Ruth Berg brought quirkiness and smiles everywhere she went, including to her job as a receptionist at Minnehaha Academy, said many of the 300 friends, family members and co-workers who turned out Sunday at a public memorial to honor her.
Berg, 47, whose nickname was “Dee Dee,” was one of two school employees killed in a natural gas explosion at the private Christian school Aug. 2. A memorial for custodian John Carlson, 82, who also died in the blast, was last Sunday.
Berg’s memorial was held at the school, an appropriate venue because Berg often talked about how much she relished her job of 17 years, said brother Joe Fricano.
“I had no idea this many people would show up,” Fricano said. “I’m blown away.”
The service included Bible readings, songs and words of reflection from Dan Bergstrom, the school’s former chaplain.
“We hurt today, and we have many more questions than answers,” Bergstrom said. “I believe Ruth and John [Carlson] have seen a greater light than any of us as the bottom fell out from under them.”
The microphone was open at the service so people could share memories of Berg.
Sherrie Winkler, Berg’s biological sister who connected with her birth family later in life, said the day she found out she had a sister — Berg — was the “happiest day of my life.”
Polar opposites, the sisters sometimes argued but were brought together by their sense of humor, Winkler said.
Fiancé Mark Burrington, who was set to marry Berg on Oct. 13, recalled that the pair met as students in the same third-grade class, though he never spoke to her that year.
The two reconnected about four years ago and knew right away they were meant to be, Burrington said, though they were dating other people.
“I’ll be completely lost without Ruth,” Burrington said. “She just really loved me for who I was — even my cat.”
Ashley Mullen, who graduated from the school this spring, was one of many students at the memorial. She remembered Berg’s constant cheerfulness, as did other students.
“It’s helpful that we’re all able to come together,” Mullen said of the school community. “It shows how strong we all are.”
A private memorial for Berg’s family and close friends is scheduled for Saturday.
Bryan Duffey, a custodian and soccer coach injured in the blast, remains hospitalized with serious injuries at Hennepin County Medical Center, a hospital spokeswoman said last week.