Catholic Herald staff
Linda Berg cherishes the memory of kissing her husband goodbye.
Widowed in her early 30s, the Superior teacher’s story of love and loss inspired her to self-publish a storybook for married couples, a reminder to “invest in your love.”
Berg’s story begins a few decades ago. She joined a ski club at the Anchor Bar, a Superior dive famous for its burgers, and that’s where she met Gene Kulig, “the man who changed my life.”
It was Gene who proposed a $1 fine for failure to kiss goodbye, a debt the couple continued to pay to one another. Five and a half years into their marriage, he kissed her good-bye – twice, as it happens, to ensure he wouldn’t owe a dollar – and drove off to the hunting shack. It was the last time Berg saw him alive.
Gene was only 35 years old when he suffered a massive heart attack. His widow was 32; he also left two daughters, 10-month-old Christine and 3-year-old Nicole.
All throughout his visitation, Berg avoided the casket. Near the end, prompted by her family, she touched Gene’s hand – felt “that cold of death” – and slipped one last dollar into his pocket, her debt for their final goodbye.
Berg’s heart was broken, but her family’s story didn’t end there.
“Life went on, they grew up and I remarried,” she said.
Some years later, Berg started thinking about dollars again when she was at a Renaissance fair. The kids were older, and she wanted them to have pots for keeping the proceeds from their own missed kisses.
Not long after, she was asleep near her second husband, Dick, when she heard her deceased husband’s voice in the night. He was telling her to write their story, she said. She drifted back to sleep.
The next night, he was back – closer to her bed, she remembers, and more insistent. God wanted their story to be told, he said. God was with her.
“Get up,” he repeated.
This time, she listened. She went to the computer and started typing. Two hours later, she’d finished the manuscript that would become “The Kissing Pot: Invest in Your Love” a story encouraging spouses to cherish their time together, pay for missed parting kisses and use the money to spend time with one another.
That was September 2007. She made the first version of the book – a family scrapbook filled with photos – and read the story at Nicole’s wedding.
When Berg started looking to have the book published, one agent suggested she self-publish. She found an illustrator, Justin Flores, father of one of her former students, and took out a second mortgage to pay for 3,000 copies of the book, which arrived in July 2010. She also hired a local potter, Penny Clark, to make official Kissing Pots.
An elementary teacher for 35 years, Berg continues to work as a substitute teacher in the Superior School District. She attributes the format of the book – an oversized hardcover in the style of a children’s story – to her teaching background. In fact, “The Kissing Pot” is both an illustrated storybook for couples and a scrapbook with space for photos.
“It’s a way for people to personalize it themselves and yet start out with something that shows a way of life,” she explained.
In tiny ways, the book harkens to Berg’s personal scrapbook. Among the illustrations are Flores’ drawings of her late husband’s pocket watch – the time is 6:20, set to correspond to their anniversary date – and the double hearts on each Kissing Pot match the design on his gravestone. His name appears in various guises – Gene, as well as his nicknames Chipper and Geno – and images of a rainbow, lamp, Eiffel Tower and roll top desk are meaningful to Berg and her family, which includes Dick, her husband of 21 years, Nicole, Christine and stepchildren Jim and Michaelle.
Interwoven in “The Kissing Pot” are little romantic messages for couples. An ivy vine wanders off the cover of the book – “It keeps growing and growing – that’s what true love does,” she explained – and an oyster shell on the beach is a reminder of how the irritations of marriage can be polished and, over time, glow with the luster of pearls.
A member of Faith United Methodist Church, Superior, Berg often invokes her faith when she’s reading the story or discussing the book with strangers. She markets “The Kissing Pot” online, through speaking events and at craft sales; she was both a vendor and presenter at the 2014 diocesan Fall Conference.
Gene was her connection to the Catholic Church, Berg said. Their marriage was blessed by the late Fr. Jim Jackson at Holy Assumption, Superior, and Gene is buried in Calvary Cemetery.
In Berg’s personal and professional life, faith has been a guiding principal. Her pastor, Rev. Joel Certa-Werner, has blessed all 3,000 books and her laptop computer.
“I wanted the blessing to go out to the people who look online,” she explained.
“God has guided me along,” she said about the business of marketing her book. At the suggestions of three people, she trademarked Kissing Pots in November 2010, and the books and pots continue to sell well. An estimated 1,800 books have been purchased; one jewelry-store owner bought 50 copies to give away to engaged couples.
Many books and pots become Christmas, wedding or anniversary gifts, and Berg continues to support recipients’ marriages by keeping a log of their first names and wedding dates. She prays for them and wishes them a happy anniversary each year on Facebook.
“It’s amazing how many interesting people I’ve met, just marvelous people,” she added. “God has blessed me.”
“The Kissing Pot” books are $20 each, including tax. Cost for a pot and book is $49. Kissing Pot labels can also be engraved upon request.
For information, email or visit thekissingpot.com.