Memorable Manitobans: Martin Bergen (1927-2017)
Born at Schoenhorst, Ukraine on 24 July 1927, son of Martin Bergen and Sara Abrams, his father died when he was young and his mother married widower Peter Braun. In October 1943, the family fled advancing Soviet troops but he was conscripted into the Germany army at the age of 15, serving as a medic. He surrendered to American forces in 1945 and spent three years in a French POW camp near Bordeaux. He returned to Germany in 1948 and regained contact with his family, who had moved to Canada in the meantime. He was reunited with them in Winnipeg in 1953. He married and founded Viceroy Painting and Decorating with his wife Ruth Spletzer (1921-2001). In 1962, he partnered with Jake Letkeman to establish the Marlborough Development Corporation that built 38 multi-unit residential buildings between 1962 and 1988, including Fort Garry Place in downtown Winnipeg. He also established the Edison Rental Agency (now Edison Properties) with his wife. Active in national, provincial, and municipal elections as a member of the Progressive Conservative Party, he also served on the boards of several charitable organizations. He constructed a building for the Movement Centre of Manitoba, named the Ruth Bergen Memorial Centre in memory of his late wife, and donated the Bergen Cardiac Care Centre to the St. Boniface Hospital. In 1989, he was inducted into the Manitoba Order of the Buffalo Hunt in recognition of his “significant contribution to cultural education in Manitoba.” He received the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002. He died at Winnipeg on 7 March 2017 and was buried in the Glen Eden Memorial Garden.
Obituary [Ruth Spletzer Bergen], Winnipeg Free Press, 9 June 2001.
Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 13 March 2017.
“Developer, philanthropist came to Canada with nothing,” Winnipeg Free Press, 14 March 2017, page B6.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 14 March 2017
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