In 1969, June Berg and a friend cleaned out their closets and held a small garage sale in south Minneapolis. They earned $2,000 and donated the money to the American Cancer Society.
Berg and Jean Grossman had both lost friends and family members to cancer, so the next year they held another sale and got neighbors to join in. Under Berg’s direction, the sale grew into the “World’s Largest Garage Sale,” an event that ran for 40 years in vacant retail spaces and shopping malls, and raised more than $9 million for the American Cancer Society.
“She put her heart and soul into it,” said Judy Kauffman, who helped with almost all of the sales. “She was involved in every part of the operation, soliciting, finding merchandise, ticketing and when the sale was done, cleanup. She contributed a lot.”
Berg, of St. Louis Park, died May 24 of complications from emphysema while in hospice. She was 90.
A 1942 graduate of Minneapolis North High School, Berg was a stay-at-home mother until her three children reached high school age. Wanting to get into the workforce, she took a job as a bookkeeper for a company that managed apartments. Then, in 1979, she earned her real estate license at age 55 and started selling condos in Minneapolis.
Her focus shifted to homes when she joined Edina Realty’s Lake Calhoun office. Her clients ranged from young families and first-time home buyers to empty nesters looking to downsize to the late restaurateur Leeann Chin. It was not uncommon for her to be at the office until 11 p.m. finalizing a purchase agreement, said Dennis O’Connor, one of her partners at Edina Realty. That dedication, along with her charm, helped her build a long list of clients and win repeat business until she retired at 80, he said.
“Her heart was in it,” O’Connor said. “Working with June was fun, and she was honest. People were relying on her to take care of their transactions. If the place was bad, even if the client loved the home, she had integrity and marched them right out the door.”
Berg was a co-founder of the original Ronald McDonald House on Oak Street near the University of Minnesota, which provides a home away from home for families with children in need of long-term medical care. She also was an original member of the local chapter of Hadassah, an international organization for Jewish woman. The chapter started the Cooks for Kids program, which provided home-cooked meals for those staying at the shelter. Berg was active with the program from the Ronald McDonald House’s opening in 1979 until her health began to decline in recent years, said Donna Moores, the home’s current director of major gifts and corporate relationships.
“She was a dedicated volunteer,” Moores said. “Always gregarious, she was an ambassador and was always talking up the Ronald McDonald House and getting people involved.”
Berg was active in her children’s schools. In the 1950s she was president of the Fern Hill Elementary School PTA and the first woman to hold such a post in the St. Louis Park School District, said her daughter, Susie Feldman, of Minnetonka. Berg was also on the board that oversaw the St. Louis Park High School dance team, the Parkettes.
“She was really involved with that,” Feldman said. “She was the kind of person who never was a member. She was always the president, on the board or the founder.”
Preceded in death by her husband of 59 years, Arthur “Bob” Berg, June Berg is survived by her daughters, Feldman and Laurie Berg Pasch, of Fox Point, Wis.; a son, Rick Berg, of Eden Prairie, six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Services have been held.