Berkley Founder Berkley Bedell Passes at 98

Berkley Bedell went by many names: Congressman, soldier, father, founder, and most of all—fisherman. The Iowa businessman passed away Saturday after suffering a stroke. He was 98.

If you don’t know Bedell by his last name, you surely know him by his first. The Spirit Lake, Iowa, native and Iowa State Cyclone founded Berkley Fishing Co. in 1937. Though he took a hiatus from company life from 1942-1945, Bedell returned to lead Berkley through a post World War II economic boom in America.

In 1964, Bedell stood toe-to-toe with President Lyndon Johnson after receiving the Small Businessman of the Year Award. And by 1975, he was representing his home state of Iowa in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“Berkley Bedell was the embodiment of a dedicated public servant. As a stalwart of progressive politics in Northwest Iowa, his work to uphold farm families during the Farm Crisis, boost the middle class, and provide a fair shot for all has impacted countless Iowans,” said Iowa Democratic Party Chair Troy Price and Fourth District Chair Penny Rosfjord.

Even into his 90s, Bedell was an active participant in the nation’s politics and the battle to protect its environment.

In 2014, he lobbied to increase voter turnout among Iowa’s youth, telling the Des Moines Register, “If you are a young person, your life will be affected by whether we do something about climate change.” And in 2019, he endorsed Elizabeth Warren’s nomination in the upcoming presidential race.

Bedell’s son, Tom, released a public statement on Facebook earlier this week:

“Dad was born in 1921. He pioneered a life that impacted others for 98 years. His duality of concern for how others thought of him and how graciously he thought of others molded a personality that was uniquely special and full of influence. He embraced responsibility for the challenges to humanity from nuclear annihilation to climate change to disparity in affluence to the economic greed in medicine over the natural pathic solutions to human health. He transitioned a sleepy town in northwest Iowa with his fishing business; he set an example of principle as a Congressman; and he lived wisdom and passion in his senior years – never giving up on the desire and belief that he could change the world for the better.”

Bedell’s legacy as a businessman continues to this day as the company he founded in 1937 remains one of the most storied and trusted brands in the industry.

Bedell’s wife, Elinor Bedell, passed way in 2017. He is survived by his three children, Tom, Ken, and Jo.