CoServ mourns passing of longtime Board Director Virgil Berend
The passing of the Rural Electrification Act (REA) in 1936 was a watershed moment for a young Virgil Berend, who grew up in Pilot Point during the Great Depression without electricity or any of the conveniences of city life.
“We were used to wood stoves, kerosene lamps, that was it. No radio, no running water,” Virgil said in a 2012 video interview. “I got all my P.E. (physical education) pumping water. I was always chopping wood to cook with.”
The passing of the REA paved the way for electric cooperatives to start forming across the country. Virgil’s father Aloysius was instrumental in rallying the community and signing people up for electricity with the new Denton County Electric Cooperative (DCEC), today known as CoServ.
DCEC was founded in 1937 and that next year, the Berend farm became one of the original Members of the co-op. Technically, DCEC required two Members per mile but Aloysius volunteered his time to ensure others got power so they ran power to his farm anyway.
Virgil was 15 years old when DCEC linemen hand dug holes for utility poles and electrified his house.
“It was the greatest thing to ever happen to America,” Virgil said. “It was kind of like bringing us out of the dark ages.”
In his own life, the ability to have electricity helped him excel at school because he had lights to read by at night. Slowly but surely, they added new electric plugs, appliances and devices to the house.
Like his father, Virgil believed strongly in serving and giving back to the community, and that includes the electric cooperative. Virgil was elected to the DCEC Board of Directors in 1973 and would go on to serve for 27 years. These were transformative years for the co-op as it grew from about 8,000 meters to 80,000 electric meters.
Virgil, 99, passed away on March 19 but the legacy he left behind with his family, CoServ, Pilot Point and the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church will continue for decades to come.
That includes his son-in-law Leon Pelzel who followed in Virgil’s footsteps by serving on the CoServ Board of Directors.
“Aloysius Berend was a big believer in Denton County Electric Cooperative in the early years and that commitment to serve others was passed down to Virgil, who provided tireless decades of service to DCEC,” said Donnie Clary, President and CEO, who worked as CFO when Virgil was on the board. “Today, that tradition continues with his son-in-law, Leon, who has served on the board since 2001.”