Solon has lost a true Comet. William Joseph “Bill” Bergen III was known as the city’s greatest fan who was always quick with a smile, a joke or an offer to share his signature cup of coffee, said Mayor Edward H. Kraus.
Mr. Bergen died at his Arthur Road home surrounded by family and friends on Sept. 24. He was 83.
Mr. Bergen lived in Solon for 51 years, making his daily rounds to coffee shops and eateries, all the while lighting up the hearts of community residents.
Whether it was his daily stops at Dunkin’ Donuts, Panera Bread, Jim’s Open Kitchen, Mitchell’s Ice Cream or Carl’s Barber shop, everyone was his friend and his family, daughter Ann Bergen said.
“There were no strangers to my dad,” she said, “just friends he hadn’t met yet.”
“He always knew how to make you laugh by sharing a joke or a story,” Police Chief Christopher P. Viland said. “More importantly, behind the scenes, he worked very hard for charitable organizations like the Solon 100 Club, supporting our safety forces.”
Their father was not one to want recognition for such involvements, sons Ned and William said.
“He was low key and didn’t want anyone to know,” Ned, of Solon, said.
“It didn’t matter if you worked at the dry cleaner or you were the mayor, he was just always fully present,” Ms. Bergen said.
“We are definitely going to miss him,” Jimmy Nocente, owner of Carl’s Barber Shop on Aurora Road, said. “He would come in every single day, and for over 40 years, drink coffee here and read the paper.
“It was great,” Mr. Nocente said. “You don’t see that too often anymore.”
There is even a giant cut out of Mr. Bergen’s image in the shop, complete with his signature flannel shirt, khaki pants and coffee in hand.
“He had a great camaraderie with the customers,” Mr. Nocente continued. “He just loved doing it.”
He would stop at the shop about 9 in the morning each day and stay about an hour.
“It’s definitely weird not seeing him now,” Mr. Nocente said. “We heard the same joke a million times, but the customers hadn’t. That was all part of the camaraderie.”
The Bergens had the perfect front yard to play baseball in that it was shaped like a diamond, Ned recalled.
“We had the greatest childhood,” Ned said. “Dad didn’t have to see us until the street light went on.
“Our yard was one corner of Edgemoor to the other,” he added. “There were no boundaries.”
Mr. Bergen crafted bases out front creatively, with a manhole cover serving as first base, a landscape timber as second and an electrical box as third.
“Home plate was a dirt spot,” Ned said, “and dad never fixed the dirt spot because that was home plate.”
The backyard of the Bergen home was a sledding hill for the neighborhood with Mr. Bergen installing a halogen lamp so kids could sled into the night.
He enjoyed always watching kids play at his home, Ms. Bergen said, as well as watching those who would dive at the Arthur Road pool. While coming home from hospice during the final days of his life, his children drove him by the pool they went to as youngsters in the day when it was the only public pool in the city.
Mr. Bergen was also known to attend every sporting event of his grandchildren, Sean, Ryan, Katie and Kyle — and sit in the same spot — the top bleacher.
“He loved Solon sports,” Ned said, “and never missed a game.”
Coach E. David Peleg said Mr. Bergen was a great man and a great fan of Solon.
“Whenever I saw him he would always have a smile on his face and share his thoughts about a variety of issues,” Mr. Peleg said. “He loved the community and the people.”
Mr. Bergen was also a champion of the Solon Fire Department, Chief William J. Shaw recalled.
“He would frequently check in with me and ask if the department needs anything,” he said. “He was always willing to advocate for our needs if there ever were any.
“I will miss his support and friendship.”
Among the life lessons he taught his children was the expression that actions speak louder than words and to not be a victim.
“There was no feeling sorry for yourself,” Ms. Bergen, a resident of Saybrook, said. “Dad would say you are responsible for your days and your destiny.”
Every day little moments were always big moments with her father, she continued, “whether you got a new pair of shoes or graduated law school.
“He didn’t care what you did, whatever you are, he would say ‘be a good one,’” Ms. Bergen said. “He didn’t care what any of us did for a living or where we ultimately wanted to live or go to school. He was so happy we were doing well and happy.
“It’s not as though he didn’t have his own challenges, but the fact that no one knew them is the testament to my dad,” Ms. Bergen said.
A native of Cleveland, Mr. Bergen grew up in Shaker Heights and had a home based printing business. He moved to Solon in 1967.
“His definition of family is all Solon,” his son William of Philadelphia said.
To that end, the family is welcoming the community following this Saturday’s funeral at noon at St. Rita’s Catholic Church to a “Celebration of Life” event at the Rusty Bucket from 4-7 p.m.
In honor of their regular customer, Jim’s Open Kitchen did a “Free Coffee on Bill” last week and Carl’s also did “Free Shaves on Bill” as well.
“He was one the most delightful, nicest people I have ever met in the community,” Mayor Kraus said. “And he gave so much.
“Bill was about the little things,” the mayor added, “bringing coffee to city hall or bringing candy. He was always about making people feel good, usually with food, but also with a very warm and caring smile.”