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March 1999

Chris Berntsen, 1962-1999

People throughout UCAR were shocked and saddened by the unexpected death of Chris Berntsen last month. A shuttle driver for Traffic Services since January 1997, Chris was found in his Boulder home on Monday, 8 February. He was 36. Before joining the staff as a shuttle driver, Chris was a familiar face in the ML fitness center for several years as a yoga instructor. In both roles, Chris touched the lives of a broad cross section of employees.

Diane Norman (F&A) remembers the aroma of herbal tea on the 7:00 a.m. shuttle run that Chris drove from ML to FL. "He was gentle in his tone of voice, and he had a soothing way about him. He'd talk about how he enjoyed hiking along the Mount Sanitas trail or how he enjoyed going to New Orleans for yoga instruction."

"He was the best yoga teacher I've ever had," says Beth Holland. The CGD scientist was one of a core group of six people who attended Chris's Iyengar yoga class each Friday for years. "He had a very analytical style of teaching, and he had a really great way of conveying exactly what sensation he wanted you to be aware of."

Chris taught Ashtanga yoga at the Yoga Workshop in Boulder for several years before switching to the Iyengar technique. After Chris stopped teaching his ML classes last August, Beth stayed in touch through occasional shuttle rides. "Chris wasn't the most talkative person, but we kept in contact, and he made sure we were keeping in touch with yoga," she says.

Chris's untimely death hit the team of shuttle drivers hard, says shuttle manager Jean Hancock. "He was very dependable and I could count on him being here. Chris was a sensitive, thoughtful person, but very private. He could get into good philosophical discussions."

Shuttle driver Mike Sullivan notes that Chris's absence has been felt by a number of riders as well as by colleagues in Traffic Services. Although some encountered Chris during his retiring moments, others made closer contact. "The people that are most affected by this are the people Chris opened up to--the ones who broke through to him or the ones he broke through to. He was a very gentle soul." •BH

A memorial service for Chris took place on 18 February at the Yoga Workshop. Contributions are being collected toward installing a bench along a local nature trail in Chris's memory. Checks can go to Cynthia Lusk, c/o The Yoga Workshop, 2020 21st St., Boulder CO 80302. Chris's father, Gary Berntsen, would appreciate receiving anecdotes and reflections on Chris. Write to him at 5437 Leete Road, Lockport NY 14094.


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Edited by Bob Henson, bhenson@ucar.edu

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