Charles M. “Chuck” Berg

Charles Merrell (“Chuck”) Berg, 75, died July 26, 2016 at Lawrence Memorial Hospital. A memorial celebration will be held Sunday, November 20th at 2pm, at the Cider Gallery, 810 Pennsylvania Street, Lawrence, KS 66044.

He was born to Richard Charles and Frederica Merrell Berg on July 1, 1941. Growing up, he lived in Towson, MD, Springfield, MA, and Yonkers, NY. As a teen in New York, he enjoyed working as a page at Rockefeller Center, and as a band member of the NBC Swing Kings. After studying music for a year at CUNY (Potsdam), he enlisted in the Army. Following Basic Training at Fort Leonard Wood (MO), he served three years with the Army Security Agency in Japan (1961-64).

Upon discharge he enrolled at the University of Kansas, where he met a girl – fellow student Beth Noe, from Holton, (KS) – and immediately knew he’d spend the rest of his life with her! She knew it too! They married between semesters on Kansas Day, 1966. Deepest gratitude to the Powers That Be, and every lucky star, for the fabulous fifty years Chuck and Beth got to share side by side!

After Chuck completed his studies (Journalism and Radio / TV/ Film), the couple moved to Iowa City, (IA), where Chuck completed his Ph.D. in Film Studies from the University of Iowa (1973). While there, he and Beth were blessed with one of their finest gifts ever: Nathan Charles Berg!
The family moved to NYC (1972-77) where Chuck was a faculty member at Queens College, and also hosted a jazz radio show. He became a noted jazz and arts journalist, writing for Downbeat Magazine, Jazz Times, Coda, the Lawrence Journal-World, the Topeka Capital-Journal and the Kansas City Star.
In 1977, he joined the faculty at the University of Kansas where he greatly enjoyed teaching and serving for the next 39 years, capping his career as Professor Emeritus, Department of Film and Media Studies.

He chaired the Department of Theatre and Film 2005-2007.

He served nationally in a variety of elected and editorial positions and was recognized with numerous awards. Two he especially cherished were the Mortar Board Outstanding Educator Award and the Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence.

A well-regarded jazz saxophonist and flutist, he was a Grammy-voting member of the National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences.
His career was complicated by illness, but he was able to keep teaching / playing / writing, thanks in huge part to the incomparable Dr. Matthew Stein and his dedicated team, with much-appreciated assistance from the Douglas County Visiting Nurses Association.

Chuck loved Lawrence, and K.U., and Kansas, and was pleased to volunteer and serve each in numerous and varied capacities over the decades.
He felt immense gratitude for the many joys in his life, and he said so daily. But his cup especially runneth over when it came to his two dear wonderful grandsons; and all of his beloved family, his treasured friends, colleagues and students near and far, including all of the magnificent musicians with whom he got to play through the years! He adored his pups, and felt privileged to be a member of their pack!

Chuck was deeply moved by the beauty and power of music. And the art and magic of film. He delighted in the promise and possibilities of words. Add in books, theatre, art, family jams, sports, drives to the lake, travels, John Douglas, The Merc and the garden on the deck, and Chuck was often heard to say, “Life is good!”

He was preceded in death by his parents, his sister Diana, his brothers Bob and Brian, and pack members Ralph, Charlie, Dexter and Sam I Am.
He is survived by his wife Beth, of the home; his son Nathan Charles (and wife, Yuki Watanabe); the apples-of-his-eye grandsons, Calvin-Kei Watanabe Berg and En Berg Watanabe (all of Dunedin, New Zealand); brothers Kris Berg (and wife Carolyn), Omaha, NE, Steve Berg (and wife Kerstin), Fulda, Germany; nephews Eric Berg (and wife Ronnie), Steve Berg (and wife Suzie), Jay Harris (and wife Maureen); nieces Chrissie Pebley, Bridget Berg, Lilly Berg, Sara B. Harris Manda, six cousins; and companions Zoe and Archie.

The family suggests memorials to The Chuck Berg Film Scholarship (K.U. Department of Film and Media Studies), the Oncology Department at L.M.H., or Lawrence Humane Society, which may be sent c/o Warren-McElwain Mortuary, 120 W. 13th St., Lawrence, KS 66044.

17 Condolences

  1. Cheryl Zibell on July 27, 2016 at 9:50 pm

    Dear Beth Nathan and family. Chuck was a wonderful talented warrior. We will miss him. Fly with the angels. Love Jeff and Cheryl

  2. Jeanne Klein on July 28, 2016 at 12:01 pm

    Dear Beth, I’m so saddened to hear of your loss. Chuck was such a cheerful and optimistic person, not to mention a talented jazz musician. Do let me know if you need any assistance with anything or just some company at any time.

  3. Linda Morton on July 28, 2016 at 7:53 pm

    Sincere condolences to you, Nathan and his family. We will always remember Chuck playing in the driveway. A beautiful sound for the whole neighborhood. Our thoughts are with you at this sad time.
    Linda & Jerry Morton

  4. Hank and Sue Booth on July 30, 2016 at 5:30 pm

    Hank and I were so sad to hear of Chucks passing. He was such a wonderful man so full of joy for life. I don’t think he ever met a stranger and would never forget you once he met you. He was always so kind and loving toward Arden and Arden adored him. He made Lawrence a better place to live. He will always be remembered and missed.

  5. Vonda (Sinha) Morris on July 30, 2016 at 10:26 pm

    Dear Beth, Nathan and family,
    I came to know and respect you and your family in my very first year of teaching, 1986. I admired the love of family that the three of you demonstrated and our friendship. You invited me to dinner in your home and reached out to build a relationship that lasted many years. Although we lost touch over time, I enjoyed the humorous Christmas letters and following your successes online. I am very sorry that cancer provided so many challenges for you and my thoughts and prayers are with you.

  6. Omofolabo Ajayi-Soyinka on July 31, 2016 at 2:54 am

    Dear Beth,
    Accept my heartfelt condolences. Chuck put a valiant fight, and you were with him all the way. Time has come for him to rest, and he is now at peace. You stay strong.
    Chuck always lit up the room with his bubbly cheeriness, and eternal optimism; he always had something positive to say, and if he could add a note or two on his sax, all the better. I cherish the years I have known him and worked with him.
    RIP, Chuck.

  7. Dylan Derryberry on July 31, 2016 at 2:57 am

    Chuck not only shaped my adoration or 60s film, but also the joys of summer courses. Hell, the guy brought his entire jazz band in one session to compliment our 60s soundtracks lesson. This is a heavy loss for the KU film school. I unfortunately did not know him long enough, but to those who did I offer my deepest thoughts.

  8. Richard Lariviere on July 31, 2016 at 3:15 pm

    Chuck was a man of great good humor and genuine intellectual appeal. The world is poorer for his passing. My condolences to Beth and his entire family.

  9. Sharon Proctor Bolling on August 1, 2016 at 9:42 am

    Dear Beth and family. My heartfelt sympathies for your loss. He sounds like an amazing, talented and diverse man, and the world has lost someone special. You are all in my thoughts and prayers.

  10. Patti McCormick on November 1, 2016 at 12:31 pm

    Dear Beth, Nathan and family,
    So sorry for your loss. My prayers and thoughts are with you. Chuck was such a sweet man and always forward thinking. He was so kind to Hoite and had great ideas to help the theatre and film board at KU become a leader in its field. What wonderful gifts he gave in leadership, music and friendship to the University, students and people he touched throughout his life. My best to you all. Patti

  11. Sterling Longfellow and Debra Shirar on November 2, 2016 at 9:36 am

    Professor Berg gave my marine a reason to enjoy life and fight to improve his disability caused by war. My husband also loves film and through the film and media 380 class the last 4 years we have learned to appreciate it more. Professor Berg was a lifesaver for my marine and we will never forget him. Thank you for sharing him with us. May the strength and love he gave to others and to you help comfort you at this time.

  12. Paul Davis on November 7, 2016 at 11:01 am

    Nathan and Family, I’m saddened to hear of Chuck’s passing. Not only did I know him as Nathan’s dad, but he was also one of my professors at KU. He definitely had a love for teaching and I was one of the many beneficiaries. My thoughts are with you.

  13. Viki Royer Peterson on November 18, 2016 at 1:35 pm

    Beth … My thoughts have been with Chuck and you for quite awhile. It would always amaze me that out of the blue, I could be thinking about the two of you – wondering how you guys were doing – and then the very next day, I would see you. I have long ago learned that there are just connections between people that can not be explained. You and Chuck made such an amazing couple – and the love between you was so obvious. I feel very lucky and honored to have met you both – and spent time with you. Chuck always had a smile and was always so kind hearted … even when not feeling good. That in itself is amazing. Viki –

  14. Paul Laird on November 20, 2016 at 9:02 am

    My condolences to the family of one of the sunniest people that I have ever known in academia. I knew Chuck through the Interdisciplinary Jazz Studies Group at KU, and it was always astonishing to experience the breadth of his intellect and warmth of his spirit. I remember many university gatherings where he played saxophone and how much fun he was having in doing so. He put a valiant fight throughout his illness, and the world is poorer with his loss. – Paul Laird, KU School of Music

  15. Corey M. Hoover on November 3, 2017 at 12:19 pm

    My Condolences to the family of one of the most admirable people I have known. Professor Berg was instrumental in me making if through school. I was not a theater and film major but I was fortunate to have found his American film history classes. He not only shaped my reverence for old movie, but jazz too as other here have mentioned. Chuck had a special way to work with students who have disabilities and bring out their greatness. The University of Kansas has lost one of it pillars. God

  16. Warren Chiasson on November 14, 2019 at 7:13 pm

    Dear Beth,
    I want to send my condolences on the passing of your husband Chuck Berg. I still have his card here when we both attended the IAJEconference in Toronto January 8, 2003. He made a toast saying that I was a great vibest Who up till now has been unrewarded.
    It was a huge compliment from such a knowledgeable man about music and the arts and I shall treasure this as I continue my career. God Bless you and your family

  17. Dale Newlin on October 21, 2023 at 8:05 am

    I had the pleasure of performing with Chuck with the U of Iowa Jazz Lab Band and with a small group of his locally. Unfailingly positive he was a joy to be around. Even then one could see the beginnings of a great career. “Life was Good”.

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