Saturday’s dedication of the Norbeck Meadows Park playground to the memory of Ron Berger was a “fitting” tribute to a man who is credited with giving the former rural crossroads its sense of community.
About 50 people gathered to honor Berger, a founder and early president of both the Greater Olney Civic Association and the Norbeck Meadows Civic Association.
Arnold Gordon, president of NMCA, along with GOCA officers, worked with the Park and Planning Commission to dedicate the park in Berger’s name after he succombed to cancer in December at the age of 69.
The park on George Washington Drive in Rockville is located a block from where Berger and his wife, Harriet, purchased their home 36 years ago.
“The park holds lots of great memories for us,” Harriet Berger said. “Ron used to take our daughters, and then our grandchildren there to play on the playground. In earlier years, Ron and I used to play tennis there.”
County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) was among those in attendance at the dedication. He said the park naming was a small token in exchange for all Berger had done and was involved in, and that the greatest tribute would be for others to follow his leadership.
Councilman George L. Leventhal (D-At large) of Takoma Park called Berger, a “special, special guy,” and said although time will pass, Berger’s name always will be a part of the playground.
Councilman Marc B. Elrich (D-At large) of Takoma Park praised Berger for three decades of building an identity for Olney, making it more than a place on a map.
Sen. Karen S. Montgomery (D-Dist. 14) of Brookeville awarded GOCA a citation for its efforts in honoring Berger.
GOCA President Barbara Falcigno said Berger was someone who got involved and remained involved. He stayed to help guide younger folks, and share his institutional knowledge.
“We hope to continue his mission, to make Olney a great place to live,” she said.
Harriet Berger said the dedication ceremony was lovely, and that it made her and her daughters very proud.
“Ron would have been so surprised, shocked, and pleased,” she said. “He never thought he did anything out of the ordinary; he did it because he was part of a community, and wanted to give back.”
Gordon, who spearheaded the dedication effort, said it was only fitting, given all that Berger had done for others and for the community.
“He was so important to this community; he was the crux of everything,” Gordon said. “He was a mensch, which is a Yiddish word that means ‘real man’ — someone upstanding, forthright, and with lots of integrity.”
Berger was recognized as GOCA’s Citizen of the Year in 1984. He also received GOCA’s President’s Award in 2009. Berger chaired GOCA’s awards program and annual elections for nearly 30 years, served many years as the organization’s historian and parliamentarian, and also was an integral part of the annual Olney Days festivities.
He organized town meetings; worked on both the 1980 and 2005 Olney Master Plans, moderated several political debates, and was instrumental in bringing many cultural events to the community.
GOCA and the Norbeck Meadows Civic Association each donated $1,000 to the Montgomery Parks Foundation for the dedication.
Debbie Rankin, executive director of the foundation, said the donations will cover the hard costs associated with the dedication, including creating the sign, installation of the sign, and funds set aside to maintain the sign.
Out of 417 parks in the county’s park system — each featuring multiple amenities including playgrounds and fields — there currently are 44 named facilities, she said.
“It’s pretty unique, but that is what makes it special,” Rankin said. “The community really wanted to do this to honor Ron Berger.”