Ninety Years and Counting: An Abundant Life Examined with Ken Berge (2016)

Printing and Book Design: John Bennett, Editing: Marjorie Toensing

Ken Berge’s memoir includes stories of and reflections on his formative years growing up on a northern Minnesota farm; his coming-of-age experiences serving in the Navy during World War II; meeting and marrying Aline; their times in the small mining town of Ray, Arizona; his medical education and training; raising their children; and caring for patients and additional pursuits at Mayo Clinic. It displays Ken’s wry sense of humor and his humble gratitude for the many good people in his life.


The decade of the thirties was one that left a deep and enduring mark on all who experienced it. Most of the wealthy learned to cope with loss, and only a relative few dived out of the windows on Wall Street. Most would just start over. Those who had not known affluence learned to know poverty and not let it overwhelm them. Our government, under the leadership of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, established programs that would be called a “safety net” in the present political terminology. The Depression was followed, if not ended, by gearing up for World War II.

            On a personal level, those years taught me some lessons that have remained as part of my being. I became wary of trusting that the future would always be bigger and better. I was fearful of the adage “buy now, pay later” but rather aimed to save for a rainy day. And if there was nothing to be saved, one should try to stay out of debt. A job is a blessing to be nurtured and cared for in such a way as to help preserve one’s future employment. Life could be most meaningful without all of the trappings commonly seen as evidence of success. People are basically kind and good and helpful to one another when times are really tough. Good citizenship is an obligation, not an option, if a democratic society is to succeed, and it depends on the individual. Despite much social unrest, American patriotism survived and helped change the world in the next decade.