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Man dies at Palo Alto Chili Cook-off

Original post made on Jul 5, 2007

A member of the team that won the overall competition at the Chili Cook-off in Palo Alto Wednesday afternoon suffered a heart attack and died at the scene an hour after the judging.

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Comments (14)

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 5, 2007 at 4:41 pm

Hot stuff, chili.

Seriously, a shame and sad occasion. My sympathies to the family and the whole team.


Posted by Jordana- Elmo Chili, a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 5, 2007 at 6:30 pm

My heart goes out to Curtis' family and the Chugalug team. It was a horrible ending to a great day and it was almost surreal as we watched the tragedy unfold. I will remember what a great day it was for Curtis and Chugalug. I will hold fondly in my memories their moment of victory, Curtis' smile, congratulatory hugs and high-fives all-around.
As I know we will all be there next year to celebrate the fourth, we will be right there with you cooking chili for Curtis. Thank you to the off duty PA Firemen & women who reacted so quickly. I commend your efforts and am sorry for the outcome.
May you all find peace.


Posted by lorena durham, a resident of another community
on Jul 5, 2007 at 9:18 pm

i just want to send my sympathies to the family and the chugalug team and i have been attending the palo alto chilli cook off sence my dad start cooking with the lounge lizard team and i remember when chugalug had the beer wall well i hope to see chugalug next year at the chilli cook off and my symathy to the family of curtis.

rip rest in peace curtis

i hope you all find peace


Posted by Jenn--Elmo Chili, a resident of another community
on Jul 5, 2007 at 9:38 pm

The excitement on the faces of Curtis and all of his teammates at Chugalug will be what I will carry with me. It is evident that the Chugalug group is a tight knit family, having been together, some, since kindergarten. I know that they will come together and offer the love and support to Curtis's family in their time of loss and despair.

Peace to you, Curtis, your friends, and your family...




Posted by Resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 5, 2007 at 10:48 pm

I have to say ... while the paramedics were working so hard to save our friend, the band (at the cookoff) in the background was playing Green Day's - Hope you had the time of your life!!!!!!! I know he did!!!!!!


Curtis, you will be forever missed but forever in our hearts!!!!!


Posted by Huey- Chili Chili Bang Bang, a resident of another community
on Jul 6, 2007 at 2:25 pm

My condolences to Curtis' family and the Chugalug team.


Posted by A long-ago baseball teammate of Curtis, a resident of another community
on Jul 6, 2007 at 2:48 pm

My condolences go out to all friends and family of Curtis.


Posted by Tyler Hanley, online editor of Palo Alto Online
on Jul 6, 2007 at 4:08 pm

Tyler Hanley is a registered user.

I was honored to be one of the judges again this year, and was deeply saddened to learn of Curtis Berger's death and offer his family and friends my deepest condolences.

But one thing is certain -- Curtis and his team at Chugalug University really do know how to make superb chili.


Posted by Todd Berger, a resident of another community
on Jul 6, 2007 at 10:18 pm

Thank you to everyone for your support and for your kind thoughts and expressions. I wasn't planning on attending the cook-off this year but decided at 2:15pm to make the trip from San Francisco. Once there I spent just 20 minutes and then prepared for my departure. When Curtis asked me why I was leaving so soon I hugged him and said that I just wanted to say hello. Curtis then turned to everyone and with a huge smile and his signature booming voice he said, "see what a great brother I have?"

Curtis mean't the world to me--As my brother and my friend. Those of you who knew him will remember him always for his fun loving nature and jovial personality. In addition to being a truly great person, Curtis was a great father, a wonderful husband, and a tremendous son. I wish everyone could have known him better and know what a great brother I had.


Posted by Jodi, Elmo Chili, a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 7, 2007 at 7:41 am

Such a sad ending to a fun & festive event. Curtis was way too young and will undoubtedly be missed by all. What a loss...

Curtis you will be missed!

My heart goes out to Curtis' family, Chugalug and friends...






Posted by Brett, Chug-a-Lug University. Sunnyvale, a resident of another community
on Jul 8, 2007 at 10:16 am

I was so sorry to hear that Curtis had left us shortly after the cook-off. Curtis seemed to be on a high that day. The day began on the morning of the 4th as Curtis and his daughter Theresa pulled up in the truck. The truck was packed with the equipment and talent that would eventually award Chug-a-Lug University best overall chili at the 2007 Palo Alto Chili Cook-off.

For the first time, 15-year-old Theresa was helping his father make the chili for the cook-off. Curtis coached Theresa on how small to cut the ingredients while joking that she was going to take over the cooking responsibilities next year. The proud father that Curtis was would say repeatedly, "you have some pretty big shoes to fill next year".

It was a great day and everyone who knew Curtis was there to help support him. Even one of his past friends that helped Curtis with the chili 10 years ago at the cook-off was there. Curt even found time to grab a ball and glove to sneak away and play catch with Curt Jr.

I do remember seeing Curt's brother show up and overheard him say to Curtis, "I just wanted to come say hello"

Curtis shared the perfect day with his family and friends and I hate to see him go. I'm sure that Chug-a-Lug will be back next year to sing a beer of the wall in the memory of Curtis Berger and welcome Theresa to step in and fill those mighty big shoes!

Curtis you will be missed!


Posted by Jill, a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 11, 2007 at 2:24 pm

For the first time in over 20 years, I did not make it to the cookoff this year. However, I will always remember looking forward to seeing his smiling face every year.


Posted by Chili Lover, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 16, 2007 at 7:36 pm

The chili was AWESOME! Chug-a-lug won best overall chili AGAIN! After 20 years, I think they reached perfection! Curtis Berger was a main ingredient that will be sorrily missed next year in person, but NOT in spirit!


Chugalug to Curtis and his infamous wall of beer!


Posted by TSG Mark Vaughn, a resident of another community
on Aug 24, 2007 at 1:59 pm

I am very saddened by the loss, though I did'nt know him I am a high school friend of his wifes and will keep the family in my prayers.


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