Dearest Buzz, first thank you for including us today. Your family is amazing, so articulate and caring. In my shop I have mementos and photos of things, places and people who mean a lot to me. I did not know Alex but his picture is now magnet ly attached to my heating system. I started to count how many pictures I have of you and Pat and realized I have almost as many as my own family! You guys are my heroes. Now a story about my brother who was a free spirit like Alex. He went to Australia while attending collage. ( students abroad for a term ) When he hit foreign soil he disappeared, hiked to the outback, found a small village of natives, and lived with them for 4 months. He missed all his classes and his return flight home. He got an F for the term. However he kept a daily journal and upon his return he turned it in to his teacher. He (teacher) called my mom and showed her the journal and changed his grade to an A. It just made me think, Alex might have done the same thing. Alex was connected to the earth as was my brother. I think they are both scheming about what mountain to climb, what trails to run, what is the best hiking food and how to cook it, and most important of all how to be a good person, how to respect nature and be a part of it. Thank you for being a part of my life.
Buzz and Pat,
Heather and I have been thinking about Alex all week…about all the great
times, the laughs, the hugs, the hard rides in crappy conditions. I still
use expressions I picked up from our adventures….’what would Alex eat?’ is
one of my favorites… Alex and his gruel & blackstrap molasses.
Heather asked me to express to you how much her heart aches for you, Pat and
the rest of the family. Alex was such a bright happy light shining on all
of those around him. It breaks our hearts to think about what you must be
Heather fondly remembers when we were at the Elkhorn stage race on year. It
was night time and we were ‘camped’ in the van in the high school parking
lot. The windows of the van were darkly tinted blocking out the majority of
the light from the sodium vapor lights in the parking lot. Alex needed to
pee in the middle of the night, and rather than get dressed, he hopped down
off the top bunk in the buff, yanked open the massive slider on the van and
sprinted across the parking lot to the portable toilets. “SLAM” when the
portable toilet door closed…Heather and I were trying to figure out what
the hell was going on. Then we hear “SLAM” again and the pitter patter of
bare feet sprinting across the parking lot and then the door grinding open,
the rig shaking violently, “SLAM” again when the door closed and then the
entire rig shaking violently again when he jumped back up onto the top bunk.
We still laugh ourselves silly re-telling that story. Heather got to see
way too many nice butts on those stage race adventures.
The end of our battle over 9 seconds at Columbia Plateau (our first and last
Cat 4 stage race) is the first time an guy outside my family hugged me.
Alex held a special place for me, and I’m really going to miss him.
And the video John put together (the one with the Beatles music) is always
touching. I used to like the AC/DC version better, but now I like the
Beatles version better.
I still remember all the times I came home from a long day at work on a hot
summer day to find Alex loitering around my place on Redtop. I’d ask him if
he wanted to do Mary’s or Alsea Falls…’no we can do Decker or something
shorter since I just did Mary’s twice already’. Really? Twice already?
That happened more often than I could count. He was an inspiration (and I
always think about him when I’m riding.)
I can’t believe he’s gone. I wish we could be there for the memorial, but
plane tickets are a hair over $2k, and I just can’t swing it. Too many
expenses in the States as well as over here, and things are super tight
until we sell or rent our house.
Heather and I want you both to know what a positive influence Alex had in
our lives. Our lives were richer for knowing him and sharing our adventures
with him. I know there were others (besides me) like Ryan Miller who
idolized Alex and strived to be like him.
I can’t tell you how much Heather and I wish your pain to subside and for
the happy memories to bring joy without grief and sadness.
Condolences and warmest thoughts for you and your family in this dark time,
Much Love, Jim and Heather
“The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude.”
I wanted to let you know that I will be at BOTH of Alex’s Celebrations, and I would be honored to share a short story or memory. I really miss that guy. When I close my eyes I can see his face, hear his voice, and feel his presence. He’s right there. I usually see him walking towards me with his arms open WIDE. One thing I loved about Alex was, not necessarily the hug, but the openness of love. He wanted everyone to feel loved. It is something that had a deep affect on me, inspiring me to love more openly.The day I met Alex, I will not ever forget. The first few times hanging out were very surreal. It was the Summer of 2009. I came down to Corvallis to do some training, get into some good old Oregon hot weather (it just doesn’t get hot in Bellingham, I know, sounds strange to complain about. I think my body likes sweating, and hot weather). Staying at home with my family, doing bigger rides. He was in town as well and we met up for a few rides. Usually when a couple dudes get together and do a shared activity together, it takes time to build a bond and become comfortable with each other, it’s a forced friendship, until it isn’t. I remember getting home from my first time really hanging out with Alex. It was so easy. Like we had done that before. The bond had already been forged in a past life(?). It felt like I’d known him for ages, when, in this life, it had really only been a few short hours. I remember he was curious about my Karate and Qi Gong background and I was equally curious about his Bikram knowledge. Honestly, since the first time we hung out, it was like I had just found another friend that I’d been friends with my whole life (lives?).Another, albeit, selfish thing, Alex was really the only person that consistently commented on my blog. http://patrickmeans.blogspot.com/ I haven’t made a post for years… His comments just let me know that he was there, paying attention, sharing my/our experience of this crazy/amazing/inspiring/dark/light/huge/small magical world of life we all live together.It is clear to me that Alex learned much about love and compassion from his family. I see it, no, feel it, from you, Buzz, and his brother, Adam. I have no doubt McHale is right there too. Thank you so much for being his loving parents and family.Love,Patrick
Hello, my name is Buzz Berra, Alex’s father. Thanks to all of you, Alex’s Family, for being here today to celebrate Alex.
I was wondering what Alex would want to talk about today, and I think it would be what it is that brings him the most joy.
More joy than riding his bicycle 40 miles from Ashland to Mt. McLoughlin, then running up the trail and climbing to the summit and back down, all while wearing his cycling shoes with cleats, and then cycling home.
More joy than riding his bike 185 miles each way from Ashland to Bandon in one day for a Siskiyou school retreat.
More joy than snorkeling down the Smith River with his friends Beth and Sergei in a wetsuit through class 4 rapids.
More joy than swimming Whyte Nynsha style in the Pacific Ocean or Jackson Creek where he grew up.
More joy than making the most intriguing green concoction ever seen with his trusty Vitamix.
More joy than drinking an ice cold glass of watermelon juice after an invigorating run to the top of Mt. Ashland.
Of course, what brings Alex the most joy is his family- the one he was born with and his chosen family. Yesterday we had a Gathering in Corvallis with 150 friends and family at our home where Alex celebrated 32 Christmases and countless family birthdays, and where he spent many hours exploring the forest and creek in his backyard. It’s easy to see why he had such a love and respect for nature
And Ashland has been the perfect home for Alex- his chosen family and friends are amazing. We are so honored to be here today with all of you who share a love of Alex. We are all blessed to have you all share our son with us. I know Alex is overwhelmed with Gratitude to see all of you, his Family, here today.
Ten years ago, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Alex had recently graduated from college and was living at home at the time and teaching middle school in Corvallis. After surgery, I had to undergo radiation treatments, and when I got in my car every morning at 6:30, for 40 days of treatment, the first thing I saw was a big yellow post-it note on my dashboard…..written by Alex.
At age 23, he took it upon himself to encourage me, for 40 days without fail, to approach each day with positivity and a calmness of spirit to help get me through my radiation treatments. His note on March 3, 2005 read:
“God Morning my father and happy Thankful Thursday. A day to relish all that is around us and all that we have created. Friendships that feed us, children who look up to and are inspired by you, a house you created with your own hands and a home you created with your own heart. The beauty of nature is around us. The amazing gifts and energy each unique person brings into this world. Being able to be active and enjoy our bodies. The sunrise, our eyes.
There is so much to be thankful for.
And 39 more inspiring original messages from Alex just like this one, which helped bring me peace and comfort at a very difficult time.
After my prostate treatments, Alex decided I should get a bike and start riding to complete my recovery. Of course it wasn’t just riding the bike. He convinced me that I could and should ride to the top of the McKenzie Pass near Sisters, then to the top of Mary’s Peak outside of Corvallis, and why not to the top of Mt. Ashland, or even to the top of Mt. Constitution on Orcas Island. And then we did Cycle Oregon together and he inspired me to do a couple of century rides.
I told Alex he was the reason I even attempted these rides and was able to make it to the top of the mountains. He had a way of making me believe I could do it. Actually, I didn’t have a choice. I think most of you know what I’m talking about. I learned so much about myself from my son.
Alex always showed Gratitude for the blessings and the people in his life.
I would like to share a note that he wrote to us in his book of poetry and stories, “Gratitude”.
“Thank you to my Mother, Pat Newport, and my Father, Buzz Berra, who have shown me that when I feel my heart is full, all I need to do is make it bigger. You taught me about gravity and inspired me to create my own wings to fly. I love you.”
Thank you, Alex, my dear Son, you have taught me so much about life, and you have made my life so much fuller. Thank you for your 33 years that you shared with us, and for the treasure chest full of jewels that you have left us in your writings and moments spent togethe. I will love and cherish my time with you forever.
Thank you for coming today to honor our son Alex and to honor our family. This is the home where Buzz and I raised our three children…McHale, Alex and Adam.
Together, we made this home…with all the wonderful and messy things that make family…all the birthdays, holidays, sleepovers, rites of passage. And the everyday business of life…making school lunches, dinner together each night, dragging the kids to church, doing homework at the kitchen table, tucking them in at night.
My humble part as a mother has been to teach my children to say yes.
Yes to tasting new food.
Yes to meeting new people.
Yes to smelling the flowers.
Yes to the sunrises and the sunsets.
Yes to trying new things.
Yes to gathering friends.
Yes to grabbing the brass ring of new adventures.
Yes to loving.
And for what little I have taught them…they have taught me volumes…about
Appreciating what we have
Being thankful for each day we are given
Following my heart
Letting it be
Simply having faith
Alex lived every day, every moment of his life with intention, with passion and with unconditional love. Love for everyone he knew or met…his family, old friends, new friends, perfect strangers. And love for this stunningly beautiful world.
Sometimes I think that Alex just couldn’t take a bite big enough of his wonder filled, magical world.
We found a yet-to-be-mailed postcard to his family in his van…Aloha from Durango! Having a great start to the gypsy Colorado road trip. Meeting up with old friends and getting in some truly spectacular runs. Feels like there are a few lifetimes of exploring and running to do here. Love, Alex.
I could tell you stories all day long…
About the day in second grade when the teacher called on each child to share their middle name and Alex without one, proudly stood up and announced Zander!
About his 16th birthday party when all the boys got into the dress up clothes and paraded down the stairs in drag.
About showing up at the start line of the Mt. Hood bicycle race with an old single speed bike, riders elbowing each other wondering who this crazy guy was…until he quietly passed them all.
About the day ten years ago when he was helping me plant a Japanese maple tree…he dug the hole slowly, as if preparing a bed, and when I went to place the tree in the hole he said, “Wait a minute Mom, you can’t just plop it in the ground.” And I stood in awe and love as he wrote a message to the tree, that it would grow and flourish and provide beauty and breath for us. He read the note aloud then burned it and placed the ashes in the hole THEN gently planted the tree.
About finding a load of firewood by the side of the highway in Ashland, borrowing a shopping cart from Bi-Mart at the nearest exit and carting it home.
About his recipe for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich…two and a half pages long, describing every detail of the feel, smell and taste of the bread, peanut butter and jelly.
About the time, several years ago, that I came into the family room and he was sitting on the couch just being…I asked “Whatcha doin’?” and he said “thinking”. So present in the moment. What a lesson
Yes, I could tell you more stories…we want YOUR stories. Hearing your stories is our nourishment…your stories of crazy adventures, meals cooked, rides shared, hikes taken, skinny dips in mountain streams and ocean waves, cooking up zany business ideas, hooting from mountain summits, sweating in hot rooms. We want all of your stories of how Alex touched your life and how he inspires your path.
We set up a website, the address is on the card you have, and we invite you all to send us stories, photos, your memories, your expressions of love. If you are asking what you can do, visit Alex’s blog…stories of his adventures, running logs, poetry, recipes, musings on everyday life, photos, words beyond the wisdom of a 33 year-old. Meet him for the first time, get to know him better, introduce him to a new friend or simply enjoy his reflections on this marvelous earth and those who walk it.
“We should consider that the fates through confidence have devolved on us the task of a double living, that we have henceforth to fulfill the promise of our friend’s life also, in our own, to the world.”
Thank you for being present today.
Thank you for bringing your love and joy to this sacred place.
Thank you for loving our family.
Alex, Alex, Alex
I was not ready or willing to say goodbye until now. I am sorry I could not mourn and celebrate your life concurrently.
As you will best understand, I took refuge from the pain in the mountains, rivers and oceans surrounding our home to contemplate your life and its passing.
To lose you was to lose a very special piece of me and the childhood we shared each summer with a decade between us.
I recall swimming in the pool at the lodge and then on a regular basis swimming the width of the lake as we had outgrown the man made boundaries prepared for us there. Resting on the far bank out of breath and during the first few attempts you resting on me as I back stroked us in to complete it.
I loved getting up early with you for hikes along the banks of the river where I introduced you to cloud busting and calling the wind at age 12 and the miracle of the present moment engulfing us in silence and peace.
You were special, open and receptive to a larger spirit. A love we both shared and lived to share with others.
There were several mountain tops we shared in your youth, many found off trail together. It seems that was the one path through life we continued to share, though we’re not aware of it in our adulthood.
I loved you like a child and brother, having none of my own back then. All my photos of us are filled with smiling and being close, a bond family has the luxury of building.
I recall staying up late at night and listening to your stories and love of rocks and experiments. I will never forget giving you your first whittling knife and teaching you as our grandfather had taught me to hold and use the knife to make the desired cuts.
A pile of chips you could stand on after a few hours, we had carved some quality spears and were off for the hunt in your parents forest and creek. The adventure was always ripe for the taking, and we often grabbed it together.
There was that time we were racing down the mountain on our mountain bikes and I hit the jump wrong loosing all the skin on my forearm and power washing the rocks out with your water bottle so we could keep going. The adventure was too sweet to miss or cut short.
I love you so much Alex and the history we share continues to be written here and now. Your presence and peace was clearly fostered to a remarkable degree as all your friends attest to. You will always live in my embrace and our smiles written on my heart will continue to shine until we meet again.
I bow deeply to you brother.
Hello, for those of you who don’t know me, I’m Beth. Alex and I were partners for 2 ½ years starting in the fall of 2011. Our relationship was full of kindness, compassion, acceptance, adventures, nature and love. Alex taught me to give generously, love deeply, live simply and to be present.
Our days together were filled with hikes, runs and rides in beautiful places, trips to the coast with friends to run naked on the beach and swim in the ocean. Home cooked meals (which usually consisted of veggies, nutritional yeast/hippie dust, dates, and always lot of cinnamon). Alex filled my life and our home with magic- loves notes and poems and little surprises of crystals, precious stones, marbles and feathers he’d find during his adventures on the trail.
I am so sad that he is gone. But, I also feel such gratitude for him, his life and our time together.
Alex had a way of looking at the natural world that was almost unwordly. Where I would look up and see a beautiful forest, hear leaves blowing in the wind, smell the air, and watch the animals and birds doing their thing. Alex would see the depth of the forest and it’s connection to the animals. He could see, not just the sunlight through the trees, but each ray of sunlight and the energy each ray held. He understood, on a spiritual and almost cellular level, the connection each plant and animal had to one another and how THEY and WE are connected to the rivers, oceans, wind and sun. It blew my mind and heart wide open and was one of the things I admired the most in him. It’s also the piece of him that I will strive to embody for the rest of my life.
Alex’s favorite day of the week was Friday. There are several reasons for this. First and foremost, Friday was ALOHA Friday. According to Alex this is the day the Hawaiians emphasize being casual, playing outside and enjoying family and friends.
Alex’s Aloha Friday’s usually started with a long run up the mountain or ride in the orchards. Followed by Bike Club with the students from school. Alex would text me photos of the kids at the donut shop, ice cream shop, coffee shop and coop- their reward for a good ride. I was under the impression that the school had a policy against refined sugars and caffeine. One time I asked Alex if he was supposed to be letting them eat all that sugar and coffee. He shrugged and said, “It’s, fine, the kids know to moderate themselves”. Maybe that was true, but I also knew that Alex was never one to follow rules.
Afterwards, he might ride his bike around town, running errands or go home and relax on the floor. According to Alex, 10 minutes of lying on the floor, eyes closed, taking a break from any motion or busy work, allowing his body to be supported by the ground and earth was just as good as an hour of meditation.
Later that evening, he would teach the silent yoga class at the studio- his favorite yoga class to teach each week. Home for dinner and his Aloha Friday was complete. He had filled it exactly the way he wanted- with solitude in nature, connection with other, relaxation, cooking and yoga. All of the things that fed his spirit and made him happy. I don’t know how many people can say that about their day, but he always could.
Prior to Alex and I dating, he was my yoga teacher. All his yoga students can attest to the fact that Alex wasn’t your typical Bikram teacher. Most of the time, he would spend the 105 degree, 90-minutes class telling stories in between poses. The stories could be anything- from how he got pulled over by the Ashland motorcycle cop on his bike and given a $280 ticket for coasting through a stop sign, to educating us about the largest nut in the world which happens to be the coco de mer (aka- “the love nut”), or Turkish bath houses, or telling us one of his latest jokes- which got chuckles from a few, but confused looks from most.
The stories he shared, as outlandish as they were sometimes, always held a lesson about life and yoga. One such lesion he shared in class years ago, made a lasting impression on me and I have reflected on it many times in the last 3 weeks. Alex told our class, “The only way out is through”. When we enter the hot yoga room, we are committed to being there for the entire 90 minutes. And during those 90 minutes, uncomfortable things will come up, whether it be physical, mental or emotional. But we’re committed to staying in that hot, sweaty room, accepting what presents itself, honoring it and moving through it. “Life is the same way”, he said. You can’t crawl under it, jump over it or run around it. You also can’t avoid it and hope it floats on by. You breath and move through it- experience the pain, the discomfort, the vulnerability. And, at the end of those 90 minutes, or the painful life experience, you receive your reward. In yoga, the reward is a detoxified body, a calm mind, a nourished spirit. In life, the reward is growth, strength, understanding and a deeper appreciation for this one wild precious life.
“The only way out is through”. Whether Alex knew it or not, his presence, the sacredness and security he created in that hot, sweaty room and his beautiful, quirky stories, metaphors and analogies helped carry people through some of the toughest times in their lives, myself included. By reflecting on his life and the lessons he shared, we will continue to learn from him in his death.
Thank you all for loving Alex and continuing to hold his spirit in your heart. If he could speak to us today, I believe he would say “ALOHA”, which he always reminded me meant- hello, goodbye, and (most importantly) I love you.