Senior Sara Bakke signs a poster for the Carlson family. Seniors gathered in the senior parking lot on August 4 to make chalk drawings and sign cards for the Bergs and the Carlsons. Photo by Emma Melling.

A tribute to Ruth and John

Remembering two beloved members of the Minnehaha community

August 2, 2017 was a day on which Minnehaha lost two beautiful members of its community: Ruth Berg and John Carlson.

A graduate of Minnehaha, Carlson worked as a custodian at his alma mater for 13 years and was known for his love of students, the historical and memory filled building he worked in and the joy that a simple Dilly bar can bring.

Berg was beloved by co-workers and was known to students as a friendly face with a caring smile who loved all those around her.

John was 82 years old. Ruth was 47 years old. Their lives ended too soon, and the community was deeply blessed and changed by their presence for many years.

John Ferm Carlson

John Carlson runs along the parkway during the 2004 Homecoming Redhawk Run. Carlson was known for his love of students and for passing out Dilly Bars.

Born in 1935 to Swedish immigrants, Carlson was a man that cared about others and knew the value of education.

His connection with Minnehaha first began at the age of three, when he and his parents attended Bethlehem Covenant Church services in the 1922 north campus building.

Later on, Carlson attended Minnehaha for high school, beginning as a freshman and graduating in 1953. After graduation, Carlson attended college for one year, voluntarily served in the army for two years, then returned home to continue schooling at the University of Minnesota.

He met his wife Barbara at Walter’s Drug Store and they were married in 1960. In the years to follow, Carlson and his wife would have three daughters and a son.

The family moved a few times as Carlson’s jobs shifted, but always stayed close to the Twin Cities. In 1973, Carlson began his career as a bus driver which he worked at for 32 years, getting to know the people that rode his bus and working hard.

The Carlson’s four children attended Minnehaha. In 1983, both Carlson and his wife Barbara took jobs as custodians for Bethlehem Covenant Church where they worked for eight years, which eventually led to Carlson returning to Minnehaha to work as a custodian in 2003. He was loved by students and faculty alike, who were fond of his quirky sense of humor, genuine personality and work ethic.

In his memoirs from 2015, Carlson wrote, “I love my work at Minnehaha. I hope they will let me work there until I am 85…I enjoy the kids and love and respect the teachers. I know how hard they work at their jobs. I try and pass on a little of my Minnehaha ‘history’ whenever possible. And when 4:30 arrives these kids are hungry so they get a Dilly bar.”

Carlson’s loss is one that is felt deeply by the Minnehaha community alongside his family members and loved ones. On August 3rd, the day after the explosion, seniors gathered on the soccer field to see the destruction of the explosion up close and mourn the loss of both Carlson and Berg.

After a few moments of silent tears and whispered conversations, a woman walked out onto the field. Beth Morgan, one of Carlson’s daughters, wanted to tell the students gathered about her dad and how much Minnehaha and the students meant to him. Her parting challenge to students was a reminder of Carlson’s kind and caring presence.

“Love each other, love the Lord, and never take another moment for granted.”

Ruth “Dee Dee” Berg

Ruth Berg smiles for a staff portrait. Berg was known for her beautiful smile and her kind personality.

Born in 1970 and known to those close to her as “Dee Dee,” Berg was a constant example of love and kindness.

She loved spending time with friends and family, including her fiance Mark Burrington. They were set to be married in October. However, Ruth was tragically killed on August 2.

On August 15, 2017, family, friends and members of the Minnehaha community gathered in the south campus chapel to mourn her loss and honor her memory.

During the ceremony, one of Ruth’s friends and colleagues, Nancy Ann Yaegar, read 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8. Yaegar believed that this passage was a good way to describe the way that Berg lived her life.

After reading the passage all the way through, Yaegar read it for a second time, replacing the word “love” with “Ruth.”

“Ruth is patient, Ruth is kind,” said Yaegar. “Ruth does not envy, Ruth does not boast, Ruth is not proud. She does not dishonor others, she is not self-seeking, she is not easily angered, she keeps no record of wrongs. Ruth does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Ruth always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

In Yaegar’s eyes, this passage was a perfect way to describe the impact that her friend had on others and the way she lived her life.

In the program at the service, “Ruth’s Life List” was printed, which was a list of all the things that Berg hoped to focus on or accomplish in her life.

Now, the list serves as a reminder of Berg’s caring personality and what she truly valued in life. Berg will forever be remembered for her kindness, care for others and beautiful smile.


About Emma Melling

Emma is a senior staff writer and editor-in-chief of the Talon. She is passionate about journalism, writing, literature, and French. Emma plans to attend Bethel University in the fall and double major in English and Journalism. She enjoys writing features on arts and human interest topics and loves listening to people's stories. Her hobbies include reading, hiking and spending time with family.

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