Egerton King van den Berg (“Van”) was born on June 5, 1931, in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, to Oliver Wolcott van den Berg (only child of Professor Henri Jacobus van den Berg and Laura Wolcott van den Berg) and Elizabeth Egerton King van den Berg (oldest child of Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King and Martha Rankin Egerton King). He graduated from Saint Albans School in Washington, D.C., entered the United States Military Academy at West Point, and was commissioned at graduation in the U.S. Army Infantry, in which he served as a Ranger Officer commanding infantry units in the field until he resigned his commission in 1956, and entered Duke University Law School. At Duke, he demonstrated an incredible work ethic that defined his life. He held down three jobs to support his wife and three children. Nonetheless, he graduated first in his class, was the Editor-in-Chief of the Duke Law Review, and a member of the Order of the Coif. That same year, in 1959, Van moved to Central Florida with his young family.
Nothing was more important to Van than his family. He is survived by his friend and beloved wife of ten years, Dr. Nancy Ann Nikkinen van den Berg, of Winter Park, FL, who graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School. He was preceded in death by his older brother, Oliver Wolcott, Jr., a U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Colonel and a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars, and a sister, Elizabeth Laura (Mrs. Joe) Western. He is survived by two sisters, Martha Egerton (Mrs. HD) Slaughter and Margaret Wilson van den Berg, both of Easton, Maryland.
Van is also survived by his seven children: son Dr. Egerton van den Berg (Anne), of Orlando, FL; daughter Gladys van den Berg (Andrew Walker), of Orlando, FL; daughter Alicia Clemens (Thomas), of Lansdale, PA; son Alexander van den Berg (Jennifer), of Winter Park, FL; son David van den Berg (Amy), of Fairbanks, AK; daughter Laura van den Berg (Paul Yoon), of Cambridge, MA; and, daughter Caroline van den Berg (fiancé Andres Garcia), of Sanford, FL. Van is also survived by his sixteen grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren: Marisa (Kevin), parents of Arel and Azure; Bradford (Andrea), parents of Wyatt and Nolan; Elizabeth (Adam), parents of Evelyn, Thomas, and Van; Michael (Gabrielle), parents of Julian; Alicia; David; King; Alexander, Jr.; Olivia; Aimee; Benjamin; Katherine; Karl; Sophia; Eleanor; and, Henri.
Van’s long and distinguished career left a profound impact on the city of Orlando. In 1964, he co-founded the law firm van den Berg, Gay and Burke, with Norman Burke, Bob Dyer, and his cherished West Point roommate Francis V. Gay; the firm later became known as van den Berg, Gay, Burke, Wilson and Arkin. Van took great pride in serving his clients, and was known as a brilliant strategist and a formidable litigator. He was deeply respected by his clients and colleagues for his big heart and integrity. For over a decade, beginning in 1967, Van served as the Orlando City Attorney, where, among his other accomplishments, he was active in the expansion of equal opportunity. Van became involved in legal aid service, and helped birth today’s nationally acclaimed Orange County Legal Aid Society. During his service in the public sector, he was involved in implementing programs which assured participation by minority and female-owned businesses in contracts awarded by the agencies he represented. He was deeply involved in the creation of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority and the founding and development of the Orlando International Airport. He also oversaw other major development projects, including a significant water management project in the Central Florida area, the renovations to the Bob Carr Performing Arts Center and the Citrus Bowl, and the design and construction of the Municipal Justice Building.
In 1984, Van’s firm merged with the national firm Foley & Lardner, where he continued in general practice until retiring in 1995. Van later became general counsel for the airport and then, from 1998-2000, he was the Aviation Authority’s Executive Director.
Van’s first attempt at retirement did not last long. In 2001, Van was engaged by Orange County to assist in carrying out plans for a $746 million dollar addition to the Orange County Convention Center. In 2011, Van was asked to join the volunteer COVE Committee, created to advise and assist the Orange County School Board in carrying out construction and renovation projects. Van was appointed Chairman of COVE in 2012.
Even after Van’s eventual retirement, he remained active in many community organizations, including the Winter Park University Club. He traveled extensively—to Ireland, Alaska, Turkey, France, England, Scandinavia, and Spain. During these years, he prized the chance to spend more time with his wife, children, and his ever-expanding circle of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
These facts do not come close to capturing what a rich and extraordinary life Van lived. He was a true original: earthy, yet sophisticated; brilliant and accomplished, yet compassionate; courageous and often larger-than-life. He was never daunted by a challenge—in fact, he sought them. He had a deep affection for animals, most especially dogs and horses. He had a profound understanding of the natural world. He valued determination, integrity, and a sense of humor. Long after leaving Oklahoma, he remained proud of his roots and took pride in identifying as an “Okie.” He believed in “true grit.” Through his public service and his devotion to his family, he has left behind a tremendous legacy of progress and love.
A private family service will be followed by a public Celebration of Life, on Saturday, February 23rd, at 1:00 PM, in the Regency Ballroom on the 4th Level of the Hyatt Regency at the Orlando International Airport. Afterwards, a reception will be held at the Hemisphere restaurant at the Hotel. Flowers may be sent to the Hyatt. Donations may be made to the following organizations, both very close to Van’s heart: the Legal Aid Society of the Orange County Bar Association and the Brevard Indian River Lagoon Coalition.
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