Letter to the Editor

A great man passes

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

To the younger generation, Berkley Bedell was our very active U.S. congressman and activist Democrat after leaving Congress having suffered a bout with Lyme disease. However, to the older generation, there is much more for us to remember him for. His importance to our community before his time in Congress needs to be told.

After returning from military service from World War II, he restarted his earlier started fly tying business as Berkley and Company. After a few scattered locations for his factory, he built the single large factory on Highway 71 that still stands. As his business flourished, he hired hundreds of local people. As the largest employer in Dickinson County, its importance to the economy was dramatic. The wage rate was good and the benefits were outstanding. Overnight company paid for weekend trips, matching contributions to employees retirement funds, extra paid holidays, health insurance, but most of all the relationship Berk had with each of the employees. He often would walk through the factory and stop and chat, ask about family, ask about their jobs and if they had any ideas for needed changes. There was a great relationship. If the need arose for work over a weekend, people happily complied. People were proud to say that they worked for Berkley and Company. In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson named Berk Small Business Man of the Year.

As the years have passed, the special relationship between labor and management has changed throughout the country. I am happy to say that I was a part of the Berkley family in the early years when Berk led the company with his announced goal “To make a better life for Berkley employees.”

— Robert Sneitzer, Spirit Lake