Oct. 8, 1947 – June 5, 2017
Don Berns was a Hoosier, born in Indianapolis, to the late Martha (Tufts) and Philip Berns. He was athletic and adventuresome from his boyhood on, from cracking a bullwhip and snapping popsicle sticks from his younger sister’s mouth, to starring as a Little League pitcher, to playing every season’s sports until he focused on tennis in high school and college, followed by golf the rest of his life. He always admired large birds and wanted to fly, and even took some flying lessons, went hang gliding and sky dived once and was planning to go again this summer.
In July 1963, Don was introduced to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through the ministry of Young Life. Don’s commitment to God in Christ shaped and formed who he was and how he lived for the rest of his life.
Don was a Duke Blue Devil, graduating from Duke University’s School of Engineering as a Mechanical Engineer, and played varsity tennis all four years. He also was on the European circuit one summer with his Duke Netter pals during his Duke years.
Following graduation, Don used his engineering degree, working with Exxon and his family’s highway construction business, Berns Construction Co., for five years. He always said that the problem-solving skills gained from engineering were excellent preparation for life.
When he sensed God calling him to fulltime Christian ministry, he knew that nothing is wasted in God’s economy, and became a transplant to California, graduating from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena. For 12 exciting and fruitful years, Don impacted thousands of teens in youth ministry and directed the intern program, which trained nearly 100 future reverends at La Cañada Presbyterian Church. When Parkinson’s disease made a transition necessary, he switched his focus to ministry in the marketplace (the emphasis of his Doctor of Ministry dissertation) and pastoral care.
Though he was diagnosed with PD at 33, he fought, researched and attacked PD as a challenge and a problem to be solved. To the end of his life, he never gave up learning, hoping and praying for a cure, while inspiring and encouraging many others who battle PD and other chronic and neurological diseases globally.
Don was married to the love of his life, the Rev. Karen Womer Berns for 46 years, 36 of which PD was a part of their relationship. They are the parents of son, Jason, and daughter, Joy Dunn. Don is survived by his beloved and loving family — Karen Berns, Jason Berns and Joy Dunn; their spouses, Laura Berns, and Matt Dunn; and five grandchildren, Kylie, Justin, Dominic, Charlotte and Alexandra, all of whom he cherished. He also treasured his three younger sisters, Kathy Albrektson, Sally John and Peggy Mindrebo, their husbands, Ray Albrektson, Mark John and Norm Mindrebo, and their families.
After fighting the good fight, keeping and sharing the faith, Don passed through the doorway of death peacefully into eternal life on June 5. Don leaves a legacy of Love, Faith, Joy and Perseverance for all those who knew him.
Memorial gifts in Don’s name may be made to:
Young Life Pasadena Area
2275 Huntington Drive, #173,
Pasadena, CA 91108-2640
The Michael J. Fox Foundation
P.O. Box 5014, Hagerstown,
Tribute to Don: michaeljfox.org/tribute/tribute-page.php?id=20295