THEODORE "Ted" W. BERKA, JR., age 88. Passed away on August 17, 2021. Beloved husband of 63 years to the late Marilyn L. Berka (nee Bujalski). Father of Susan (Jack) Novak, Joseph (Valerie), Sharon (Craig) Muzilla. Grandfather of T.J. Berka, Jennifer Kapral, Stephanie Novak, Jessica Novak, Bennett Muzilla, Joseph Berka and Megan Muzilla. Great Grandfather of Henry and Haleigh Kapral. Also, survived by many nieces and nephews.
Ted Berka was a man of many talents. He was an expert skier who served as a ski patrolman and instructor for nearly four decades and a ski racer that zoomed down the slopes against the best of the best in his age group until he was nearly 60 years old.
He was an accomplished cyclist, a racer in that sport who had the talent, drive and stamina to bike across the state of Ohio on a whim. He could take apart a car engine in his garage and change the oil like it was nothing. He could build pretty much anything, whether it was a house to live in or a pond in the backyard of his house on Berkley Road, a place where his children, grandchildren and friends could have fun and make life-long memories.
He also was one of the toughest men you’ll ever encounter. So tough that shattering his legs not once, but twice (once in a ski racing accident nearly 30 years ago and again in a car accident more than a decade later) wasn’t enough to keep him down. Not even close. With all due respect to Bruce Willis, Theodore William Berka is the real Die Hard.
But those are not the primary reasons we’re celebrating his life. Of the many talents that Ted Berka possessed during his 88 years on Earth, perhaps his greatest was his ability to make whoever he was talking to the center of attention – to listen, to care, to inquire, to laugh and occasionally drop a line or two of genius.
It doesn’t matter what you called him – Ted, Dad, Uncle Ted, Gramps – whenever you had a conversation with him he made you feel like you were the center of the world at that moment. It didn’t matter what the topic was – parenting, sports, weather, world affairs, history, etc. – Ted was always there to lend an ear, give a helping hand, deliver an impeccably timed wisecrack and offer an angle that you otherwise wouldn’t have thought of.
While Ted Berka wasn’t the type of puff his chest or boom his voice, he usually was the smartest person in the room, allowing him to sit back with a wry smile while everyone else tried to figure out something he had mastered immediately. His ability to absorb knowledge, whether it was from life experience or just knowing when to speak up, who to listen to and when to listen to them, made him a savant of sorts.
The life of Ted Berka is the life of a humble, kind, self-made and self-educated man. A man who mustered up the guts to ask out Marilyn Bujalski at a church picnic more than 70 years ago, picking out right away that her bold combination of spunk and moxie was a perfect match for his understated cool. That match made for a glorious 63-year marriage that produced three children (Sue, Joe and Shari), seven grandchildren (T.J., Jenn, Stephanie, Jessica, Ben, Joe and Megan) and two great-grandchildren (Henry and Haleigh) and a legacy that will last beyond his, and Marilyn’s, life.
He was also a man who served our country, joining the Army after graduating high school and serving in Fussen, Germany. Those experiences serving in the aftermath of World War II, allowed him to see a world beyond the Cleveland area and helped him and Marilyn become the visionaries that shaped the Berka family for decades to come.
It allowed them the vision to purchase property in (then) remote Richfield, building a house that became a Berka/Bujalski get-together staple for the five decades that followed. Pick a holiday, any holiday, and everyone would meet on Berkley Road. The Christmas Eve parties, with kielbasa, wine, and Ted drinking his favorite Manhattans, were the place to be. Hanging out with Ted and Marilyn, reveling in their company and love.
The vision allowed Ted, who worked as a repairman and foreman at Ohio Bell for several decades, and Marilyn to invest in the future of their family, whether it was encouraging their three children to go to college or to purchase a condominium in Breckenridge, which turned into the Berka/Bujalski place of leisure and celebration entering the new millennium and beyond. Ted was always evolving, and his vision, and the vision of his wife Marilyn, will live on in this family for generations to come.
Ted Berka was always about making everyone feel happy and loved, whether it was hanging out at the house of Berkley Road or the condo in Brecksville, shooting down the slopes at Boston Mills and Breckenridge, or relaxing at the beaches of Cape Hatteras and the Outer Banks on family vacations. He could find joy sitting at Cleveland Stadium on a blustery winter day watching the Browns or in the Municipal Stadium bleachers watching the Indians bumble around on humid summer nights.
He loved visiting family, whether they were in Chicago, Boston, Florida, Colorado, Texas, Michigan or just up the road in Cleveland -- you name it and he wanted to be at every wedding, communion and graduation he could be at. He was at his happiest being with all of us, and his presence in our lives made them unequivocally better. Which is why that when we’re shedding tears because we won’t get to see his charming smile, his infectious laugh, hear his sharp-edge wit for be the target of his playful cane swat, we should also be happy for him and the step he has taken.
It’s no secret that the nearly two years since Marilyn died were rough on him, being without his one true love. And while he was the same old Ted when around company – asking questions, offering laughs and making everyone around them feel as if they were the most important person in the world in that moment – he was without the most important person in his world. And while he kept fighting to stay in this world and continue to provide that spunk that we all love, he’s now reunited with his one and only.
So as we remember his life and pour out some tears, let’s envision Ted and Marilyn reunited. Picture them shooshing down Peak 8 in Breckenridge, carving through perfectly glistening powder. Picture them sharing a drink together, just as they did so many times throughout the years. Picture them strolling down the aisle at a family wedding, looking suave and dressed to the nines. Picture Ted rolling up to heaven, hearing Marilyn’s booming voice in conversation across the clouds before seeing her face and smiling, knowing he was home. Picture him humorously saying “Oh Marilyn, quiet!” – if only to jokingly provide a reset before the new adventure which they are about to embark. Picture him at a table filled with his favorite muffins, watermelon and pastries -- not a dastardly vegetable in sight -- and the glee that will come from being able to taste them again.
And, more than anything, use this time to reflect on your best memories with Ted. We all have them, and they’re like the snowflakes that glisten the runs at Breck and Boston Mills – they’re all unique and special. But when we share them, they make sense and fit together to form a glorious landscape – because that’s what Ted Berka did for us.
So while Ted might not be with us in body anymore, his impact on our lives will be felt in spirit for years and decades to come and will be passed down from generation to generation. So it’s not really goodbye, because Ted’s influence will never die. And for that we are forever thankful.
Family and friends will be received at NOSEK-McCREERY FUNERAL HOME, 8150 BRECKSVILLE RD., BRECKSVILLE, OH 44141 on Sunday, August 22, 2021 from 2-5 p.m. Ted's Mass of Christian Burial will be held at St. Basil the Great Catholic Church, 8700 Brecksville Rd., Brecksville, OH 44141 on Monday, August 23, 2021 at 10 a.m. (PLEASE MEET AT CHURCH). Memorial donations in Ted's name are suggested to Meals on Wheels of Brecksville, 2 Community Dr, Brecksville, OH 44141. www.Nosek-McCreery.com
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