We Remember

BERGER, Donald

May 7, 1932 — August 18, 2023

“If one truly loves nature one finds beauty everywhere…”
Vincent Van Gogh

We treasure the long and full life of Canadian artist Don Berger, who passed August 18, 2023, at age 91. A devoted partner, father, grandfather, and prolific artist, he embraced every opportunity and challenge in his life with exuberant energy and creative spirit. Don is survived by his loving partner Ethel Valiant, her children Mike (grandchildren Jude and Chase), and Christine (Keith); Don’s first wife Sherry; son Stewart, daughters Carole (Iain) and Holly (Anthony, granddaughter Siena); nephews Bill, Rich Jr. (his daughters Kelley, Claire) and Paul; nieces Karen (Dan, daughter Mollie) and Debbie. He is predeceased by his father Elmer, mother Martha, brother Rich, and sister Carole.

Don Berger was born in 1932 to Elmer Berger and Martha (Rupprecht) in Chicago, Illinois. His artistic German family inspired a lifelong love for music and art. He achieved his BFA at the Art Institute of Chicago, and the artists he studied under there included his uncle Edgar Rupprecht, aunt Isobel MacKinnon, Boris Anisfeld, Paul Wieghardt, and Leroy Niemann. After a two-year service in the US Army, during which he excelled in the signal corps, he attained his discharge and completed his teacher’s certificate. He would then teach arts and crafts in the Glencoe, Illinois school system for nine years. Simultaneously, he was marketing prints of pen and ink studies of Chicago scenes in downtown galleries and exhibiting paintings at the Deerpath Gallery in Lake Forest.

In 1958 Don married Sherry Stewart, and their family life in Lake Forest, Illinois grew with the arrival of son Stewart and daughters Carole and Holly. Purchasing a Civil War-era farm, the Bergers began decades of owning dairy goats, winning championships at regional state fairs. Their love of nature and canoeing drew them to wilderness canoe trips in Ontario, Canada, and they would ultimately move to a 160-acre ranch in the British Columbia interior in 1968. There Don painted landscapes of the Cariboo & Chilcotin, exhibiting them at the Fraser Gallery in Vancouver, BC; the Waterwheel Gallery in Estes Park, Colorado; R. Ricketts Gallery in Dallas, Texas; and the Horizons West Gallery in Vancouver, BC. Continuing a varied life as an artist, farmer, and builder in the Cariboo, Don then managed an orchard in Kamloops from 1976-1981 and contributed his rich baritone voice to numerous choral productions with the Kamloops Symphony Orchestra from 1978-1980. Don pursued a meaningful spiritual life and enjoyed interactions with colleagues from around the world.

Don resided in Kelowna, BC with his devoted second partner Ethel from 1983, and stepson Michael and stepdaughter Christine. Visitors enjoyed their beautiful gardens and home improvements due to Don’s carpentry skills and their shared talents in gardening. Proceeding from Don’s love of gardening and photography, in the 1990s he embarked on his signature “Openings” floral art series.  Don wrote:

“My artistic process begins outside the studio, in the garden itself, where for 25 years I have planted and nurtured a large variety of annuals and perennials. When blooms mature, I seek out that dynamic confluence of sunlight and shadow on translucent petals, to capture engaging insights into the geometry of the flower. The rich chroma of oil pigments and the broad canvasses that I use combine to create larger-than-life depictions, allowing both artist and viewer to go deep inside the flower where intricate details, usually seen only by bees, are revealed.”

Artworks can be viewed on his website donbergerart.com. Don’s large-scale, oil-on-canvas floral paintings would dominate his work for 30 years, sought by private collectors and exhibited in galleries across North America and in England. Solo artist exhibitions included Hambleton Galleries in Kelowna, The Shayne Gallery in Montreal, and Harrison Galleries in Calgary and Vancouver. Don wrote:

“The lavish palette, the interplay of light and shadow, and the endless parade of colour in the garden have made this work immensely rewarding for me. But the biggest reward has been the response from viewers who have entered the gallery and found a garden there.”

Don’s latter years were filled with memorable trips to the US, England, and Spain, and with numerous extended family gatherings and celebrations, including his 90th and 91st birthdays. He also enjoyed the community connections through volunteering with Project Literacy in Kelowna. Following a cancer diagnosis in 2022, Don continued to live each day fully, and right up to the last month even made a visit to the golf course driving range, was still out gardening with Ethel, and painting at the easel.

Memorial donations, if desired, may be sent to The Land Conservancy of BC or ArtStarts in Schools.

A Celebration of Life is being planned for late September 2023, date and location to be announced. Please RSVP to dons.celebration.2023@gmail.com for details.

If you wish to send a condolence, post photos, or share a memory, please scroll down the page to the area called “Condolences”.

Share with Others:

Share on Facebook
Share Via Email

The Land Conservancy of BC or ArtStarts in Schools Link: www.conservancy.bc.ca, www.artstarts.com




  • Carole Berger says:

    A Life Well Lived – Don Berger May 7, 1932 – August 18, 2023 (As posted on Facebook, by daughter Carole)
    Dad was born in Chicago, to a family rich with artistic talent, and had fond memories of the bedtime ‘lullabies’ of his parents playing duets on violin and piano. He achieved his BFA at the Art Institute of Chicago, in part instructed by his uncle Edgar Rupprecht, and then worked in Chicago advertising, where he met my Mom.
    Their love of nature landed them on a hobby farm in Lake Forest, and prompted the growing family to explore the rugged Ontario wilderness on canoe trips. On more than one occasion, Dad dropped Mom and toddlers at the trail head, opting to chute the rapids instead of carrying/portaging the canoe. Their sense of adventure took the family to relocate to the BC Interior in the fall of 1968, settling on 160 acres in the Cariboo region, and the first order of business was to make habitable the 40×40 log cabin shell.
    Getting a well dug & hydro connected, building septic, learning to install plumbing, Dad managed it all, and we had running water by Christmas. New chinking was put in and a plywood partition reduced the square footage the barrel heater and wood stove had to heat. Then the temperatures plummeted to -54, and a pen was built in the other half of the cabin to temporarily house the Champion dairy goat herd. Neighbours, coming to check in on the ‘greenhorns from Chicago’ were startled by the bleating from the next room… fresh cream in your coffee? It wasn’t long and the ranch had a herd of 200+ sheep and goats. Dad recently told me, that one of the achievements he was most proud of was single-handedly building a lambing barn, aided only by the Econoline van, block and tackle, and pulley. What ingenuity.
    Jumping forward to 1983, Dad and his 2nd partner Ethel moved to Kelowna and, with their love of gardening & a lot of hard work, they transformed their property to a lush and varied garden. These flowers inspired the new trajectory of his art: large, vibrant floral blooms, with a ‘dynamic confluence of sunlight and shadow on translucent petals’. Treasured family times together found us golfing, watching NFL, singing the Messiah at the Orpheum and even embarking on a few more canoeing trips at Wells Gray Park.
    A year ago Dad received a Cancer diagnosis and, opting to forego treatment, was given 6 months to live. His tenacity garnered more time, and up to the last week he was gardening, filling the bird feeder, and working on his latest painting. It was a chaotic and surreal drive through West Kelowna last Thursday night, with the fire on the hillside, but I’m glad I could make it for one more day with him before his passing. Sitting at his place on the couch I could see all that he had recently touched: 4 library books (mostly biographies), a re-read of V. Seth’s ‘An Equal Music’, The New Yorker crossword, and the Globe and Mail. Sharp, interested and engaged, right to the last.
    He always nurtured & encouraged us to be the best we could be, and inspired us by leading with his example. On to the next grand adventure, Dad.

  • Elli Driediger says:

    My heart goes out to you Ethel and the rest of the family. I enjoyed one of Don’s paintings for many years.

  • Siena Cecil says:

    Don was an amazing grandfather. I am so thankful that we were able to enjoy so many wonderful moments together. I think one of the most wonderful things in the world was when you stayed at Don and Ethel’s home, waking up to the sound of the wind chimes, you would walk out and see a vision of heaven. Everyone in their pyjamas, reading a new book. The smell of Don’s instant coffee, dried eucalyptus and a fresh breeze from the garden flowing through. You’d curl up on the couch and this perfect moment seemed to last forever. His paintings on every wall, bringing the every beautiful bloom inside. I wish I could stay in those moments forever.
    He will be forever loved and forever missed.

  • Walt and Linda Schroeder says:

    How fortunate Linda and I were to spend time with Don, pursuing our shared passion for golf. Although we no longer will be able to enjoy walking down the links together, the treasured flower painting of peonies we commissioned Don to paint for us will forever look down from the wall to remind us of the special person and artist he was. We will all miss you!

  • Rod Endacott says:

    I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Don’s spirit than with a song . . . I think you will like this one dear friend, as you embraced song with that wonderful passion you shone on those of us who were lucky enough to work with you. Rod (Avett Brothers “no hard feelings”) : https://youtu.be/aaU2HvRhCPw?si=h0yTaUuOr9pYNxsg

  • Eric and Mary Wiebe says:

    So sorry for your loss Ethel. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.

  • Elaine Johnston says:

    Ethel, We at Project Literacy share your loss. Don was an exceptional, kind man who generously shared his talents. His lessons with Akram were greatly appreciated. I am glad that I have the yellow peony in my yard that Don and you planted for me. It will remind me of him and all that he did for us. Akram Haghir and Elaine Johnston, Project Literacy

Leave a Condolence Message for the Family

» To share your condolence on this page please fill out the requested fields.
» If you have a photo to share, please do so as families appreciate it. To share a photo (please note, just one photo per condolence please), click the 'Choose File' button and select a photo from your computer.
» Once you are done, click the 'Share' button.
» Your email is never published or shared. Your name and email are both required.

NOTE: all messages will go through an administrative process before being posted.