Dr. Donald Berg

Donald Donavon Berg, 80, of Ottumwa, passed away May 25, 2024. He was born April 14, 1944, in Webster City to Eugene and Annetta Peterson Berg.

He is survived by his wife, Jane and their son Dillon Donovan Berg; his children, Thomas Donavon Berg, Kimberly (Bill) Cronk, and their mother, Penny Berg, all of Iowa City; grandchildren, Holden Donavon Berg and Jenson Berg, along with Will, Avonlea, Bode Donavon, and Cosette Cronk; brother DeWayne (Cathy) Berg; nephew Todd (Jody) Berg and niece Tricia (Jason) King; father-in-law Lyle VanWinkle; sister-in-law Patty (Stan) Eggleston, nieces-in-law Sara Eggleston and Julie (Michael) Monroe; step-grandchildren Wolfgang, Katherine, and Jo Fullenkamp.

Don acquired his strong work ethic while growing up on a farm near Blairsburg, Iowa. By age five, he was secured with a belt onto a tractor to plow the fields. He later became the first in his family to attend college, ultimately graduating from the University of Iowa College of Medicine in 1970. He completed his orthopedic surgery residency at Kansas City General Hospital and then served at Offutt Air Force Base. In 1975, he established his orthopedic surgery practice in Ottumwa, Iowa. He served thousands of patients as a physician for over 45 years. Dr. Berg loved caring for people, even if that meant examining someone’s wrist while eating at the old Sirloin Stockade or checking out a state trooper’s hurt knee after being stopped for one of his speeding tickets! He was among the first orthopedic surgeons to perform arthroscopic surgery. His work ethic was extraordinary–it was not unusual for him to perform six surgeries in a morning, care for 45 patients in the afternoon, later that evening dictate notes on each patient from memory, and then often be called back into the hospital for emergencies. He earned the respect of nurses, fellow physicians, and his patients. Don was a natural athlete with quick hands and footwork. However, Don’s high school coach had to convince his dad to let him play on the football team because it would mean missing farm work during harvest time. He made the most of the opportunity, and as the quarterback, his Webster City team never lost a game in all four years he played. His favorite sport was basketball, and he would practice dribbling blindfolded in his driveway. He played point guard for Iowa Central Community College, winning the state championship. He later picked up tennis, becoming one of the state’s top-ranked players in his age division.

Don believed children bring joy to life. His kids loved going on rounds with him in the hospital. Despite his work schedule, they always felt his genuine interest and support throughout their lives. As a father, he was patient. Tom and Kim have fond memories of skiing with their dad and having good talks on the long ski lifts. Dillon also hiked to the peaks of several mountains in Colorado with him. Tom followed in his dad’s footsteps to become a physician. Other Ottumwa grads also attribute their interest in medicine to Don, and he became a mentor to them. Don was proud of his daughter Kim for earning her law degree and becoming a full-time mother. He was excited for his son Dillon to begin dental school at the University of Iowa this fall! Don believed in continuous learning and avidly read books about health, parenting, finances, and politics. His kids will miss discussing these topics with him.

Having attended community college himself, Don realized the importance of good junior colleges and served for many years on the Board of Indian Hills. He also gave much of his time as a Board member of Wapello County Public Health, the Ottumwa Regional Health Center, and South Ottumwa Savings Bank. Don’s love for the outdoors was evident in his many hours spent clearing a hiking trail through the woods around their pond so that he could enjoy walks there with his family. He enjoyed spending time with Jane tending to their horses and award-winning elk. He was perhaps most content outside, using his chainsaw or building fires!

He was also an avid sports fan. He enjoyed attending Hawkeye games and cheering on his kids and grandkids, and he showed great interest in their hobbies and education. Don had unfailing optimism. He had a genuine belief in the potential of others, and his belief gave others confidence. He valued everyone equally, no matter their job title, as long as they worked hard at whatever they chose to do. He was humble.

Chances are that if you read this tribute, you or a close family member received care from Dr. Berg. He loved fixing broken bones or replacing worn-out knees and hips to restore people's movement. In his final days, Don’s cancer spread to the point where he had to uncharacteristically rely on others to help him move. This suffering was not easy, but it was an honor for those who could help him. His mind remained sharp, and he never complained. He made a special effort to give others words of gratitude and encouragement until the very end of his life. He passed away in the comfort of his log home.

Visitation will be open at 11 a.m. Friday, May 31st at Reece Funeral Home with the family present to greet friends from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Friday.

Funeral services will be 10:30 a.m. Saturday, June 1st at First Lutheran Church. Burial will be in Ottumwa Cemetery.

Memorials may be made to the Ottumwa A-Club (high school athletics), Hospice Serving Davis and Wapello Counties or the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.