

Wally Berg exemplified all that was good and decent, hardworking and honest, caring and generous, thankful and reverent.  His actions spoke louder than his words and he left everything better than he found it.  Wally colored our world with the beauty of his bromeliads, enlightened us with his knowledge and spread good will and friendship wherever he went. 

I knew Wally as a frequent traveling companion to some of the wildest places in Central and South America, and saw many aspects of Wally's personality.  I was constantly inspired by Wally's energy, by his enthusiasm and by his respect for nature and people alike.  Wally took great pleasure in giving to the less fortunate in remote villages, passing out clothing, toys and food, often with tears of sympathy and love in his eyes.  He loved the beauty of the earth and frequently expressed his feeling of nearness to God when in a beautiful wild place. 

Once while on a trip to Ecuador, we were exploring a remote desert valley.  The parched earth supported few shrubby trees and some sun baked bromeliads, and we wondered what one might find if he were to climb to the top of the surrounding hills.  We decided to find out and started our way up the steep slope.  Loose rocks underfoot and thorny vegetation made climbing difficult, and the relentless sun sapped our strength.  As we climbed higher, I asked Wally if he was okay to go on, after all, there was likely nothing different at the top.  Wally wanted to press on, and with his seemingly boundless energy, made the trip seem easy.  Reaching the top after more than an hour's climb, we stepped out of the thorny thicket into a landscape transformed.  Massive boulders were covered with a carpet of glistening white Tillandsia tectorum, interrupted by cherry-red rosettes of Puya lanata.  Everywhere between the boulders were clusters of Tillandsias, cacti, orchids and succulent plants of all kinds.  A cool breeze was blowing and the view across the valley was magnificent.  We stood in silence for a while, basking in the breathtaking beauty, when finally Wally said "And to think, some people don't believe in God!" That was Wally, revered by many as a master grower, but humble before the works of his maker. 

Wally will be terribly missed by all who knew him and by many who knew of him.  His contributions to the bromeliad world are immeasurable and his loss will be felt for years to come.  Many count among their most cherished memories their time spent with Wally.  His legacy will live on and his memory will remain alive in our hearts forever. 

Farewell my dearest friend. 
Dennis Cathcart


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