Amherst Magazine

Amherst College In Memory Notice

Al Bergner


After his graduation from Amherst cum laude in 1963, Alfred P. Bergner graduated from Harvard Law School in 1966 and received a master’s degree in taxation from New York University Law School in 1967. He then clerked on the United States Tax Court for Chief Judge William Brennen, following which he was in the private practice of law in Washington, DC. It was in Washington that he met his wife, Jane, also a tax lawyer, to whom he was married for thirty-four years before dying of a brain tumor on September 24, 2002, three weeks before his sixtieth birthday and seventeen months after diagnosis of his disease. He was the father of two children, Lauren ‘95 and Justin (Yale ‘98). He was active in fundraising for Amherst and was a past president of the Washington, DC, chapter of the American Friends of the Hebrew University, where he endowed a perpetual scholarship. He was a kind and gentle person with a wry sense of humor, high intellect, and outstanding judgment.

 

 

Al and Jane
Lauren Bergner’s remarks: “My dad was pretty easygoing. We would always run together when I came into town. He started running very frequently and definitely had a lot of stamina. He was first brought into the hospital when he had a seizure when running with me, and that’s when they diagnosed his brain tumor. I remember how frightened I was, and he was still his same self. His biggest concern was whether I had parked in an illegal space and whether I had put enough money in the meter.”

 

Justin Bergner’s remarks:  “My dad lived a wonderful life that was spectacular for its simplicity. His hobbies were simple; he liked to read the newspaper, watch ‘Seinfield’ and go running. He liked things to break around the house so that he could obsess over how to fix them. I cannot think of many things that made my dad happier than a good bargain. It never made sense to me why he pinched pennies, but in the end, it was very endearing and led to many a good laugh.

 

“As smart and athletic as my dad was, he was always looking for his kids to overtake him. My dad prided himself on being in good shape, and by God he was. And he’d do sit-ups every day into his fifties.

 

 

Al Fishing
“The period of his illness was really his finest. Like all people who are in good shape and stricken with cancer, he wondered why he, and not someone else, had to go through this. But he attacked the disease with surprising vigor and grace. After his first brain surgery at NYUHospital, he was quickly on his feet again. He walked around the hospital with such enthusiasm that one would have thought that there was an award for just such a thing, and he was competing for it. After the radiation took away his hair on one side, he took to wearing hats that his family had given him. He ventured out with hats of all sorts, to all sorts of events, both casual and formal.

 

“As I look back on my father’s life, I realize that he died a very content man. He was really able to simplify life to its core elements: he focused on being a good spouse and son; having a successful career; and treating other people kindly. And he succeeded in all three areas. He learned to find joy in the everyday responsibilities in life, such as cooking, home improvement, and personal financial management. In a day and age when many people make life more complicated than it needs to be, my dad lived a simple life and ended up very happy. In doing so, he didn’t transform the world, but he made it a much better place for those around him.”