Dr. Bernard William Berger, age 85, of East Hampton, died peacefully on May 7 at home, surrounded by his loving family and friends after being diagnosed in 2018 with amyloidosis, a disease that can cause failure of organs such as the heart and kidneys. Though treatment can help slow the disease’s progress, it is an incurable illness.
Berger was born on September 10, 1936 in Chicago to George Berger and Marion Hamburg. Marion, a Polish immigrant, relocated in 1944 with her son to Los Angeles, where she started a successful embroidery business to support herself and her only child.
Berger attended military school and later graduated from Fairfax High School in Los Angeles in 1953. He received his BA from Whittier College in 1958 and then his medical degree from the California College of Medicine at UC Irvine (now University of California, Irvine) in 1963.
After completing his first residency at the Hospital of the Good Samaritan in Los Angeles, Berger worked as an ER doctor at the Los Angeles Receiving Hospital until he was ordered to active duty to support the U.S. Army in Vietnam in July of 1966.
During the war, Berger served as a captain in the 616th Medical Company, where he earned a Bronze Star Medal for Outstanding Meritorious Achievement. He also served at Fort Monmouth’s Patterson Army Hospital and then later in the United States Coast Guard as a merchant marine staff officer and the ship’s surgeon.
After his military discharge in 1968, Berger moved to New York City and completed his three-year dermatology residency at Mount Sinai Hospital. During this time, he met the love of his life, Phyllis McArthur and they were married January 2, 1970. The couple moved in 1970 to Southampton, where they opened his dermatology practice and started a family.
Berger went back to military service in 1975 to serve the U.S. Air Force until 1979. He was deployed to Japan where he was chief of Hospital Services at the Yokota Airbase Hospital. In 1980 he was selected as a military consultant to the surgeon general.
He continued to serve his country for many more years in the Army Reserve and retired from his military career at the rank of colonel. During his military service he was granted several awards including the AF Longevity Service Award, the Vietnam Service Award, the National Defense Service Medal, the AF Outstanding Unit Award, the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the action Ribbon and the aforementioned Bronze Star.
In 1979, Berger returned to his dermatology practice in Southampton along with his wife Phyllis and three children Hilary, Louis and Emi. After nearly 50 years, Berger reluctantly retired from his dermatology practice in 2019.
He was a passionate athlete who competed in triathlons and running events late into his 70s. He loved to play tennis, run and was still rowing his scull on Georgica Pond last summer. He most loved to spend time at home with his family.
Berger is survived by his wife of 52 years, Phyllis Berger of East Hampton. He is also survived by his children: Emi Berger, Louis Berger and Hilary Berger-Taraba, and his grandchildren Clara Berger, Greyson Rose Taraba, Peter Chase Taraba and Matteo Taraba. The funeral service was held on May 20.
In lieu of gifts, the family is requesting that donations be made in Berger’s name to the following organizations: Southampton Hospital Foundation (240 Meeting House Lane, Southampton, NY 11968), Friends of Georgica Pond Foundation Inc. (PO Box 1393, Wainscott, NY 11975), Amyloidosis Foundation (amyloidosis.org).