At first glance, Usher Berger doesn’t look like someone who celebrated 91 birthdays. When he climbs onto his bicycle and starts to pedal around his south Regina condo complex, you’re reminded age is only a number, and he’s living proof.
When he starts to describe his life growing up on the family farm near Oungre, SK during the “Dirty 30s,” you realize Usher has, in fact, been around almost as long as Saskatchewan has been a province. It is safe to assume that growing up during the Great Depression certainly helped form Usher’s outlook on community and philanthropy later in life.
My father died when I was just five years old,” Usher says. “It was tough on my mother. It was tough on all of us. Everyone who lived around us went on Relief (the program that led to the modern welfare system) to get by. We were no different. Those who were in a position to help others did so. That’s just the way we were raised.
Another major influence was his late wife Sylvia, in whose memory he makes his annual donation to Hospitals of Regina Foundation. They met at a wedding in Edmonton, took a couple of turns on the dance floor, and the rest was history. They married in 1961, and Sylvia followed Usher back to Saskatchewan to begin their life on the family farm.
A few years later, they moved - with their four-year-old daughter Karen - to Regina in order to take advantage of specialized education for their young son Philip, who was born with an intellectual disability. In the meantime, Sylvia found work as a speech pathologist, while Usher kept the farm going.
We started donating to the hospitals, among other causes, as a way of giving back to the health-care system our family benefitted from,” he explains. “We increased our donation to $5,000 over ten years ago and equaled that amount every year after that.
When Sylvia passed away in 2011, Usher continued to support the Foundation. In 2017, he increased his gift dramatically, by donating shares valued at close to $25,000 in Sylvia’s memory.
The Foundation’s President and CEO Dino Sophocleous appreciates Usher’s generous support:
The people of Usher Berger’s generation literally built this province. We are honoured and grateful that so many of them are choosing to continue that legacy by supporting Regina’s hospitals now and into the future.
When asked why other people should follow his lead in investing in quality local health care, Usher’s answer reflects his common sense approach to most things.
We’re all going to need some hospital care at one time or another, especially as we get older. If you don’t, someone you care about will. So, you might as well do what you can to make sure the best quality of care is there when you need it.