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Freeman A. “Bill” Berne

Bill Berne

Born Freeman Albert Berne in Knoxville, Tennessee, his family moved shortly afterwards to Columbia, South Carolina where he grew up and was very active in sports, social and civic organizations and became an Eagle Scout. Many people thought that he was named for his father and began to call him "Bill". After graduation from high school, Bill attended the University of South Carolina and graduated in 3 years with majors in English and Biology. While at USC he was a member of Sigma Nu Fraternity, ODK, KSK, Who’s Who, and editor of the school yearbook.

In June of 1959 before he began his medical training at Duke University Medical School Bill married Billie Jean Dabney. They have three sons. Internship took Bill to Charlotte Memorial Hospital, Charlotte, North Carolina, and upon completion of his internship into the US Air Force. He attended the US Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine becoming a Flight Surgeon and was asked to join the astronaut program. However, he decided to become a radiologist and completed his residency at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta. In 1970 Bill started a private practice of radiology in Lumberton, North Carolina, where he practiced for 27 years. During this time he served on many medical and civic organizations – organizing and leading many of them. He was President of the Medical Staff of Southeastern Regional Medical Center and President of Robeson County Medical Society.

His professional career has included various activities including President and CEO of Lumberton Radiological Associates, President of Berne Manufacturing Company, President of The Berne Company, partner in B&B Land Company and Berne Enterprises, commercial real estate development, and currently is a real estate broker working with two of his sons.

Bill and Billie Jean lived in Lumberton, NC while having a summer home on Bald Head Island (BHI) since 1973. When Bill retired from his medical practice, they moved to Bald Head as full time residents. During the past 30 years Bill has been active on the Island in many ways: organizer and Vice President of the Property Owners Association; organizer and President of the Property Owners Association; organizer and President of the Bald Head Conservancy; President of the Board of Governors of BHI Club; Village Council and Mayor of BHI; Volunteer Fire Department and many other activities.

Always involved in sports, Bill played handball, racquetball, tennis, golf, and is an avid fisherman and hunter. Croquet began for him when the developer of Bald Head Island decided to build a greensward on the island in the summer of 1986. Bill had never played the backyard variety of the game.  After a visit to the local library and the discovery of a national organization for the sport, Bill contacted the USCA and off to croquet school he and Billie Jean went in the spring of 1987. After attending the weeklong instructional school, they played in the Club Teams finishing second in the fourth flight. They have continued to play in this event together and won the Championship Flight in 1999.

Bill became very involved in the sport of croquet at the local, state and national levels. As an organizer of the Bald Head Island Croquet Club, he was the first President. He helped organize the first NC State Championship, which was held at Bald Head Island and he soon became Southern Regional Vice President. Bill is a National Referee and Instructor and was Chairman of the National Referee & Insturctor Training & Certification Committee from 1990-92 and Chairman of the Rules Committee from 1992-93. He served as President of the USCA from 1993-1997 and Treasurer of the World Croquet Federation from 1994-97 and President from 1997-99. He currently is the Secretary of the Croquet Foundation of America.

In recent years the growth of the Bald Head Island Croquet Club has been a primary focus of Bill’s croquet activities. He organized a Wine & Wickets program for the club as well as a referee instruction class. This club has grown from about 15 member to 80 and is the second largest in the US and has held both the National Club Team and the North Carolina Club Team titles.

Bill has been an outstanding player winning numerous events at the national, state and local levels as well as participating on USCA teams internationally. His current handicap is -1. Bill reflects, “Croquet has been a significant part of my life for the past 15 years. It has been rewarding to have some success, but most gratifying is participating with Billie Jean in a sport we both love. Our happiness in croquet is the gift of friendship from the people who have become a part of our lives.”

Bill Berne was inducted into the United States Croquet Hall of Fame in 2003.

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