Grand Gorge car crash takes life of Gilboa man

On Friday afternoon, 42-year-old Thomas J. Berger of Gilboa was killed in an automobile accident in Grand Gorge. Also injured in the crash was Richard Lewis, an 87-year-old from Gilboa, who is being treated at Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown.

Roxbury Town Constable Stephen Williamson said that Berger, who worked for the New York City Department of Environmental Protection in Grand Gorge, was traveling north on State Route 30 when he suffered a heart attack. The attack caused him to cross into the southbound lane, where he collided with an oncoming car driven by Lewis. The accident happened at 4:25pm on Friday, February 11.

Emergency services from Grand Gorge responded to the accident, and both Berger and Lewis were transported to Margaretville Memorial Hospital, where Berger was pronounced dead. The cause of death was listed as a heart attack on the coroner's report, Williamson said.

Berger's wife, Brenda Berger, works at the Gilboa-Conesville Central School, where the couple's two sons, Richard and Philip, both attend school. The school has announced a one-hour delay of classes for tomorrow morning.

According to an obituary released by the Hall-Tari Funeral Home, Berger was born in Brazil and has lived in Delaware County for over 20 years. He married Brenda in the Sacred Heart Church in Stamford in 1993, and had worked for the DEP's Grand Gorge office for 14 years.

Here's the obituary in full:

Thomas J. Berger

5/9/1968 - 2/11/2011

Thomas J. Berger, 42, suddenly on Friday February 11, 2011. Tommy was born May 9, 1968 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the son of Thomas E. and Maria (Rocha) Berger. He was married to Brenda Reynolds on August 28, 1993 in the Sacred Heart RC Church in Stamford, NY. They have two sons Richard and Philip who are both still at home in Gilboa. Tommy has been employed for 14 years by the NYC DEP, working from the Grand Gorge office.

He was first and foremost devoted to his wife and children whom he loved beyond measure. Tommy put Christ first in everything and shared Him with everyone. His generosity was universal and infinite too and beyond his end, donating his eyes and organs to others so they may be healed.

He loved to hunt, fish, hike, to ride his motorcycle and playing his guitar.He was his wife's best friend, sharing 23 years of profound love and commitment.

He will be remembered with love by his wife Brenda, his sons Richard and Philip his brother Richard of Chicago, and an extended family who live in many cities, states and countries.

In lieu of flowers the family request that donations be made in his name to the Thomas J. Berger Scholarship Fund, at the Gilboa-Conesville Central School, 132 Wyckoff Road, Gilboa, NY 12076.

Friends may call at the Hall-Tari Funeral Home, 40 Main St. Stamford, NY on Tuesday, February 15, 2011, from 6 to 9 PM. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated by Father Michael Cambi, at 1:30 PM on Wednesday, February 16, 2011 in the Sacred Heart RC Church in Stamford, NY.

Williamson, who was one of the first responders at the accident scene, knows the Berger family from church. "Tom goes to church every Sunday, and always comes out and shakes my hand," he said. "They're a wonderful family."

2/14/11 Update: The DEP's Paul Rush, the Deputy Commissioner for Water Supply, has issued a statement about Berger describing his years of service operating wastewaster treatment equipment. Here is the statement in full:

Thomas Berger was an essential part of DEP's family and his loss will be felt by all of us. He worked at the Grand Gorge Wastewater Treatment Plant for 14 years, performing important duties such as operating, maintaining and repairing wastewater treatment equipment in conjunction with water quality analyses for the wastewater treatment process. His work played a critical part in protecting New York City's watershed and the clean drinking water that nine million New Yorkers rely on every day. Thomas understood the importance of his role and will be remembered for his outstanding work ethic and his caring and devotion to service. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and loved ones.