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Obituary: Agnes Berg, a nurse who truly cared for others

By Maija-Liisa Young -- Bee Metro Staff

Published 2:15 am PST Saturday, February 12, 2005

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Whether at home or at the hospital, Agnes Ely Berg put others first.

A longtime nurse at Sutter Medical Center, she believed in giving back to the community, said those who knew her.

"She was always thinking about everyone else," said longtime friend Jackie Cotter, who also was a nurse at Sutter. "She was much more concerned with other people's feelings than her own. She reached outside of herself to everyone. I think she touched everyone."

Mrs. Berg died Feb. 4 in her sleep of an apparent heart attack in her Land Park home, said longtime companion Kingsley Roberts. She was 77.

She had been suffering with Alzheimer's disease, her family said.

"She was one of those people who was a fine example of a human being," said daughter Jessica Dafalia. "She was a very simple person who really understood what was valuable in life."

Mrs. Berg shared those values with her children.

"She instilled in us to do our best," said son Mark Berg. "To be fair. Be honest. Integrity was important to her."

Born and raised in Palo Alto, Agnes Ely came from a long line of medical professionals. Her father and several uncles were prominent doctors.

A graduate of Palo Alto High School, she earned a degree from San Jose State College in 1948. She received her registered nurse degree from St. Luke's School of Nursing in San Francisco in the early 1950s. During that time, she had a short-lived marriage to Ken Kirk.

In 1958, she moved to Sacramento to marry her second husband, Paul Berg, who was a lawyer in the area.

Mrs. Berg began working as a surgical nurse for Sutter Memorial Hospital in the late 1960s.

The advances of medicine amazed the nurse, said daughter Lisa Berg. During dinner, "she would often share the neat things she saw," Berg said.

Mrs. Berg visited with patients before surgery, reassuring them that everything would be fine. She often brought home thank-you cards from patients for going above and beyond what was expected, Berg said.

Mrs. Berg also used her nursing skills outside the hospital.

"If there was a car accident in the area, we would stop," Berg said. "I know she performed CPR a few times at dinner parties."

Mrs. Berg retired from Sutter in the late 1980s. She then worked part time at the Plastic Surgery Center for several years before fully retiring in the 1990s.

For several years in the 1960s and 1970s, Mrs. Berg transcribed books into Braille for the Society for the Blind.

Possessing a green thumb and enjoying work in her garden, she decided to become a master gardener, and subsequently provided botanical information to Sacramento Zoo visitors.

Mrs. Berg also played banjo for a group of friends that gathered to sing folk songs. Occasionally, the group sang at nursing facilities.

After her husband died in 1981, she reconnected with her high school sweetheart Kingsley Roberts. In the spring of 1989, Roberts moved to Sacramento.

"We picked up where we left off," he said. "It was the most wonderful relationship that you could ever imagine."

Friends and family members said they'll miss Mrs. Berg's dry sense of humor and her competitive spirit when playing sports, and particularly her ability to remember birthdays and anniversaries.

"She never forgot to smell the roses and reach out to people," Dafalia said.

Agnes Ely Berg
Born: Jan. 7, 1928

Died: Feb. 4, 2005

Memorial services: 11:30 a.m. today at Sierra 2 Center, 2719 24th St., Sacramento.

Remembrances: May be made to Alzheimer's Association, 530 Bercut Drive, Suite A, Sacramento, CA 95814.