David C. Berglund, D.V.M. was an adventurer, visionary, and hero who lived life to the fullest in Anguilla for many years. When I lived on the island in the mid-1980s, he and his wife Charlotte lived about 500 yards from me at the end of the narrow road that connected the Forest to Corito. The road actually dead-ended on their property, which consisted of their home, a small veterinary clinic, a swimming pool, two rental properties, and a couple of Quonset huts.
Dave — affectionately known on the island as “Dr. Bublum” — was a visionary and pioneering spirit in the truest sense of the words. For the more than three decades I knew him, he always displayed a willingness to endure hardship in order to explore new places, or try out new things.
The Quonset huts, for example, were made of fiberglass instead of the galvanized metal typically found on such structures. In this way they served as greenhouses where David and Charlotte grew tomatoes and lettuces hydroponically. They started building the greenhouses in 1979, long before Anguilla “hit the radar screen” for tourism. Their vision, nevertheless, led to the successful start-up of the first commercial hydroponic farm in the Caribbean, and their lettuces and tomatoes were served in salads throughout the region.
Before moving to Anguilla to live full-time in the late-1970s, David owned and operated Hillchester Animal Hospital in Hillside, Illinois, which he founded in 1955. He displayed a willingness to endure hardship when he fell in love with Anguilla, eventually sold his clinic to a partner, moved to Anguilla, and started a veterinary practice on a pauper island that was home to many animals in need of care, and few people who could afford to pay for it.
His love of the movies fueled his desire to help build and open Anguilla’s first movie theater in the late-1960s. While building it, he fell off a ladder and broke his right hip and arm and was sent to a hospital in Antigua, where surgery was unsuccessful; he was then moved to a hospital in Jamaica where his fractures were repaired.
During his rehabilitation in Jamaica he developed jaundice. When he was diagnosed with liver cancer, he removed himself from the hospital, flew back to Chicago, and was treated for a gall bladder obstruction; the cancer was a misdiagnosis. That’s when he met Charlotte, a nurse. After his broken body was healed, Dave returned to work at Hillchester in order to pay his hospital bills, but only for six months a year. The other six months were spent in Anguilla. That’s pioneering spirit.
A quick Google search for “pioneer clip art” reveals many pictures of covered wagons, the principal form of transport in pre-industrial America. Dave’s principal form of transport to Anguilla for many years was a small, single-engine Piper Cherokee airplane. In addition to being a veterinarian, he was an avid scuba diver who also carried a pilot’s license.
His want to explore new places, try out new things, scuba dive, and help needy animals, led him to risk great hardships to get to Anguilla. He did it for the first time around 1965, and many dozens of times after that. In fact, he actually ended up flying M-16’s and an anti-tank gun into Anguilla in 1967 in support of the island’s revolution.
Around 1987, he introduced plastic wood to Anguilla; another pioneering effort. The faux wood was made from recycled milk containers and looked almost exactly like white-painted wood. It was perfect for Anguilla’s environment because it would essentially never need to be painted or replaced. Unfortunately, his pioneering spirit brought it to Anguilla about twenty years too soon. Today, plastic wood in the form of building and decking materials is used commonly throughout the world. Dave was way ahead of the times; that’s visionary.
The great, pioneering spirit passed away on December 26, 2013 at the age of 88. To say that Dave lived life to the fullest would be an understatement, if only it were possible to squeeze more into it. His memory and contributions live on in the lives of the many people he touched, including myself. In fact, few people have played a more important role in the direction of my life, than Dave Berglund has.
Just two days ago, one of the most amazing coincidences in my life happened while my wife and I were attending an event sponsored by the Morris Animal Foundation, a nonprofit organization that invests in science to advance animal health. Our three-year old Golden Retriever Truman is one of 3,000 golden retrievers taking part in a lifetime study whose aim is to establish risk factors for canine cancer and other major health problems that not only affect golden retrievers, but all dogs.
At the event, one of the Morris folks gave a quick introduction to how the foundation was founded by a veterinarian named Mark Morris. “Dr. Morris,” she said, “developed the recipe for a pet food called Science Diet. He founded the foundation with money made from the creation of that product line.”
As we drove home after the event, my wife and I both recalled David Berglund telling us he did the same thing. In 1985, in fact, one of our cats became ill in Anguilla, and Dave gave us a recipe for a food that helped save our cat from kidney failure. How could this be: two people taking credit for the same thing?
I called Charlotte yesterday morning to share what happened. Before I could finish she said, “When David graduated from veterinary school, he went to work for Mark Morris. That’s what he did, he helped developed the recipes for Science Diet.”
If you’ve read any of my other blog posts, you already know that David’s pioneering spirit lives on in our lives in many ways. Now, we discover it lives on in our shared love of animals, and particularly in our hero dog Truman, who’s three. At the Morris event, others were sharing what “number” their dog was assigned in the study. One woman’s golden was #313; another couple’s dog was #317. Because we didn’t recall what Truman’s assigned number was, on yesterday afternoon my wife looked at his records. Truman is #1226, which just happens to be the day Dave died (December 26th).
I don’t know if this an example of the red string of fate, the legendary east-Asian thread that connects people who are destined to develop great friendships, or not, but it sure does feel like it.
Thanks for your vision and pioneering spirit Dave; and, thanks for impacting our lives in so many meaningful and important ways.
Ditto to the Morris Animal Foundation. Keep up the great work!
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