Born in a house in Brooklyn, growing up poor during the depression, one of 6 surviving children. His father passed from accidental death when he was 17. A decorated Korean War veteran, former Lt. in the NYPD; he worked in some of the worst places in New York. Later, 10 years in Germany as a case officer in the defense intelligence service, as a Special Agent, Dept of Defense, Intelligence Service.
For those of us who knew Francis J. Berdel, it was a simple narrative but he has left us a beautiful story. His love of life itself, the joy he took in knowledge of the world and of the human condition. He loved the details, the back stories, the things not generally known. He loved New York.
History, science, all manner of trivia. He loved to open the door with no sign on it, to turn up the road with no name, just to see what was there. He would talk to anyone he thought might know something he wanted to know. Doorman, doctor, jeweler or janitor; what an entertaining world he lived in.
He read constantly and with discipline. The classics, history, biography, with the occasional James Joyce thrown in for entertainment. He buried himself in multi-volume works that would put scholars into a coma and reveled in the insights he gleaned from them.
When he bought his first home he did a lot of work. Decades before the internet he figured out how to get the knowledge he needed to do it all himself. Of course with his life long partner holding the other end of anything to big to handle alone. He loved the knowledge, loved the work and results, it was all part of that world.
And through it all a wry and gifted sense of humor, Fran’s world.
He took on the role of older brother to his sisters, despite the fact that he was younger. Raising children was as foreign to him as it is to any new father, but he threw himself into it and put us before anything. Grandparenthood on the other hand was the best part; Opa had no worries or responsibilities just pure joy.
What motives someone to that limit of strength and determination that leaves us so impressed and so proud. His talents were born out of an interest in the world; its people, a devotion and tenderness, a respect for those people. It blossomed thru effort, work, accomplishment and became the driver in his life.
Francis J. Berdel, beloved husband, father, and grandfather passed peacefully on August 22, 2017. A well traveled, big life. Missed by many. He is survived by his wife of over 62 years, Arda (Oidtmann); his children, Stephen (m. Susan) of Wantagh, NY and Mary (Missy) Lindston(m. Ian) of Rumson, NJ; his 4 grandchildren, Robert Lindston, Max, Doug & Claire Berdel.
Francis J. Berdel will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Spring 2018