There was no subject too complicated for Harold D. Berger, former regional director of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. In his final years, he taught himself calculus and chess strategy.
"He loved learning. He really valued education," said his daughter Judy Berger, 63, of Dallas. "All of his children got second degrees."
Harold Berger, who lived 60 years on Long Island, died Wednesday at South Shore Hospital in South Weymouth, Massachusetts, after suffering a brain hemorrhage. He was 94.
Born in Brooklyn on June 7, 1921, he served as an Army captain during World War II, doing intelligence work in the Pacific. He later attended Brooklyn College and became a chemist, settling his family in Valley Stream.
Berger ran his own chemical manufacturing business in Westbury until his 40s, when he grew interested in law and enrolled at the St. John's University law school.
"He did many, many things," said Eleanor Berger, his wife of 72 years. "We were very involved with all of it."
As a lawyer, Berger dabbled in patent and environmental law, his children said.
He also delighted in Long Island politics. Judy and Lee Berger, 66, of Bourne, Massachusetts, fondly remember watching their father read law books and volunteer with the Nassau County Democratic Party.
Berger's greatest interest was the environment. He taught risk analysis at Stony Brook University's Waste Reduction Management Institute and as DEC regional director from 1983 to 1991, he launched citizens advisory committees and the agency's Stop Throwing Out Pollutants, or STOP, program aimed at proper disposal of household chemicals. He was aggressive in efforts to change Long Island's waste disposal practices, helping to close polluting landfills and stem the growth of cesspools and septic systems.
"He saw all the pollution growing up on Long Island and he was trying to solve a problem," said his son Lee Berger.
When Harold and Eleanor Berger relocated to Linden Ponds, a retirement community in Hingham, Massachusetts, in 2010, he helped spur efforts to get a wind turbine installed.
"He didn't just get into something and say he'd be a part of it," Judy Berger said. "He'd really put his whole heart in."
In addition to his wife, son and daughter, Berger is survived by son Bob Berger, 70, of Teaneck, New Jersey; daughter Sue Berger, 59, of Boston; eight grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.
The funeral will be at 11 a.m. Sunday at Gutterman's Inc. in Rockville Centre. Burial will follow at Wellwood Cemetery in Pinelawn.