Obituary: Joe Bergen

Joe Bergen
Joe Bergen

Joe Bergen, 61, of La Cañada Flintridge, passed away surrounded by family and friends at his home on March 6 after a long and courageous battle with cancer. He is survived by his daughters Amelia and Megan Bergen, his sisters Annmarie Bergen Donahoe and Mary Bergen Harrison, and his former wife, Ann Penners Bergen.
Joe was born in 1957 in the Bronx, New York, to Joseph Bergen and Eileen O’Sullivan Bergen. His father, a New York City firefighter, moved the family to Pearl River, New York, when Joe was a small child. Joe’s childhood was filled with all the fun and adventure that a child surrounded by extended family and growing up in the ’60s could experience.
After graduating from the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s in communications, Joe found himself working in Manhattan as a film editor in the fast-paced world of commercials and music videos. Interested more in the storytelling aspect of editing, Joe longed to work in television. In 1988, he made his way west to Hollywood. There, Joe had a long and varied career editing documentaries (including winning an Emmy Award B for the “Great War” series and editing “The Battle for Eastern Airlines”), scripted comedies such as “Blossom” and “Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office” and reality television shows such as “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Big Fish Texas” and “Tattoo Titans.” Joe also directed and produced several episodes of “Blossom” and “Drake and Josh.”
Joe loved to travel. Some of his favorite places he went were New Orleans, especially during Jazz Festival, and Czechoslovakia, which he experienced right after the Cold War ended. On his way out to California, Joe also did a multistate road trip crossing the United States in a used Honda Accord that barely made the trip.
The highlight of Joe’s life, however, was the birth of his twin daughters. Before their birth, Joe suffered a torn rotator cuff. Concerned that he wouldn’t be able to hold one of his infants in his arms, he underwent surgery to repair his shoulder. Joe was born to be a father. Once his children arrived, he did everything possible to demonstrate his love for them. This included multiple Disneyland trips, moving to La Cañada Flintridge so his children could attend good schools and holding various volunteer positions involved with their education. He made a point to skip “pilot season,” as he liked to call it, to spend summers home with the girls. Joe taught his kids to ride bikes by bringing them and their bikes to the school baseball diamond so if (when) they fell, they wouldn’t hurt themselves too badly and become too scared to keep trying. He loved to ski with Megan and Amelia after teaching them when they were 6, and took his family skiing whenever possible. When his girls were 10, the three of them, mostly Joe, built a treehouse in two tall redwood pines in their backyard. During his daughters’ high school years, he encouraged them to do what made them happy, and was a fierce supporter of their interests, goals and growth.
Joe loved baseball and often told his daughters (or anyone who would listen to him) that many answers to life’s problems could be solved by reference to baseball. While he loved his native New York Yankees, he also grew to be a fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers, holding Dodgers season tickets for almost 30 years.
La Cañada Flintridge became Joe’s adopted home for several years. Taylor’s Steakhouse, Doña Maria and Friday night happy hour at Dish Restaurant were all favorite haunts of his.
Joe was first diagnosed with Stage IV cancer in July 2015 and told he would be lucky to make it to Christmas 2015. Well, Joe, being stubborn (and Irish), defied those odds. He pushed all the way through to March 2019. In doing so, he made it to one of his most significant milestones when he saw his daughters graduate from La Cañada High School in 2017.
A celebration of Joe’s life will be held at 11 a.m. on Thursday, March 21, at La Cañada Presbyterian Church, with a reception immediately following.

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