Bertha Jean Berger, long-time Champaign resident, passed away at age 99 on Saturday, February 1, 2020 at the Willowbrook Memory Care facility in Savoy.
Born February 20,1920 in Springfield, Illinois, Bertha Jean was the daughter of Dr. Theron James Kinnear and Jessie Fox Kinnear. She spent most of her first eighteen years in Springfield, Illinois before leaving for Christian College in Columbia, Missouri.
She finished her education at the University of Illinois with a degree in Home Economics and later completed a masters degree in Early Childhood Education. For a time during World War II, she worked as a chemist for Abbott Laboratories and Eli Lilly. After the war, she met and married Thomas Edward Berger, a local architect. Together, they started a family, designed and built a beautiful mid-century modern home and enjoyed 28 years in a solid, happy marriage. The two took trips overseas to Switzerland and Scotland, in addition to annual family vacations in Michigan. After Tom’s death in 1976, Bertha Jean continued to enjoy many travel adventures, with journeys that took her to much of Western Europe, New Zealand, the Middle East, and parts of China and Africa.
Throughout her life, Bertha Jean was active in many civic and social groups. She served in leadership positions in the First Presbyterian Church, Illinois Children’s Home and Aid and the Champaign Service League, which later became the Junior League of Champaign-Urbana. She treasured the friends she made through Pi Beta Phi and was active in its local alumnae club as well as the Art Club, PEO, her sewing group, a rotating book club and several bridge groups. A loyal Illini fan, she had season tickets for football and basketball games for many years, and enjoyed numerous concerts at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. Summers found her at her beloved cottage in Epworth Heights, just north of Ludington, Michigan.
Bertha Jean was preceded in death by her parents, her husband and her only sister Charlotte Swengel. She will be sorely missed by her three children, Carolyn Parsons (Flossmoor, IL), Jim Berger (Champaign, IL), and Susan Mathis (Highlands Ranch, CO), as well as her four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
A memorial service to celebrate her life will be held at 11:00 a.m. at the First Presbyterian Church, 302 W. Church, Champaign on Thursday, February 20, 2020, a date which would have been her 100th birthday. A light reception will follow the service, where friends may greet the family.
Memorial donations may be sent to support the First Presbyterian Church of Champaign (302 West Church St., Champaign, IL 61820), the Epworth Church Association (1161 N. Lakeshore Drive; Ludington, MI 49431), or the Fred E. and Thomas E. Berger Memorial Scholarship at the University of Illinois (University of Illinois Foundation; 1305 W. Green St. MC-386; Urbana, IL 61801)
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First Presbyterian Church of Champaign
302 W. Church St., Champaign IL 61820
Epworth Church Association
1161 N. Lakeshore Drive, Ludington MI 49431
Fred E & Thomas E Berger Memorial Scholarship at University of Illinois
U of I Foundation 1305 W. Green St. MC 386, Urbana IL 61801