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Reminiscences of June, a Traveling Grandmother

Chapter: 17 - 1972 - June - Edinburgh - London










(Edinburgh, Scotland Skyline)


In September of 1972, June and Stan attended the 6th International Meeting in Forensic Sciences that was held at Edinburgh, Scotland. The meetings were sponsored by the International Association of Forensic Sciences. Stan Presented a paper: and slide presentation at the conference "Case Book of an Independent Firearms Examiner". Stan was also appointed and served as Chairman of the Firearms and General Criminalistics Symposium.

June, who was Stan’s Administrative Assistant in his forensic consulting business, attended all such conferences.

The following week served as a side trip to London with visitations to the Firearms Section of the Forensic Science Laboratory of the London Metropolitan Police…during this same week a trip was also made to Bexley, Kent south of London to meet with firearms author Gordon Bruce and his family.

Note: Over the next several years, June would attend a number of such conferences with this professional association and others. This particular conference had originally been scheduled for Belfast, Northern Ireland. However, because of the terrorist activity in an around Belfast at that time, the conference was moved to Edinburgh for the safety of those attending the conference.

The conference received considerable attention in the local press. "The Scotsman" for Wednesday September 20th headlined: "700 Forensic Scientists Meeting In Edinburgh." 

June with Stan, initially flew to London's Heathrow airport (TWA flight 770) arriving on Saturday September 16th. June and Stan spent that night at the Strand Hotel in London. On Sunday morning they departed on a 3 day tour of the English west coast towns by Eastern Scottish Tour lines (Bus) enroute to Edinburgh. Departure point was from the Victoria Coach Station on Buckingham Palace Road in London. The tour was a 3 day and 2 night trip from London to Edinburgh arriving late afternoon on the 19th.


 (June boarding bus for a tour of English countryside)


June Bus Tour to Edinburg 1972


Among the many towns visited were Oxford for lunch, Stratford–On-Avon (Shakespeare's home town) for Dinner and overnight (17th and 18th) with breakfast (Red Horse Hotel), Chester for Lunch, Forton for Tea, Bowness-On-Windermere for Dinner and overnight (18th and 19th) (Windermere Hotel), Lunch at Keswick, Tea at Langholm and then on to Edinburgh.

June and Stan's Edinburgh home was the Carlton Hotel. While in Edinburgh June and Stan attended separate evening receptions given by the University of Edinburgh, followed by the City of Edinburgh and lastly by Her Majesty's Government.

June and Stan's invitations to the receptions were formal printed invitations. The invitation from "Her Majesty's Government" (The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) contained an embossed royal seal in blue. The "Right Honorable Norman R. Wylie, QC, MP, Lord Advocate" was designated to receive the guests. (Monday evening 25 September 1972, MacRobert Pavilion, Ingliston.) The reception featured delicious finger sandwiches and fine wines served by waiters bearing trays of refreshments.

The earlier reception by the "City of Edinburgh" was also a formal affair with printed  invitations from the "Lord Provost, Magistrates and Council of the City of Edinburgh" and contained the embossed seal of the City of Edinburgh. (Friday 22 September 1972 at the City Chambers, Assembly Rooms, George Street, Edinburgh.) 

Where ever June traveled, she met and made new friends. Many new friends were people of great interest. At Edinburgh, June met and became friends with Dr. Charles P. Larson and his wife Margaret of Tacoma, Washington. June had noticed this couple at the opening sessions were dressed in rather colorful sports attire, unlike the more conservative business attire of most of the members of the conference. The man also appeared to have an official  function in conducting the opening of the meetings.  The gentleman turned out to be Dr. Charles "Charlie" Larson.

Apparently he and his wife Margaret's luggage was lost in route to Edinburgh and they were forced to use their relaxed casual travel wear. The Larson's did not become reunited with their luggage until near the end of the conference.  Dr. Larson was one of the original founding members of the International Association of Forensic Sciences and had a world wide reputation in forensic medicine. He was referred to as the "Crime Doctor" in his home town of Tacoma, Washington.

Dr. Larson was an Army pathologist who did a number of autopsies of Jewish bodies found in a US Army liberated Jewish prison camp. June found the Larson's to be a very warm and friendly couple. Dr. Larson later gave June and Stan an autographed copy of his book "Crime Doctor" published in 1978. June kept in touch with the Larson's until after Dr. Larson's death in 1984. Dr. Larson died an untimely death after going into a coma following surgery for a medical condition.


(June's and Stan's  invitation from her Majesty's Government)


Edinburgh Reception 1972


June met another very interesting person during  the conference. Strangely enough, June had to travel thousands of miles in order to meet a person from her own home area. June and Stan met Dr. John Coe and his wife Myrtle from Minneapolis. Dr. Coe was the Chief Medical Examiner from the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's Office in Minneapolis and enjoyed an international reputation in his field. The doctor turned out to be a friendly person with a good sense of humor.

This humor was displayed during the reception by "Her Majesty's Government." Dr. Coe suggested that if one located one's self near the entrances used by the waiters as they moved from the kitchen to the reception hall, a much nicer and wider selection of hors d'oeuvres and finger sandwiches would be available. We did so and found Dr. Coe was right! As you might imagine, when "Her Majesty's Government" was the host, the served wine and hors d'oeuvres were the very best!

Dr Coe, who remained a friend in the many following years, passed away at the age of 92, at his home in the Minneapolis suburb of Bloomington on 26 March 2011. Dr. Coe achieved world renown as a pioneer in the field of forensic pathology. He served (1977) on a Congressional Select Committee on Assassinations. This committee reviewed forensic questions from the John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. cases. Dr. Coe was frequently called on to testify in a number of high U.S. profile cases. Dr. Coe's passing brought to mind the many delightful memories of the adventures that June and Stan shared in the halycon days before Alzheimer's took June's life.

Sometimes the pathways that are taken by our life are almost mysterious. One year before June met Dr. Coe at Edinburgh, a new RN became a part of Dr. Coe's staff at the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's Office. That lady was Aurora Gavino and she worked with the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's Office for 23 years. (1971-1994). During those years she worked with Dr. Coe from 1971 until he retired in 1984. She then worked with Dr. Garry Peterson who replaced Dr. Coe as the Chief Medical Examiner for Hennepin County.

June was also well acquainted with Dr. Garry Peterson. It was around 1987 that June and Stan were seated with Dr. Garry Peterson on a flight to Minneapolis from San Diego. June and Stan were returning from a conference of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences held in San Diego. Dr. Peterson had been at the same conference. Dr. Peterson was friendly and personable during the flight and was showing June his "Mickey Mouse" wrist watch. June liked him immediately. Dr. Peterson also enjoyed an international reputation as a forensic pathologist. Both Dr. Peterson and Dr. Coe were past presidents of the National Association of Medical Examiners. In later years Stan arranged to associate Dr. Peterson with him on forensic cases where a forensic pathologist was needed.

Who could have predicted back in 1972 that many years later (34 years) when June was overcome with Alzheimer's disease and would have to go to a nursing home that she would meet up with Aurora, a caring and kindly lady on Dr. Coe's staff. (2006) Both June and Aurora were residents at the Benedictine Health Care Center in New Brighton during the same period of time.Stan would frequently take June down to  the little Chapel in the Benedictine for  prayers and quiet times. Many times  they would meet up with Aurora at the same Chapel. Aurora who was in a wheel chair, almost always stopped by June to ask how she was doing. Aurora also told Stan how June's and his relationship reminded her of her own relationship with her husband Romeo who passed away years earlier from cancer. 


Before departing Edinburgh, June and Stan visited the Scottish towns of Perth, Balmoral and Aberdeen. This is the general area in which the British Royal Family spend their "summer break" at Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire. Balmoral Castle is located north of Edinburgh and about 1/2 way between Perth and Aberdeen. Visits to the Castle are permitted only during the Months of April through July. The Royal Family frequently takes up residence at Balmoral during August and September.


(June's snapshot of Prince Charles as He passed)  


Prince Charles in Edinburgh 1972


The Royal Family was in fact in residence at the Castle during the time of June's visit to Edinburgh. June was pleasantly surprised to cross paths with Prince Charles one day while on tour of the area. June was able to obtain a picture of the Prince looking directly at her from the left front seat of his chauffeur driven Limousine as he passed June who was standing on the side of the road. (English vehicles drive on the left side of the roadway and thus have the driver's side on the right.)

June and Stan departed Edinburgh by Turnhouse airport on Wednesday September 27th and on to London for a few days. This visit to London was the first of nine such trips to what would later become June's favorite city.

In London the Strand Palace was June and Stan's residence. Shopping for family gifts was a high priority. Included in the shopping was the world famous Harrods. June quickly learned the ins and outs of traveling London's double-decker buses, the English rail system and the London subway (Underground) system.

Because Stan was involved in daytime forensic activities, June would daily travel alone, finding her way easily about London. When traveling the buses, June quickly learned the British  Custom to "queue" up at the bus stop. June would on occasion, use the immaculate black London cabs that had a 1930 limousine appearance. June became so proficient in using the London "Underground" that June later taught Stan how to use it. Stan had been using the cabs because he had thought the "Underground" was too complicated. It proved to be the most efficient and inexpensive means of transportation in and about London.

Who would have guessed that years later, June would become a victim of Alzheimer's disease that would so change her sharp mind that she could no longer even find her room in an assisted living facility that had her name and picture alonside the door.

June also enjoyed visiting Trafalgar Square where she fed the pigeons that seemed to gather there by the hundreds awaiting food from the visiting tourists. The pigeons appeared fearless when there was food close at hand. Trafalgar Square is located only a few blocks from the Stand Palace Hotel where June and Stan resided during their stay in London. It is also very convenient to the Charing Cross rail station used to make their travel to the Bruce's as described below.

Picadilly Circus was also one of the more interesting places to visit in London. Picadilly Circus is located to the west of Trafalgar Square and is in easy walking distance. Both sites are historic public areas with a very high tourist interest. Future visits to London always involved time being spent at both Trafalgar Square and Picadilly Circus.


(June feeding Pigeons and laughing at their antics)


June in Trafalgar Square 1972


Before leaving for home, June and Stan established a lifelong friendship with the Bruce family of Bexley, Kent. (Joan, Gordon, and their children Gary and Lynne) Bexley is a 30-minute rail ride south of London out of Charing Cross Station.

Forensic Science and a joint interest in firearms, was the catalyst that brought the Berg's into what would thereafter be a life long friendship with the Bruce's. Gordon Bruce who later became a noted firearms author and historian, was involved in a study of Military pistols and their inventors. At that time, Gordon was working on the writing and illustrating of a book on this subject. (Gordon is also a commercial artist.) Because of Stan's specialty in firearms, Gordon had been referred to him in April 1971. A lively exchange of correspondence and information ensued thereafter and continues in a much more limited form to this day. The International Association of Forensic Science meetings in Edinburgh in 1972 provided the means for a convenient side trip and the opportunity for the two families to meet face to face and establish their continuing friendship.

Gordon Bruce's studies later culminated in the publication of many illustrated technical articles on firearms in the various arms publications. At least three books were also published as a result of his studies and developed expertise. Although a noted firearms historian, Gordon had never fired a gun. Stan tried without success to change all of that and to have Gordon fire one of the reference collection firearms at the London Metropolitan Police (Scotland Yard) Crime Laboratory when they were there together. While the laboratory staff was cooperative and willing to do so, Gordon was not. He simply had no desire to become proficient in this area of firearms. Stan was disappointed but Gordon was not!

During June's visit with the Bruce's, Gordon and Joan took June and Stan on a tour of the nearby areas of interest. The following is a quote from a note received from Gordon Bruce on his memory of this first visit by the Bergs.

"On your first visit I drove you down to Greenwich, where we went on board the old Clipper ship "Cutty Sark". On a hill in the park there was a statue of General Wolfe that was riddled with shrapnel from bombs during the war. Then I drove you down to see where Churchill lived at Chartwell, although we did not enter the grounds. (It was on another occasion that we all went inside his house.) We also drove past the Biggin Hill airdrome where the Spitfires and Hurricane fighter aircraft fought the "Battle of Britain" in 1940." (The Churchill home was located in Kent County about 13 miles south of Bexley.)

In later years, Joan told June that one of the memories that Gary and Lynne had of her visit was June's description of them as "cute as a bug's ear". They had never heard that phrase or expression before and were often chuckling over it.


  (June with Gord and Joan - time of their first visit 1972) 

 June and her friends the Bruces 1972