Farm Horizons, November 2009
Lawrence Berg was a ‘Mr. Fix-it’
By Starrla Cray
“He was a Mr. Fix-it,” Debbie Martinson said of her father, Lawrence Berg of Dassel, who passed away in May. “There weren’t many tractors he couldn’t figure out.”
Berg, who lived to be 88 years old, was a part-time farmer who devoted much of his time to repairing tractors, working at several shops in the area.
“All the farmers respected him,” rural Dassel resident Sharel Lee said.
Just before he retired, Berg worked at Farm-Rite Equipment in Dassel. Lee, who was the owner, remembers Berg as a hard-working employee who rarely complained.
“You couldn’t upset Lawrence,” Lee said. “I don’t know what you’d have to do to upset him.”
For instance, Lee remembered a time when someone stole from Berg’s woodpile.
In the early 1980s, the Farm-Rite building was located next to Berg’s house.
“One day I noticed a car backed up to his woodpile,” Lee said. “Lawrence was such a nice guy, I thought he must have sold some or donated it.”
When Lee asked him about it, Berg said he hadn’t given it to anyone.
“Someone just helped themselves,” Lee said. Berg didn’t become angry, though, Lee said, and instead, kept a positive attitude.
In another memory, Lee recalled Berg working in the shop without the exhaust system on.
“It was getting so thick in there I could hardly see him,” said Lee, who went out to check on Berg.
Instead of complaining, Lee said Berg responded with, “oh, it’s not too bad.”
“Anybody else, their eyes would be burning, and they’d be complaining,” Lee said. “Nothing bothered him. He was such a laid-back person.”
Another one of Berg’s bosses, Jerry Terning, also had good things to say about Berg.
“Very dependable, trustworthy, faithful a good man,” said Terning, who had been the owner of Mid-State in Cokato. Terning said he knew Berg long before he began working for him at Mid-State.
“Lawrence was well-known,” Terning said. Berg’s high quality mechanic work and his many years in the area contributed to his recognition.
Berg, who was born in Cokato, lived in the Dassel-Cokato area most of his life.
The only time he lived outside of Minnesota was when he got married. His wife, Eva, wasn’t yet 18, so the couple went to San Diego to have their wedding. They then lived there for two years, working on airplanes.
Berg’s mechanical work also gave him travel experience. In January 1972, the company he worked for (Mid-State), won a trip to Martinique, an island in the eastern Caribbean Sea. Berg and his wife went with Jerry and Gladys Terning on the trip. In November 1979, while he was working with Howard Page, he won another trip, this time to Hawaii.
Martinson said she remembers her dad working at many shops, some of which are no longer in existence. He had one shop behind the Arrow gas station, which is now the site of Gary’s grocery store, and also had a place where Latte Da is now located. Berg worked at International Corporation and at Nelson Brothers, and also at a shop in Howard Lake.
“As a kid, I can remember driving with him to pick up parts and go to jobs,” Martinson said.
“He was a good employee, a good mechanic,” Lee said. “I don’t think he ever missed a day.”
“You could always rely on him to get the job done,” Terning said.
“Lawrence was really a stable, steady-Eddie,” Lee added.
Even when Berg retired in the mid-1980s, he still helped farmers with their equipment.
“He never really did retire, really,” Martinson said. “People would call him up and he’d ride with them to help them figure it out.”
Berg also stayed active in the community, making chicken for Red Rooster Days in Dassel.
“He would help out when he could,” Martinson said.
Berg also enjoyed keeping a garden, giving away most of his produce.
“He was still a farmer at heart,” Martinson said. “He gardened like crazy.”
“He was always busy,” she added. “He was just a hard worker.”