Let's start in Michigan shortly after World War I. There on the near East side of town in a predominately Romanian community our subject first saw the light of day. His Father immigrated from Romania in 1907. He worked his way to America and settled in the Romanian Community in Detroit. His Mother immigrated in 1913 as a paid companion to a lady who feared traveling alone. They arrived in the same Romanian Community in Detroit. His Mother and Father met and later married which resulted in the birth of their only child, our subject, Cornelius Peter (Pete) Berbec.
His parents moved to Dearborn, Michigan, when Pete was four years old. He graduated from Fordson High School. While enrolled in College he worked during the summer at Montgomery Wards in Detroit and during the school year at the Mongomery Wards story in Hillsdale Michigan. He graduated from Hillsdale College in January, 1942, with a BS In Chemistry. The next day he enlisted in the Army Air Corps.
He was called to active duty at the Communications Cadet School at Scott Field, Illinois, on 1 September, 1942. Four months later he was a Second Lieutenant and assigned to the Air Corps School of Applied Tactics in Orlando, Florid. There he met Polly Virginia Ryan, a Lieutenant in charge of the PX. She was born in the Zuni Indian Reservation in New Mexico where her Father had an Indian Trading Post. When she became of High School age the family moved to Gallup, New Mexico, where she graduated from High School. She enrolled in the University of New Mexico, but after a years she and her younger brother enlisted in the Air Corps at the same time.
Pete and Polly married on Friday, April 13, 1944. Within three months Pete was in England. Polly was discharged and returned to Gallup where on January 12, 1945, she gave birth to their son, Robert. Pete was the Communications Officer of a Transport Wing serving in England, France, and Germany. He returned to the states and was discharged on 1 February, 1946. He joined his family in Gallup where he became the Assistant Manager of the J. C. Penny store. On 20 August, 1950, soon after the start of the Korean Conflict, he was recalled to active duty and was assigned to the Radio Operator School at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi.
His family joined him there and traveled with him on his subsequent air Force assignments which included Craig AFB, Alabama; Forbes AFB, Kansas; March AFB, California; Keesler for the second time, and Washington DC. Overseas assignments included Germany (1952-55), Goose Bay, Labrador, Canada (1959-61), and Torrejon Air Base, Madrid, Spain (1966-68).
During Pete's last assignment in the Pentagon President Nixon made his around the world trip in 1969. He wanted military officers to be his interpreters at each foreign country he visited. Pete, a Romanian speaker, was selected to be President Nixon's interpreter during the two day stop in Romania. The Presidential party traveled west from the US and Pete joined them in New Delhi, India. The next day he was a passenger in the President's backup aircraft to Lahore, Pakistan. The next morning he was a passenger in Air Force One flying to Bucharest, Romania. It was Pete's first trip to Romania.
Once aboard, Dr. Henry Kissinger took Pete to the President's cabin and made the introductions. After a few words, Pete was given a task of translating several Romanian phrases by writing them in such a manner than when the President read them in English they would sound Romanian. An hour before landing a steward took Pete to the President's cabin again where the President practiced the pronunciation of the phrases. The President did very well in Romanian.
After landing in Bucharest, Pete went to the Palace of the Republic where the conference with President Ceausescu was to be held. The Romanian government interpreter was primary and Dr. Kissinger instructed Pete to listen to insure that the interpretation was accurate and to record the conference. Other than the two Presidents and the two interpreters, only Dr. Kissinger and Romania's Prime Minister Maurer were present. The next day the same group met again for another two hours. Leaving Romania at noon, Pete was back in the backup aircraft transcribing the notes taken at the meetings. Dr. Kissinger's assistant, Anthony Lake, was waiting when the plane landed in England to receive the transcript. The plane carrying Pete continued on and landed at Andrews AFB.
Pete retired from the air Force on 1 February, 1970, after his son, Robert, earned his Master's Degree in Statistics from Stanford University in California and became employed by IBM. This month (January, 2000) Robert will have 32 years of service with IBM. After retirement, Pete and Polly moved to San Jose, California, where they enjoyed their retirement on the 14th fairway of an adult community and by traveling. In 1988 they moved to the Air Force Village II in San Antonio, Texas, and after two years moved to the USAA Towers (now The Towers on Parklane) in November 1990. Polly died in June, 1995, after 51 very happy years of marriage.
Pete serves as the treasurer of the Towers Golf Club and also as the treasurer of the Towers Ballroom Dance Club. He keeps active with other Towers and local activities along with frequent trips to visit his friends throughout the country. He feels very fortunate to be living in such a fine facility as the Towers on Parklane with all of its beautiful and friendly residents.