Dr. Alfred “Al” J. Bersbach

PORTLAND – Dr. Alfred “Al” J. Bersbach, 75, a physicist, engineer, technology expert, peace activist, and musician, died on Dec. 12, 2020, after a brief stay at Maine Medical Center related to contracting COVID-19 at the memory care facility where he resided.

Born in Santa Monica, Calif. on July 12, 1945, the son of Ruth Loucks and Alfred Bersbach, Al was one of four boys in the Bersbach household. He graduated from The California Institute of Technology with a B.S. in 1967, and did his graduate work at Princeton University, where he earned a master’s degree in 1970 and a Ph.D. degree in 1974 in high energy physics.

Inspired by the ‘back to the land’ movement in the ’70s, Al moved to Vienna, Maine with his then wife, Eileen Liddy. Their intention was to live near a college town where there would be an active intellectual and artistic presence. Al soon found employment at the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF), first teaching physics, then joining UMF’s Information Technology department, where he served from 1982 until his retirement in 2010 as the Manager of Network and Server Systems. Throughout his years at UMF, Al was deeply admired for his brilliance, kindness, selflessness, gentle approach to providing assistance, and infectious intellectual curiosity.

This Renaissance man was not only an amateur astronomer who built his own 12-inch telescope mirror; or a fearless climber of tall pine trees who placed antennae for network connections; or the developer of the UMF Observatory; or the creator of a weather station on the roof of a downtown building in Farmington that measured wind, temperature, and solar intensity. Al was also an accomplished musician who served as Principal Cello with the UMF Orchestra, and the loving father of a son, Patrick, of whom he was extremely proud. Al and Pat had different interests, but always shared each other’s avocations with love, laughter and respect.

Al and his beloved wife, the poet and retired UMF English Professor Lee Sharkey, had a special affection for the UMF foreign exchange program with Komi State Pedagogical Institute in Syktyvkar, Russia. They travelled there to teach several times and often hosted visiting exchange professors from there.

Al lived with conviction in pursuit of social justice, beginning with conscientious objection against the Vietnam War. In the 1980s, he was a driving force in starting up and maintaining the Western Maine Peace Action Workshop. His fervent commitment to peace and his deep intelligence about the workings of the world also made him a sought-after speaker in various classrooms.

Al was predeceased by Lee; as well as his parents.

He is survived by his son, Patrick Liddy and daughter-in-law Stephanie Harmon; a stepson, Jesse Sharkey, his wife Julie Fain, and their children Caleb Sharkey and Leo Sharkey; and three brothers, Robert, Peter, and Richard Bersbach and their families.

Any contributions in tribute to Al should be directed to

Peace Action Maine,

P.O. Box 3842,

Portland, ME 04104.

To give online, please go to peaceactionme.org.

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