Frank Berto, loving father and devoted husband, passed away surrounded by his loving family on December 8, 2019, ending a varied 90-year life.
Frank was born on October 19, 1929, in Vancouver, British Columbia, son of Frank L. and Elsie Berto. Frank had three older siblings: Ben, Irene, and Carmen. After graduating from the University of British Columbia as a mechanical engineer, he became intrigued by the opportunity of working for Standard Oil of New Jersey in Aruba in the Netherlands West Indies. There he met Connie, the love of his life. The feeling was mutual, and they married in Aruba in June 1956 and had their first daughter, Frances, a year later.
Following the call of higher education, the couple and their baby headed for California. After obtaining his Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering at the California Institute of Technology in 1958, Frank began work for Standard Oil of California/Chevron, where he would spend the next 28 years, rising to the position of senior staff instrument engineer and travelling all over the world during his career. The couple settled in Marin County and had four more children: Joseph, Ben, Tom, and Louise. They both became active in the Sleepy Hollow community. Frank served as pool chairman, board member, and president of the Sleepy Hollow Homes Association. In his 30 years on the Board of the Ross Valley Fire District and Paramedic Authority, Frank shepherded the entry of Sleepy Hollow as a full voting member. He also served on the Sleepy Hollow Fire Protection District Board for 32 years. Frank was a staunch advocate for firefighter and paramedic training and retention to ensure that his community had qualified and experienced fire personnel.
Frank was also a scoutmaster for Sleepy Hollow Troop 50 during his boys’ participation in Boy Scouts, leading several bicycle tours, kayak trips, and Sierra 50-mile hikes with his sons and other scouts. He served as a lector for St. Rita’s Church in Fairfax, CA.
Frank applied his engineering expertise to bicycling, being the first to recognize the need for objective analysis and testing of bicycle shifting. He started writing about his work in 1973 and began working on a part-time basis for “Bicycling” magazine, the leading bicycling periodical in the U.S, for 20 years. He was the magazine’s engineering or west coast editor for most of that time. Frank wrote over 160 bicycling-related articles for 19 different magazines in the US and overseas, and rewrote the section on Bicycles for the Encyclopedia Britannica. Frank was also an active bicycle historian and he presented papers at several International Bicycle History Conferences.
Frank wrote four books on bicycles including two that are definitive on the subject: “The Birth of Dirt” about the origins of the mountain bike, and “The Dancing Chain” on the history of derailleur bicycles. Frank also greatly enjoyed answering over 2500 letters from readers.
His groundbreaking work was the first to recognize the innovation and engineering excellence of Japanese manufacturers and helped their rise into a dominant force in the bicycle component industry.
Following retirement, Frank served as a consultant and expert witness in both oil measurement and the bicycle industry. He and Connie also traveled and enjoyed gardening and their children and grandchildren at their home in Sleepy Hollow. Frank also liked to tootle around Marin in his 1916 Model T Ford.
Frank is survived by his wife of over 63 years, Connie; their children Joseph (Dianne), Ben (Marija), Tom (Monica), Louise (Mack), and four grandchildren: Peter, Iris, John, and Alex. He was pre-deceased by daughter Frances.
Frank was a devoted husband and father, providing well for his family, faithfully serving his community, and advancing the level of knowledge in instrument engineering and bicycle technology. His intellect, sense of humor, and steady presence will be greatly missed.
Funeral services will be held at St. Rita’s Church, Fairfax, CA, at 10:30 a.m. on Jan. 3, 2020. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to St. Vincent de Paul Society of Marin, 822 B St., San Rafael CA 94901.
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