400 say farewell to ‘Bus’ Bergman
More than 400 people paid final respects Thursday to Walter “Bus” Bergman as he lay in an open casket under the U.S. Marine Corps symbol on the stage of Robinson Theater at Mesa State College.
“Bus was a winner,” Bergman’s assistant coach, Dan MacKendrick, said as he ticked off a list of Bergman’s accomplishments as an athlete and coach, both at Fort Lewis College in Durango and at Mesa Junior College, now Mesa State College.
Bergman died March 28. He was 89.
Although the athletic fields at the college bear his name and several baseball players served as ushers, his legacy was a deeper one, family members and friends said.
One of his grandsons, Brett Bergman, read from the citation for Bergman’s Bronze Star with a V for valor for his actions on Sugarloaf Hill on Okinawa in World War II.
Then a first lieutenant, Bergman was with the units that took Sugarloaf Hill, then repulsed an enemy attack.
Bergman, with “cool courage,” exposed himself to enemy fire to establish paths to deliver fresh ammunition to his troops, the citation said.
It was only recently that Bergman discussed what happened on Sugarloaf Hill, Brett said. That was why his grandmother, Elinor, dubbed him the “silent giant,” he said.
Bus and his wife, Elinor, raised three children who married and produced six grandchildren, prompting another of the grandchildren, Tyler Artist, to comment, “It’s awesome that he’s the grandfather of such a great branch of life.”
The site of the theater sits almost exactly where Bergman’s office once was during his coaching days, said his son, also Walter, making the funeral all the more appropriate.
His elder daughter, Judy Black, remembered that Bergman still liked to tell his wife, “You are still the prettiest girl in the world.”
Bergman had a long list of civic accomplishments, including serving as chairman of the Easter Seals drive, the board of the Boy Scouts, working with the Dolphins swim club, attaining lifetime membership in Lions International and being a lifetime member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.
“He left our community a better place to live,” said Tillie Bishop, once an assistant coach for Bergman, longtime Mesa State College administrator and now a University of Colorado regent.
Bergman’s accomplishments on the field and outside the home mirrored his private life, said his daughter Jane Norton, a former Colorado lieutenant governor.
“The character he displayed in the community was the same at home, if not more so,” Norton said.
Officiant Jim Witt, director of senior adult ministries at First Baptist Church, met frequently with Bergman during his hospice time and gave him a thumbs-up, which was frequently returned in kind.
The last time, though, Bergman gave him a thumbs-up and then threw out his arms in the classic baseball umpire’s “Safe!” call, Witt said.
“He is safe, and we continue,” Witt said.
Burial was in the Veterans Cemetery of Western Colorado.