Perham's Evelyn Berger has cast ballot in 20 presidential contests
By Jacqi Glenn
As Evelyn Berger fills out her absentee ballot, she remembers all the elections she has voted in over the years. At 97, this Perham resident has voted in 20 presidential elections.
"This might be the last chance I have. I don't think I'll be around four years from now. I don't think so, but, you never know. I've fooled doctors before," grinned Berger.
Now, the doctors have told her she has terminal cancer.
"But am I ever happy to know my cancer is terminal," said Berger. "How many people know ahead of time that they are going to die soon and feel as good as I do and still have their senses and can have family with me and so many relatives."
With the heart of a true patriot, in the midst of saying goodbye to family and friends, Berger made it a priority to complete and mail an absentee ballot.
"I almost forgot," said Berger. "I should have done it two days ago. I don't know if it will get there in time. So, I asked Denny, could I vote right now."
"Denny" is her nephew, Dennis Pausch, Vergas. He assured her, "I'll mail it right away." He did. Berger's sense of patriotism has been passed on to three more generations of voters and is being impressed upon even the youngest of her descendants. At age 7, Berger's great nephew Cody Pausch says, "Voting is important because it's to pick who is the leaders of our country and community." Cody is the son of Jamie and Amber Pausch, Pelican Rapids, and the grandson of Dennis and Terry Pausch, Vergas.
Berger laughs as she recalls the first time she voted, "My brother was mad because he turned 21 three years before, but there was no election. I had just turned 21, so we both voted for the first time together." That was 1932. The voting age wasn't changed to 18 until 1971.
Born in Vergas in 1911, Berger has lived through many political milestones. When she was 9, the 19th amendment was ratified giving women the right to vote.
Berger recalls, "My dad was in favor of it. Some men weren't."
When she was born, William Howard Taft was president.
In her lifetime she saw Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush become president.
"Ronald Reagan (was my favorite) because he was so human and he had a good sense of humor; I really enjoyed him. When he was in the hospital, they were going to do surgery and he looked at the doctors and said, I hope you're Republicans," laughs Berger.
"I liked Eisenhower. He was good man, a good president."
Her son Dale Berger explained, "It was after the war. He was a general and won the war. He was everybody's hero."
"He was an honest man," added her oldest son, Don Berger, as she nodded.
"I also liked John Kennedy and he was a Democrat," continued Berger. "He said, 'don't ask what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.' "He was a good man. It isn't just because of party. It's their principals that count more."
There was a time when political ads were not on television and the internet, and voters didn't have the access to candidate information that is available today.
"(When I first started voting) I didn't know anything about voting. My dad just voted, I supposed, and didn't make any fuss about it. I just sort of went by the general consensus of the neighborhood. I have a good intuitive sense," joked Berger.
On a serious note, Berger was very clear on what she would tell those who don't take the time to vote. "Then, I don't think they belong in the United States, because we are one of the few nations that has that privilege and we should make use of it and appreciate it. I've appreciated it from the very beginning. You bet it's important!"