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Photos from the Gayl Bertagni wake at the Swiss are on line

Post by News Tribune Staff on June 1, 2009 at 9:59 am with No Comments »
June 1, 2009 9:59 am

Gerry Collen took hundreds of pictures Saturday afternoon at The Swiss Pub, where a wake was held for Gayl Bertagni, the co-owner who died in an accident over the Memorial Day weekend.

I covered the wake and wrote a story for Sunday’s paper.

Collen graciously provided some of the pictures. He posted 15 of them on our Web site, and provide a link to many more.

Here’s a link to The News Tribune photo gallery.

And if I did this right, here is a link to Gerry’s Gallery, where you’ll find 155 more photos from the wake.

Here’s the story that appeared in Sunday’s paper.

Family, friends raise glasses to Swiss co-owner

Memorial: About 500 turn out to honor chef, mother who had ability ‘to connect with anybody and everybody’

By Joseph Turner

Sunday,May 31, 2009

Edition: SOUTH SOUND, Section: Front Page, Page A01

Gayl Ann Bertagni, the Swiss Pub co-owner who died during Memorial Day weekend, still can hush a boisterous crowd of several hundred tavern patrons – at least, the mention of her name still can.

About 500 members of “The Swiss Family” gathered Saturday afternoon to celebrate Bertagni’s life at a wake that filled the downtown Tacoma watering hole to capacity and spilled outside onto the sidewalks.

The crowd became instantly quiet when a priest asked for God to “bless the soul of Gayl Bertagni.” And that was followed by a “Raise your glasses!” call from a patron-friend and they resumed their boisterous celebration.

“There’s someone from every walk of life here,” said Lillian Hunter, principal of Oakland Alternative High School in Tacoma. “The entire spectrum of the social strata is here, which shows the ability of Gayl to connect with anybody and everybody, regardless of where you came from.”

That was a shared sentiment.

“You could come in here after painting the house, or after a bar mitzvah or after working out at the ‘Y’, and everybody was treated the same,” said Byron Wade, a dental technician who lives across the street from Bertagni on North 12th Street.

Wade said he saw her Friday morning, May 22. “We were both taking the garbage out.”

She died that night.

Bertagni, 53, was killed after she was accidentally pinned under her pickup truck while on her way to an annual weekend camp out for her pub’s employees and friends near Packwood in Lewis County. She and her daughter, Bianca Sanders, had gotten out of the truck to post signs after nightfall to show the way to the camp out when the Toyota Tacoma began rolling down the steep dirt-gravel road and they chased after it. The pickup hit a stump, tipped over and landed on Bertagni.

Happened before

Hunter said she and her ex-husband, Brian Ebersole, used to own a cabin on the lot right next to the one owned by Bertagni and Bob Hill, another Swiss Pub co-owner. Hunter said she had a nearly identical experience several years ago on the same gravel road, which was so steep that her SUV skidded further down the hill, even after she set the brake.

“We ran for it and jumped in and put it in gear,” she said, just as Bertagni and her daughter tried to do.

“I can picture it exactly,” Hunter said. “When I heard about it, I really had this feeling of deja vu.”

Bertagni, Hill and Jack McQuade purchased and renovated the rundown Swiss Tavern in 1993 and turned it into a popular downtown gathering spot for food, microbrews and music. Located at 1904 S. Jefferson, the pub is at a corner of the University of Washington Tacoma campus. The UW is its landlord.

The trio knew each other because they worked together at Engine House No. 9, another Tacoma bar and restaurant. Bertagni, who studied culinary arts, was the chef at the Swiss. Her 27-year-old daughter helped mom cook.

“Her reach was far and deep,” Jane Evans, Bertagni’s sister, told the crowd. Bertagni, her daughter and her parents were supposed to come to Cleveland to visit Evans’ family the Tuesday after Memorial Day, Evans said. She had just finished making up beds for them when she got the call about Bertagni’s death.


Outside The Swiss, a pickup truck and old rusty trailer were filled with canned goods, cereals and other food items, all destined for the Emergency Food Network. The tip jars on the bar also were for donations. It’s something her mother would have wanted, Sanders said.

“My mom participated in the Empty Bowls since 1994,” she said, referring to the food network fundraiser held on South Tacoma Way every year.

The Swiss will remain closed today. It will reopen Monday. And the celebration of Gayl Bertagni’s life most likely will continue well beyond this week.

Joseph Turner: 253-597-8436



Photo Caption: COLOR PHOTO: Bertagni

COLOR PHOTO/Duncan Livingston/The News Tribune File: Swiss Tavern co-owner Gayl Bertagni collects a sample of earth to be put on display in the tavern from a University of Washington groundbreaking ceremony in May 1995 with the help of UW’s president at the time, William Gerberding. Bertagni was killed May 22 when she was accidentally pinned under her pickup.

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