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Funeral Service For George Berdes Friday

Berdes Family

George R. Berdes, 1931 – 2015

George R. Berdes, a journalist and writer, died on May 6, 2015 in Milwaukee.  George’s  love of words produced a lifetime of fulfilling work as a journalist, teacher, editor, and in international affairs in Washington, D.C. and several foreign countries. His love for his wife, children and grandchildren was his passion.

George was born in Milwaukee on February 12, 1931, the only child of Frank and Joanna (née Galubinski) Berdes.  A proud son of the south-side Polish community, he was a 1949 graduate of Don Bosco High School and a 1953 graduate of Marquette University and its College of Journalism, where he eventually served on the faculty. Early in his career, he received several awards and study grants, notably one from the Federal Republic of Germany that enabled him to write his first book, Up From Ashes:  An American Journalist Reports from Germany. He was also the author of two other books, numerous freelance articles, and several Congressional reports.

From 1965 until 1986 George held various position with the U.S. Congress and its House Foreign Affairs Committee under the leadership of the late Representative Clement J. Zablocki (4th District, Wisconsin). George retired from the political side of his life to support and participate in his wife Jane’s pursuit of advanced degrees in musicology at Oxford University.  The work resulted in scholarly publications from Oxford University Press and elsewhere. George was also Jane’s devoted caregiver in her battle with cancer until she died in 1993.

From 1995 till 2013, he was a commentator on WXPR-FM Public Radio in Rhinelander, WI, contributing weekly audio sketches on topics as diverse as language, patriotism, and parenting. More than 500 audio sketches are collected on his website, called eastofeagleriver.com for his beloved north Wisconsin woods.

George and Jane were the proud parents of four children, Celia, Beth, John and Madelyn (Carlos Golliher), and grandparents of three: Megan Willis and Renata and Simon Berdes. It was for the first of those grandchildren that George wrote his most recent book, The Girl Without a Name.

George was a man of strong faith as well as belief in the people who make up the Catholic Church. As he said in Endless Gifts, the film made to honor his eightieth birthday, “I have to make sure you understand that [the gifts I had in life] are not of my doing. They are of God, keeping his hand on my shoulder, whispering in my ear, kicking His boot up my butt when I was stubborn about certain things, and guiding me to where He wanted me to be.”

George died at home, surrounded by family and friends. He was the fortunate recipient of care from several dedicated caregivers in addition to his children.

Services will take place on Friday, May 15, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., at Max A. Sass & Sons Greenridge Chapel, 4747 S. 60th Street, Greenfield, WI 53220. Interment will take place on Saturday, May 16, at 1 p.m., at Eagle River Cemetery in Eagle River, WI.  In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be directed to the Butternut— Franklin Lakes Foundation (c/o Dolf Pfefferkorn, 15018 Lakeview Lane, Three Lakes, WI 54562) or WXPR Public Radio (28 N. Stevens St., Rhinelander, WI 54501). 

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