Details of services
A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated on Friday, June 9th, time to be determined at the Chapel of St. Michael the Archangel at St. Michael’s College. Please visit awrfh.com to share your memories and condolences.
As he was embraced by his family, the well-known twinkle in John “Jack” Bergeron’s eye went dim and his mighty heart stopped beating on January 29th, 2023 in Shelburne, VT. His work here is done and now he can rest. Jack is entrusting those who loved him to carry on in his stead with the same enthusiasm for life that he exhibited over his 75 years.
Jack was many things to many people – Husband, Dad, Boppa, Brother, Friend, Attorney, and so many more – but if there is one thread tying these things together, it is this: Jack gave his best, and then some, in everything he did. If a certain task required five of something, Jack would deliver ten for good measure. Every time. This was the Jack Bergeron way.
Born to Ben and Pauline Bergeron in Burlington in 1947, Jack began his life roaming the neighborhood looking for swing sets to jump from, cliffs to climb up, and water to swim in. During these early years, Jack sought to find the threshold of physical impossibility – how high, how far, how long could one go – breaking many bones and causing his mother much distress in the process.
Naturally (and thankfully), Jack channeled his energy into athletics at Rice High School and St. Michael’s College. Jack was never the biggest guy on the team, but his determination was unmatchable. On the cross-country course, the soccer field, and the ski hill, Jack left his competitors wondering how they got beat by such a scrawny looking kid.
As college came to a close in 1970, Jack added academics to the list of things he could succeed at if he worked hard enough, and off he went to Washington DC for law school at Catholic University. But, not before he met Cathy, in 1969, in the trunk of a car, on a blind date, when mutual friends snuck them into a drive-in movie. Neither of them were typically rule breakers, but this auspicious beginning of a life long relationship just goes to show that some rules are made to be broken.
Jack returned to Burlington as a married man and prosecutor working in the Chittenden County State’s Attorney’s Office. After 3 years of trial experience, and with his usual quiet confidence, Jack decided to open a private practice. He hung his own shingle and, as Jack tended to do, he built something from nothing, knowing that if he worked hard enough, he’d succeed. At first, his only clients were family and friends to whom he never wanted to send a bill (not ideal with a young family in the making!). But, in time, Jack became known as a skilled litigator, and the paying clients came knocking. Jack went on to co-found Bergeron Paradis & Fitzpatrick in 1989, where he spent the rest of his career, and where his law partners became life-long friends. Jack loved his work. The adversarial nature of litigation tapped into Jack’s natural competitiveness, providing a landscape where hard work equaled good results. However, it was the people – the attorneys he worked with and against, his staff, and his clients – who made his career so meaningful for him.
Jack avoided the limelight, and might even be described as a quiet guy in a crowd, but look a little closer and you’ll see that he easily made friends everywhere he went, sometimes in the most unexpected places. There were no prerequisites to gaining Jack’s friendship; he would see the good in anyone and draw it out of them, often through the act of lending a hand: Jack always had a hand to lend. Over his lifetime, Jack amassed an impressive array of friends from many walks of life. A special thanks to those who stood strong with Jack near the end (there were many of you), and especially to PM, Spencer, Bob and Jon, the most loyal of friends.
We still don’t know how, but Jack found time for so many activities outside of his devotion to his family, friends and work. He had a creative side that he explored through self-taught skills: stained-glass creations, handmade furniture (many will recall his legendary Adirondack chairs and the giant table on the porch at his camp); hand-carved duck decoys; fly tying; and beekeeping, to name just a few. And, Jack was always physically active. He ran marathons, hiked and skied throughout Europe and North America, often ran up Camel’s Hump before work on a summer morning, and, his most enduring passion, rode his bike many thousands of miles over decades of time. Jack was the kind of guy where “century rides” (100 miles) became not enough, and so he doubled those and completed 200 mile rides, for no reason other than it was a challenge and sounded like fun. Much of Jack’s riding was done in the early morning hours with an awesome group of biking buddies, and at other times with Cathy on the back of a tandem bike. In everything he did, Jack was always good-natured, kind and generous. He contributed freely to worthy causes, and enjoyed serving his alma mater, St. Michael’s College for nine years on the Board of Trustees. Additionally, Jack served on the Advisory Board of St. Anne’s Shrine for several years.
Jack was the quintessential family man, and a hero to his three children, Jenny, Adam and Aaron. He was Superman in their eyes, capable of doing just about anything, and there was nothing he wouldn’t do for them. As was his nature, Jack led by example, showing his children with a soft touch and steady hand how to be a good person and live a full life. Jack’s passing leaves a big hole in his kids’ hearts, but he equipped them well and they’re going to take his reins from here and do their best to live a life like his.
Jack and his wife Cathy were a great team. Known to so many as simply “Jack and Cathy”, their relationship was built on mutual trust, shared adventures, and unwavering support for one another as they navigated life’s highs and lows. These two knew how to set goals and then achieve them: building their camp on the shore of Lake Champlain where they spent summers entertaining friends and boating with the kids; arranging a home exchange and living in France for part of a summer as a family; completing the Tour de Mont Blanc by trekking through France, Switzerland and Italy; multi-day hiking trips throughout Europe and in many National Parks out West; touring throughout Southeast Asia; finishing the Long Trail together; cultivating so many shared friendships with others (many who joined in the aforementioned trips); and, perhaps their most singular shared focus, supporting and encouraging their children to explore the world, find interesting work, and lead good lives. In their later years, they evolved into Boppa & Mimi, hosting their three grandkids every summer at the camp, taking them on trips, and playing lots and lots of games. Jack slept in the camp bunkhouse with the grandkids when they were younger, often telling somewhat traumatizing bedtime stories.
Jack was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2016 and, in true Jack fashion, he met the disease head on and accepted what was to come, showing so much courage and grace. He never once – not ever – complained about his diagnosis. In fact, he still maintained that he was “lucky in life” – a theme song that seemed to play in Jack’s mind throughout his lifetime. He lived his last years the only way he knew how: Still biking and skiing when he should have been walking; then, still walking when he should have been sitting. He fought hard till the end. His family is ever grateful for the kind and compassionate care provided to Jack by the staff at Wake Robin, the Bayada Hospice team, and Dr. Gene Moore.
Those who loved Jack may feel that his life was cut short, but remember: Doing things the Jack Bergeron way meant that he packed in 150 years of life into his 75 years on this earth. In life, illness, and even death, Jack did a good job. He will always be remembered as being a good man. Rest in peace dear Jack. You are loved by so many.
Jack is survived by his beloved wife Cathy; children Jennifer (Brad) Carlson, Adam (Angie) Bergeron, and Aaron Bergeron; grandkids Taylor, Kate and Grady; siblings Paul, Jane and Jay (Joanne), and countless friends and extended family members. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Michael J. Fox Foundation or a charity of one’s choice.