Laurel Beth Berg
Laurel Beth Berg passed away on October 17, 2020, from complications of Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 69. When Laurel left us, her beloved life partner of more than 40 years, Scott Biesterfeld, was by her side, as was her sister, Judith Kirkhorn, FaceTiming from Virginia.
Laurel, the fourth of five children, was born in La Crosse on November 15, 1950, to Angus and Beverly (Schomberg) Berg. She graduated from Central High School in 1968, and from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse in 1972 with a Bachelor’s Degree in English. She received a law degree from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 1980.
One of her first jobs was working at the La Crosse Cooler Company as a personnel clerk, a job that influenced her decision to pursue a law degree. In early 1976 she was fired for advising a pregnant co-worker to challenge the company’s disability policy because it excluded pregnancy. Believing that this policy constituted sex discrimination, Laurel filed suit in federal court. She contended that she should not have been fired for objecting to work policies she knew to be illegal. Eventually, Laurel won a widely-publicized landmark decision in 1980. The court ruled that an employee can challenge a company practice if they have a reasonable belief that a practice is unlawful.
For the balance of her career, Laurel conscientiously served the needs of numerous clients in the general practice of law.
Among Laurel’s varied interests were her cherished dogs, reading, sewing, and watching old movies on TCM, especially Tracy-Hepburn comedies. She was also enthusiastic about music and baseball. A lifelong fan of the Beatles, Laurel was just 14 years old when she reportedly hitchhiked with a friend to see a Beatles concert in the Minneapolis Metropolitan Stadium in August, 1965. Years later she and Scott attended countless jazz, classical music, blues, and rock concerts. As a child Laurel went with her parents to Milwaukee baseball games and continued to do so with Scott, most memorably Game 4 of the 1982 World Series in Milwaukee.
Other highlights of Laurel’s life included traveling with Scott to Germany to meet her mother’s relatives and two trips to northern Norway. In 1990 they thoroughly enjoyed celebrating a Berg family reunion in Kvaefjord, where Laurel’s Norwegian great grandparents had lived before immigrating to the U.S. in 1868.
Scott and Laurel’s large circle of friends will always remember her wit, generous spirit, lovely face, quick smile, sense of humor, and infectious laugh. Laurel was preceded in death by her parents and a sister, Nancy Kreibich , who passed away earlier this year. In addition to Scott, Laurel is survived by her sisters, Judith Kirkhorn and Cheryl Utterback; a brother, the Rev. Jeffrey Berg (Karen); and Scott’s mother, Betty Biesterfeld, and sister and brother-in-law, Bonnie and Dar Schramm. Laurel is also survived by several nieces and nephews who celebrate the life of an aunt who was not only a great listener, secret-keeper and friend, but was also willing to join the fun, wherever and whenever that was.
Donations in Laurel’s memory can be sent to the Hunger Task Force of La Crosse or to a food bank of your choice. A celebration of her life will be held at a later date.
Special thanks to the many friends who helped Scott care for Laurel through the years, including Peggy, Bones and Nancy, Sherry, Rick and Kathy, Abby, Lyle and Carol, Mary, Amy, Bud, and Sven. Scott and Judith would also like to thank the staffs at both the Hearten House in Holmen and the Morrow Home Community in Sparta for their compassionate care and support.
–A bright light has left us, but our fond memories of Laurel will continue to comfort us and keep alive her kind and spirited presence.
Coulee Region Cremation Group is assisting the family.