Reverend Dr. Donald Frank Berns

Raised in Tribute:


Rv. Dr. Donald Frank Berns
October 8, 1947 - June 5, 2017

Don Berns was a Hoosier, born in Indianapolis, to the late Martha (Tufts) and Philip Berns. He was athletic and adventurous from his boyhood on, from cracking a bullwhip and snapping popsicle sticks from his younger sister Kathy's mouth, to starring as a Little League pitcher, to playing every season's sports until he focused on tennis in high school and college, followed by golf the rest of his life. He always admired large birds and wanted to fly, and even took some flying lessons, went hang gliding, and skydived once and was planning to go again this summer.

Don was a Duke Blue Devil, graduating from Duke University's School of Engineering as a Mechanical Engineer, and played varsity tennis all four years. He also was on the European circuit one summer with his Duke Netter pals during his Duke years.

Following graduation, Don used his engineering degree, working with Exxon and his family's highway construction business, Berns Construction Company for five years. He always said that the problem-solving skills gained from engineering were excellent preparation for life.

When he sensed God calling him to fulltime Christian ministry, he knew that nothing is wasted in God's economy, and became a transplant to California, graduating from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena. For twelve exciting and fruitful years, Don impacting hundreds, if not thousands, of teens in youth ministry and directed the intern program which trained nearly 100 future pastors at La Canada Presbyterian Church. When Parkinson's Disease (PD) made a transition necessary, he switched his focus on ministry to the marketplace (the emphasis of his Doctor of Ministry dissertation) and pastoral care.

Though he was diagnosed with PD at 33, he fought, researched, and attacked PD as a challenge and a problem to be solved. To the end of his life, he never gave up learning, hoping, and praying for a cure, while inspiring and encouraging many others who battle PD and other chronic and neurological diseases globally.

Don was married to the love of his life, Rev. Karen Berns for 46 years, 36 of which PD was a part of their relationship. They are the parents of son, Jason, and daughter, Joy. Don is survived by his beloved and loving family - Karen Berns, Jason Berns, and Joy Dunn, their spouses, Laura Berns, and Matt Dunn, and five grandchildren: Kylie, Justin, Dominic, Charlotte, and Alexandra, all of whom he cherished. He also treasured his three younger sisters, Kathy Albrektson, Sally John, and Peggy Mindrebo, their husbands, Ray Albrektson, Mark John, and Norm Mindrebo, and their families.

After fighting the good fight, keeping and sharing the faith, Don passed through the doorway of death peacefully into eternal life on June 5. Don leaves a legacy of Love, Faith, Joy, and Perseverance for all who knew him.

Memorial gifts in Don's name may be made to:
Young Life Pasadena Area
2275 Huntington Dr., #173, Pasadena, CA 91108-2640

The Michael J. Fox Foundation - this tribute page!
Box 5014, Hagerstown, MD 21741-5014

Monte Vista Grove Homes
2889 San Pasqual St, Pasadena 91107

Parkinson's Timeline:

- 1980 Aching left arm followed by slight tremor.
- Though formerly ambidextrous, could not sustain turning motion with left hand in tightening screws to install deadbolt lock.
- March 1981 Neurological appointment, hospitalization to test for tumors, etc. milligram, showed not MS
- Later Spring 1981 - Parkinson’s proposed by Doctor.
- November 1981 began Sinemet helped symptoms but wild dreams – felt like he was going to the movies every night as he slept.
- June 1985 bothered by dyskinesia
- October 1986 noticed greater on-off symptoms
- April 1987 told by dear friend about Adrenal Graft implants in Mexico
- July 1987 chosen for Vanderbilt Experimental Adrenal Graft Implant surgeries. Drs. Burns (neurologist) and Allen (neurosurgeon)
- Summer 1988 – no lasting help from Adrenal Graft implant
- January 1989 began talks about Disability
- Spring 1989 went on Disability
- Removal of shunt – Loma Linda - September 1993
- December 1993 Bilateral Pallidotomy Loma Linda Med Ctr-Dr. Robert Iacono! Remedial and renewed life, no tremor, no dyskinesia, slept thru the night for first time in 8 years!
- 1998 Decision not to play racquetball again due to falling
- Between 2000-2003, Falls began. By 2003, fell 25 times a day
- 2011 Droxidopa Trial – Double Vision – dropped out of clinical trial, family began to notice cognitive impairment. Numerous small driving accidents and bicycling accidents. Gave up driving Aug. 2012
- September 2012 moved to graduated care facility - independent living with wife
- 2012 resigned as Cov. Group Treasurer – couldn’t do the math anymore
- October 2013 systemic staph infection lodged in back, emergency surgery, massive infection, 12 weeks IV meds, hospitalized 43 days, moved to SNF.
- May 2014 -November 2014 – Assisted Living til hallucinations and wild actions required hospitalization.
- December 2014 - June 2017 SNF, many breakouts, though escorted out by wife or friends nearly daily.
- August 2016 off Sinemet, onto Rytary
- December 2016 started Apokyn
- April 2017 Nuplazid to help with hallucinations

6/5/2015 Died peacefully/quickly-cardiac arrest or pulmonary embolism

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The Michael J. Fox Foundation

The Michael J. Fox Foundation is dedicated to finding a cure for Parkinson's disease and to ensuring the development of improved therapies for those living with Parkinson's today. The Foundation is the world's largest nonprofit funder of Parkinson's research, with more than $800 million in high-impact research funded to date.

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