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Bergersons leaving many shoes in Pine River

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Take a little bus driver, a dash of scout master, one teaching degree, a pinch of mischief and a handful of random jobs. Mix them together and that’s how you get Steve Bergerson.

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Bergerson is different things to different people. He has an interest in many different hobbies, some of them seemingly unconnected.

“I have lots of interests. I love learning new stuff. If I could live 17 lifetimes I wouldn’t be able to get it all done. I still want to become an expert helicopter pilot. I want to be a surgeon. I want to be in the military. There’s just a ton of things. I’d like to learn to weld underwater. I’ve never done that,” Bergerson said.

Bergerson said it’s because he doesn’t like to be bored, but if you look at those things that seem to take up most of his time — his pastorship at Blind Lake Tabernacle, his teaching at Pine River-Backus (PR-B) and his first response training classes — Bergerson’s jobs and hobbies have some commonalities. Many of them involve teaching. All of them are about helping people.

“Everything I do is to help other people. Teaching, I help the kids. Refrigeration business, I help someone who is losing $5,000 worth of food in their freezer in a commercial building. I help someone who had their heat go out in the winter. Obviously the rescue diving and first response is all about serving other people. Scouting, it’s all about giving to others and helping the boys learn that. I think there’s that common thread that goes through there. It’s all about serving others. There’s a lot of needs,” Bergerson said.

Bergerson’s parents were both teachers. He was raised in Virginia, Minnesota, with one sister and one brother.

“I graduated from school there. I haven’t grown up yet, but I was raised there,” Bergerson said.

Bergerson’s interest in almost everything began early. He was addicted to reading anything, including instruction manuals. His leisure reading of electrical code earned him the knowledge to wire his family’s Crane Lake cabin and pass inspection at the age of 12. A similar curiosity earned him his first paying high school job creating a computer program to tabulate the results of a survey done by the Mesabi Daily News.

Bergerson’s computer savvy earned him an unfortunate visit from the FBI (again, while in high school) and also a tech job with Apple Computers during his first attempt at college.

By the time Bergerson met his wife, Dawn, he was managing three McDonald’s locations in the Iron Range. She and her family would come into his McDonald’s on Sundays.

“I knew when Sunday was done it would be another six days before I saw this girl again,” Bergerson said.

Bergerson got her attention by hiding onions (which she hated) in her ice cream cone one day.

“Pretty quick she came walking back in with Irish fire in her eyes, but also smiling. I got to see her one more time that day and that’s when I learned her name,” Bergerson said.

During this time, Bergerson said his life was a mess. He was unhappy and lonely until attempting to add the Bible to his leisure reading. He started from the beginning, but didn’t get very far. Bergerson still prayed that night to give his life over to God.

Bergerson said the next day he felt like a new person. He wasn’t lonely and felt healthy. He shed his bad habits and chose a church. Coincidentally, he found that Dawn also attended the church he chose. They married three years later.

From this point, Bergerson’s life gets complicated. He bought a refrigeration company and quit McDonald’s. Before leaving Hibbing, Bergerson’s “Genesis Refrigeration” had six trucks. Bergerson changed gears and became a full-time pastor in Menahga in 1995. Life would again shift gears when his family began to expand when they adopted two children and delivered another.

“We’d been married eight years and in the space of 10 months we went from zero to three kids. A couple years later we had another baby, so then I had four kids, and the ministry was really hard on time,” Bergerson said. “So, you’re pretty much on call 24-7, and looking at my children, I thought, ‘When my oldest son graduates, I will have had him for less than half his life.’”

Bergerson went back to college to become a teacher so he could spend time with them after school. He piled on the credits and graduated early. In 2006, he became a teacher at PR-B Schools. He said he has never had the same teaching assignment for two years. He has taught math at multiple levels, algebra and even first responder classes. He loves teaching.

“Not just at school. When I teach cops or firefighters. When I teach contractors how to troubleshoot wiring diagrams. When I’m teaching people at church. Teaching is the thing. The greatest thing in the world,” Bergerson said.

In his time in the Pine River area, Bergerson said he has given more than 700 certifications and re-certifications in CPR and first aid, has led many church services, recovered cars that have fallen through ice and rescued choking babies on first response calls. He has a lot of stories to tell.

It would be impossible to tell the story of all of Bergerson’s various “hats” in Pine River and the surrounding community. Soon, many of those hats will need new owners. Bergerson and his wife are leaving the school district at the end of this school year and are moving on to teaching positions in Hibbing.

One thing is for certain: The Bergersons leave behind not one, but many pairs of big shoes to fill.

Travis Grimler can be reached at travis.grimler@pineandlakes.com. Follow him at facebook.com/PEJTravis and on Twitter @PEJ_Travis.

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