Today, the world lost a wonderful man and heaven gained a true angel. Dave Bergman, former Chairman of the Board of The Joe Niekro Foundation and best friend of the late Joe Niekro, passed away this morning after a fearlessness battle with cancer. There aren’t words to describe what this man meant to the entire Niekro family and the Joe Niekro Foundation and the incredible human he was. As we watched Dave fight this dreaded disease for nearly three years, we all can say we learned a valuable lesson in heroism and courage. Not once did we hear Dave complain, question why, give up or lose hope. Instead, we saw a man who met the cancer demon head on and gave it a fight it had never imagined. Today, Dave joined his best friend in heaven, leaving a legacy that will forever live on.
There aren’t many memories the Niekro family has without Dave in them. From 1978 when he approached Joe in the Houston Astros locker room, calling him “Mr. Niekro”, to just this year when Dave spoke to me about how impressed he was on the progress of the foundation. When I decided to start the foundation, Dave was the first person I called to ask if he would participate on the board. I knew he would share the same passion that I did for the man he called his best friend. Dave has been like my second Dad from the time I could walk and my heart is broken for the hole his passing leaves with us all.
I will never forget Dave stepping out of the elevator at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa, FL after hearing the news of Dad’s aneurysm. He had a look on his face that will stay with me forever. Dave was the first one there when Dad died, and I can guarantee that Dad was the first one to meet Dave at the pearly gates today, with a fishing pole in one hand and a baseball glove in the other. As most of you know, fishing was their passion and not a story they told didn’t have something about “snook fishing” in it. Best friends, together again!
Dave, you will forever be missed and we are all so thankful for the service, love, compassion and support you gave to us all.