Gene Berg, 70
Margaret Berg, 61
Litchfield, New Hampshire
Many senior athletes travel to multiple events each year to enjoy the competition and camaraderie. Noticing a shiny Airstream travel trailer with New Hampshire plates glinting in the sun at the 2022 Georgia Golden Olympics reminded us that some go the RV route and travel in style. We had to find the owners.
Turns out Gene and Margaret Berg are just what you would imagine a traveling couple to be like – friendly, inquisitive, good humored and passionate about life. In this case, pickleball fuels the passion.
“We make a very odd couple,” Gene says. “She looks fantastic in tennis wear and I’m a lumpy sort of guy.”
“It was time for us to do something together, and we both love sports,” Margaret adds, apparently agreeing with his appraisal. “Gene really wanted to do pickleball and we loved it in an instant. I think he loves it more but I enjoy playing and really love meeting the people.”
Both are previously married and have six children between them. They got together 16 years ago and married in 2012. Both love sports – field hockey, racquetball and cheerleading are in Margaret’s history, and Gene played squash in school and played adult hockey up until 2019. Both had busy careers, hers with the IRS and Gene as an orthopedic surgeon. As retirement approached they felt the need to refocus.
“Our lives were centered around youth sports,” Gene notes. “When the kids left for college we missed chasing them around all the time. I told Margaret we better find something good for us.”
“Litchfield had two indoor courts and we borrowed equipment and learned there in 2014,” Gene continues. “We played our first tournament one year later and haven’t slowed down since.” With state senior games in New England closely located, they got to know many people in the region and even hosted a party for out of staters when the New Hampshire games were near their hometown.
The Airstream came in 2018 when Gene retired. “I qualified for the 2017 and 2019 National Senior Games, but I was still working and could not take that much time to play three events,” he explains. “When I retired we looked at each other and said, ‘Let’s play the other states.’”
The couple has checked off 22 so far. “We try to plot and plan when games take place and what’s along the route,” Gene says. “We have a lot of states left to hit, especially out West. We’d also like to play all the Canadian provincial games.”
When they finally got to the 2022 National Senior Games, the 3.0 rated couple did not medal. “We got smoked in mixed doubles,” Gene admits. “But she’s two age groups younger than I am so I play at her level. But otherwise it was like old home week really because we saw people we played with in the state games.”
The two also joke about giving marriage counseling to couples who play together. “When it’s competitive neither of us is very demure, so when we are not winning friction can occur,” Gene says diplomatically.
Margaret adds, “When you’re partnering with a stranger you’re nicer about a missed shot. When you’re married, that doesn’t necessarily happen. We all laugh about that. Besides, I can hit him with a paddle and no one will say anything!”
Two competitive types traveling long distances in tight spaces might test a relationship, but they report it’s been a smooth ride. “The camper is our favorite spot, our little home on wheels,” Margaret says cheerily. “Honestly, we never argue in it and love having our routines. I can cook our meals in it, and after dinner Gene might read a book and I’ll go out to meet other campers. It’s just so much fun.”
Gene has a simpler equation for happiness on the road. “When we’re traveling, I’m just obedient so there’s few issues.”
Obviously the element of love brought them together and continues to pave the road ahead. Gene will tell you he ‘married up’. Margaret has her pet expression. “I tell people when I’m asked if I got a ticket for a big lottery prize and I say ‘No, I used up all my luck when I met Gene!’”