A legacy etched in Lyle: Woodworker’s pieces were treasured items at cancer auction

Published 10:28 am Thursday, July 3, 2014

Charles Berg, shown here in his shop, was well known for his woodworking creations, which were sold for many years at the Lyle Area Cancer Auction. Berg passed away June 26. Photo provided

Charles Berg, shown here in his shop, was well known for his woodworking creations, which were sold for many years at the Lyle Area Cancer Auction. Berg passed away June 26. Photo provided

Charles “Chuck” Berg held several different jobs over his lifetime, but most in Lyle will remember him for his woodworking.

Berg, who passed away June 26, donated several of his woodworking creations to the Lyle Area Cancer Auction, and his pieces became popular treasures at the auction. He was 86.

“His craftsmanship was a benchmark of our success as LAC grew,” said Gary Ziegler, an LAC board member and a close friend of Berg’s. “His woodworking pieces became a symbol of our fight against cancer.”

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‘He was an icon’

Berg got involved in the Lyle Area Cancer Auction in 1980, which raises money for cancer research at The Hormel Institute, the Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota.

“Everybody that lives in Lyle eventually gets involved in that auction,” Patty Stevens, one of Berg’s daughters, said.

From 1996 until 2010, Berg made 17 model vehicles, from cars to tractors and semi-trucks. He also made 14 different wall plaques that were mostly animal themed and some were patriotic. Stevens said there were more pieces before 1996, but they hadn’t started keeping track before then.

“That was his way of donating, he would make those wood pieces to donate,” Stevens said.

For about 30 years, Berg donated an item, if not two or three, to the auction each year.

“He was an icon not only for LAC but for the city of Lyle,” Ziegler said.

Charles “Chuck” Berg, 1928-2014

Charles “Chuck” Berg, 1928-2014

Ziegler said Berg’s pieces always sold well. He recalled one semi-trailer and excavator that sold for $4,250 in 2004, which was one of the highest selling items.

A lot of money was invested in Berg’s creations over the years, and his items would many times top the yearly sales. Ziegler and his wife own two pieces, replicas of the Liberty Bell and the Statue of Liberty.

“Anybody that owns a piece of what he made is going to look on it very proudly now that he’s passed,” Ziegler said.

Although Berg never attended the auctions, he would challenge himself every year to create something more difficult and meaningful.

Those close to him said Berg had a quiet nature and never wanted notoriety. It took many years for Lyle Area Cancer volunteers to convince Berg to give an interview, and he also had to be convinced be grand marshal in the Lyle parade.

One of Berg’s creations, a statue of an American Bald Eagle made after Sept. 11, 2001, became a traveling trophy for 12 years, as it was bought and re-donated each year. The eagle sold for the last time this January to one of Berg’s daughters. After doubling her bid, and with approval from the crowd, she bought the patriotic eagle for her son who was serving in the Air Force.

“There wasn’t a dry eye at the auction when [she] bought that eagle this last January,” Ziegler said.

A lifetime hobby

Berg was born on March 10, 1928, and lived in Lyle all his life, until moving to Sacred Heart Care Center in Austin in November of 2013.

His woodworking dates to his working as a carpenter with his father when he was young.

“His dad was a carpenter, and he worked with his dad so he always had an interest in wood,” Stevens said. “He just had a great mind and brain for that too, and patience.”

He started by making his own fishing poles and equipment and went on to make many things for his children and others. He also fixed old furniture.

While Berg did not make carpentry his career, it was a lifetime hobby. He started working with the city of Lyle in 1963, holding two jobs as both a police officer and maintenance worker. He left the police force shortly after a heart attack in 1975, deciding to have only one job instead of two, and retired in 1993.

His daughters said he considered himself a peace officer rather than a policeman. Berg also volunteered as the assistant fire chief on the Lyle Volunteer Fire Department, and was a member of Queen of Peace Catholic Church.

His daughters recalled how good he was at repurposing things, such as an old kitchen table that he made into five smaller tables. They recalled a Native American statue they called Chief Charley that always stood at their home. Berg’s daughter, Barb Crabb, inherited the last creation her father ever made in 2010; an angel on a bench for her mother.

When Berg was younger, he enjoyed taking on bigger projects, but in his later years, smaller projects were easier for him to handle.

Going through his woodshop, Stevens and her siblings found many unfinished projects that Berg was working on, but never able to finish due to his failing health. She remembered her father taking on many projects to help people, regardless of what he was doing or if he was busy.

“[When] someone would ask for help, he’d put down what he was doing to help them,” Stevens said. “He’d always know how to fix something and always had the right … tool to fix it.”

However, Berg always refused to accept pay for his woodworking.

“It was his way of showing he loved you,” Stevens said.