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Man found dead in tent at Swan Lake remembered as father, grandfather

Dave Bergman had a room at Our Place but sometimes went out on his own, seeking solitude, his daughter says

Kori Balaberda wants people to know the full story behind her stepfather, whose body was found in October near Swan Lake Nature Sanctuary, where he had been camping.

“I just wanted to change the narrative about him being some random guy in a tent,” she said.

Dave Bergman had a room at Our Place but sometimes went out on his own, seeking solitude, Balaberda said.

She said her “Papa Dave” was “just trying to get some peace.”

It took a while for him to be identified and for his family to be notified.

Balaberda, one of four sisters that he doted on, said she hadn’t seen him for some time. He had been the subject of a recent missing-person investigation.

“He was ashamed — he was self-medicating with his addiction,” she said, adding her stepfather suffered from depression.

Balaberda said the mental-health problems developed after her stepfather dealt with kidney cancer and back issues, and he came to Victoria to get away from things. She said he had been raised to hide his emotions. “He was a working man having to be humbled.”

Bergman had been a carpet layer during his working life and had impressive strength, said Balaberda, who grew up in Saskatchewan and now lives in Delta.

“My friends called him Popeye because he could carry a roll of carpet by himself,” she said. “He’d just throw it over his back because his arms were massive, like Popeye arms — forearms the size of somebody’s thigh.

“He was strong and capable.”

He was also jovial, loving and carefree, she said — and handy, too.

“Still when I go to do something I say: ‘I wish Dave was here, I wish my dad was here. He’d know how to do this.’ ”

He was still married to her mother, Blanche Sanderson, at the time of his death, and had been for 30 years, Balaberda said.

And his nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren loved him, Balaberda said.

“They’d be hanging off him,” she said. “When it was good, it was really good.”

An online fundraising page has been created to help with expenses for Bergman’s celebration of life, and has generated more than $1,000 of its $1,500 goal.

“I was totally overwhelmed by random people and their generosity,” Balaberda said.

The cause of death has not been determined, pending the results of a toxicology test.

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