The daughter of the man who died in a fatal house fire last week in Newdale is remembering her father as kind and supportive.
Tom Bergin died last Friday at the age of 74 when his house burned down. The Office of the Fire Commissioner told the Sun that damage to the home worth $200,000 was too extensive to determine the cause of the fire, but both the office and the RCMP are not considering it suspicious.
First responders attended to the blaze at approximately 5:40 a.m. on Feb. 14. The RCMP at the time said only that they had responded to a structure fire and unidentified human remains had been discovered.
Authorities have not yet named Tom as the victim of the fire, only saying that an autopsy confirmed that the victim was a 74-year old male who was the sole occupant of the home.
His daughter, Tara Bergin, confirmed his identity and said it was OK for the Sun to name him. According to her, the cause of death has been determined to be smoke inhalation. He is survived by Tara and her brother, Chris.
Reached over the phone from her home south of Barrie, Ont., Tara said that her father was an extensive traveller, having been born in Northern Ireland and then working in Edmonton, Toronto, Montreal and Halifax among other places after moving to Canada.
Tom originally had an Irish passport, but later switched over to a British passport because it made travelling to certain countries, especially in the Middle East, easier.
"He did business in Saudi Arabia, he drove the ice roads in a truck," Tara said. "He had a pretty amazing life." Tara has a picture of her father on a beach somewhere in the Middle East with a sultan.
Most of his career was spent selling office equipment, working for companies like Canon Canada. His business led to a lot of cross-country travel as well as moving from city to city with his family.
"Dad got things done," Tara said. "I always looked at him as a kingmaker because he took all these small companies and very significantly, he helped turn them into massive companies that sold for millions of dollars."
He apparently never got the hang of the internet. "I can’t imagine what he would have been able to do if there had been internet when he was doing his big, big, big deals," Tara said.
She remembered that her father and someone else once took a motorcycle trip from Edmonton to Montana, right when Mount St. Helens in Washington state erupted in 1980.
"When they woke up, they were covered in ash," Tara said.
Every year, Tom would travel back to Montreal to play with Phoenix, a band he helped form in the 1960s. They played at a coffee shop that Leonard Cohen also played.
Tara said that the manner of his death was fitting in that respect, as the mythical phoenix is said to have burst into flames before being reborn. She has a phoenix tattoo as well.
"I have one of his guitars here with me, thankfully," Tara said. "He’s been telling me for years all these things he wanted me to have and has carried around with him across Canada back and forth, and everything’s just gone in a night ... I’m just kind of flabbergasted when I think about it."
As a father, he was encouraging and nurtured his kids’ creativity. "I thank him for thinking about things and not just reacting with emotion," Tara said. "What my mom and dad gave my brother and I was freedom to learn and become whoever we were going to become."
On his bookshelf was a copy of "Chariots of the Gods," a book about how supposedly aliens have influenced world history. While Tara said he wasn’t an enthusiast of the paranormal or extraterrestrial, he did think that humanity is not alone in the universe.
He ended up moving to Manitoba to help out his sister Mary, who needed some assistance after having a stroke. He lived with her family just east of Brandon for a while before moving up to Newdale approximately 10 years ago.
Tara said that she plans to hold two memorial services, one in Westman and the other in Montreal so that people who knew Tom at different stages of his life can get together to celebrate his life.
In recent years, Tom travelled most frequently to visit Tara in Ontario after she suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2004.
"He’d come and spend time with me," Tara said. "To help me.
"He tried to help me in many different ways, but first and foremost he was my friend," she said.
» Twitter: @ColinSlark