Keeping time keeps lifelong Duluthian young

Joe Berini manned his usual spot in a corner of the Malosky Stadium press box earlier this fall when he was asked how long he had been a football timekeeper.

Joe Berini manned his usual spot in a corner of the Malosky Stadium press box earlier this fall when he was asked how long he had been a football timekeeper.

Before Berini had a chance to answer, Minnesota Duluth sports information director Bob Nygaard chimed in.

"When Joe started here," Nygaard said, "they used a sun dial."

Berini hasn't been around quite that long, but his tenure spans a few decades.

He will be running the scoreboard clock at Malosky Stadium at 1 p.m. today when the Bulldogs host North Dakota in the final home game of the season. The lifelong Duluthian has been the timekeeper at UMD since about 1983 and at high school football games at Public Schools Stadium since 1955. He said staying active and involved in sports has helped keep him young.


Up until this year, when Berini missed a UMD game for his daughter's funeral, he didn't recall missing a Bulldogs' home football game since World War II.

"I was always a fan, so when they asked me to keep time, I just said, 'What the heck? If they need me, then I'll do it.' I'd be there anyway," Berini said. "I've always been a jock from way back."


Berini grew up on the corner of Sixth Avenue West and Fourth Street. In 1938 he graduated from Central High School, where he played basketball.

After serving three years in the finance department of the United States Army Air Forces in Africa and Italy during the war, he returned home and worked as a food salesman before becoming recreation director for the First Methodist Community House in downtown Duluth, where he was affectionately called "Mr. B" or "Coach." Over the years, he coached future stalwarts such as Coopen Johnson, Dick Forbort, Roger Hanson, Dick Fisher and Peter Bergman.

Around 1940, Berini met the love of his life, Millie Hire, and the two were married on June 11, 1945. Three years later, he enrolled at UMD, where he graduated with a bachelor's degree in physical education and social studies in 1951. He later got his master's degree in counseling from UMD in 1959.

"When I was at UMD, I was the hockey manager, and I still have my old letter jacket that I'm proud of," Berini said.

After college, Berini bounced around to various Duluth junior high schools, teaching geography and physical education, as well as coaching, before landing at the new Ordean Junior High School in 1956.


"I was lucky to be Ordean's first coach," Berini said. "I coached all the sports except swimming."

In 1965, Berini started working at Duluth East High School, where he served as a counselor before retiring in 1983. He also served as an East basketball assistant in the 1970s and helped the Greyhounds reach the state tournament.

"Joe is one of those guys who looks the same now as he did 30 years ago, and I think a lot of that has to do with his attitude," said Nygaard, who graduated from East in 1978. "He is always chipper and in a good mood, and I've never heard anyone say a bad word about Joe. He's one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet."

PSS public address announcer Bruce Wendlandt also attended East when Berini was there and has worked high school football games with him for about 15 years.

"We have a good time at PSS, but we also like to put out a good product," Wendlandt said. "Joe is pretty serious. He wants to make sure we get it right, and when an official wants more time on the clock, he'll get defensive about it when he feels he had it right. I've had to work the clock and the scoreboard at a game before, so I know it's not as easy as people think. You have to be on your toes."

Berini's wife, Millie, died on June 3, 2005, just eight days shy of the couple's 60th anniversary. They had four children: Bob, Patty, Jim and Joe Jr. Millie didn't play many sports, but Joe said she always allowed him the chance to enjoy them.

Berini used to be an avid softball player but has remained active in retirement by playing golf at Lester and Enger golf courses and by bowling at Stadium Lanes, where he is captain of a team called "Da Boys." At one time, he carried a 180 bowling average, and until the past two years he could occasionally still shoot a nine-hole round of golf in the high 30s. He didn't start using a riding cart until this year because, he says, "I'm not a kid anymore."

Until last year, Berini was the timekeeper at Bulldogs' basketball games as well. UMD men's basketball coach Gary Holquist was in the press box at a Bulldogs' football game earlier this fall when he questioned who was running the clock. After finding out it was Berini, Holquist changed his stance and said emphatically, "If that's the way Joe had it, that's the way it is."


Indeed, Berini has the clout to continue being the timekeeper as long as he wants. When asked how much longer he would do it, he said with a laugh, "Until I can't walk up those stairs, because they are getting steeper all the time."

JON NOWACKI covers college sports for the News Tribune. He can be reached weeknights at (218) 723-5305 or by e-mail at .

Jon Nowacki is a former reporter for the Duluth News Tribune
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