Arnold Bergier, 92, artist, Village preservationist

By Albert Amateau

Arnold Henry Bergier, a founder of the Save the Village Committee in 1959 and a sculptor whose life busts of prominent people included Admiral Chester Nimitz and Albert Einstein, died Fri., Jan. 19, in his home in the East Village at the age of 92.

He had been in failing health for the past three years, according to his wife, Jean Kwon.

As an artist who lived and worked in the Village in a studio on Greenwich Ave. at W. 10th St., he helped organize a group of neighbors who fought a wave of evictions and high-rise development. Save the Village, chaired by Arnold Bergier, appeared at City Planning Commission and City Council meetings demanding new zoning to protect the low-rise character of the Village.

“He was a very good public speaker,” said Doris Diether, also a founding Save the Village member. “He had a wonderful studio with a two-story atrium but he lost it in 1960 when a developer demolished it to build the high-rise that’s there now,” Diether recalled.

For the next several years, he lived and worked in various other Manhattan locations and settled in 1988 in a building on Broadway at Washington Pl.

Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, to Henry and Edna Berger (Arnold added the “i” to his last name after a trip to Paris around 1939), he attended Ohio State for a while before he came to the Village in the mid-1930s. A talent for singing earned him Depression Era jobs singing in the Metropolitan Opera Chorus.

“He said he met his first wife when they were both doing sidewalk drawings in chalk during the Washington Square Art Festival,” said Hal Schaffer, a friend of 26 years and a fellow member with Bergier of the American Movement for World Government.

In 1938 he went to Paris where he studied art with Camilo Egas, Robert Gwathmey and others, returning to the Village after the outbreak of World War II. He joined the Navy and served in the Pacific on an L.S.T. landing craft and later with a unit that made relief maps from aerial photos taken with a Speed Graphic camera.

“He was transferred to Admiral Nimitz’s staff as an artist and photographer and worked for the PAC Fleet Bulletin,” his wife said. The connection won him commissions for busts of Nimitz and Admiral William Halsey of the Pacific Fleet.

After his return to the Village, he was commissioned in 1950 to sculpt a bust of Albert Einstein. He would make studies at the Einstein home in Princeton and conversations with the physicist led him to share Einstein’s fervent belief in world federalism.

He also designed and executed sculpture for churches, synagogues and public buildings.

In addition to his wife, a son, Thomas Bergier, and three daughters, Wendy Ashley, Susan Bergier and Barbara Bergier, also survive. Five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren survive.

Friends and family will gather on Sat., Jan. 27, at 11 a.m. at Greenwich Village Funeral Home, 199 Bleecker St. Memorial donations may be made in his memory to the American Movement for World Government, 104 Paradise Harbour Blvd., #515, North Palm Beach, Fla. 33408.