By Contributing Editor Blair Drake
For decades, Patricia Bergquist has been a coach to military spouses and surviving military spouses. Whether it’s explaining to a surviving spouse her benefit checks and making sure she cashes them on time, answering questions about the “widows tax,” walking someone through how to contact their legislator to get their benefits more quickly, or even talking to a surviving spouse’s contractor and saving her thousands of dollars, Bergquist offers her time and expertise.
“When I help someone, it’s not a one-time visit,” she said. “I stay in touch and make sure they are moving the issue forward and it gets resolved.”
As surviving spouse liaison of MOAA’s Tennessee Council of Chapters since 2011 and of the Middle Tennessee Chapter since 2009, Bergquist also speaks at council and chapter events, educating her fellow MOAA members about benefits, advocacy, and other key issues.
“When she speaks, it is from the trenches of personal experience and challenges facing surviving spouses,” said Cmdr. Ivan Adames, USN (Ret), council president.
For her dedication and contributions, Bergquist is a 2022 recipient of MOAA’s Surviving Spouse Liaison Excellence Award.
“I’m honored to even have been nominated,” she said. “It’s very rewarding to help other spouses and surviving spouses.”
[MOAA PUBLICATIONS: Resources for Surviving Spouses]
Bergquist’s motivation to give back comes from her personal experiences.
“I know how hard it is to be a military spouse, and I know a lot of men don’t tell their spouse everything they need to know to prepare them [for when they die],” she said. “I was fortunate. My husband was prepared and prepared me. If I can take what I know from my experiences, knowledge, and research and can assist another person, I want to help.”
Bergquist’s efforts to give back grew when she became a member of national MOAA’s Surviving Spouse Advisory Council (then called the Auxiliary Member Advisory Committee) in 2010. During her eight years on the committee, she served as its vice chair and chair and spoke at national MOAA events and participated in the association’s annual advocacy event on Capitol Hill.
Her excellent knowledge of military benefits and reputation for helping others led to referrals from members in other states. And her works extends beyond the surviving spouse community.
“I help spouses, surviving spouse, and veterans,” she said. “I don’t care whether you are an officer or not. If you need information from me, my help, my direction, I’ll give it to you.”
She said she hopes to continue assisting others for as long as she can because of the value she and other surviving spouses provide.
“Many of [surviving spouses] have complex issues and need support and help,” she said. “I want to see surviving spouse liaisons do more and talk more about getting spouses really involved in their own lives and being more informed on the personal issues within their marriage. I don’t like to see surviving spouses with their heads stuck in the sand. It’s painful. The question is always, ‘Why didn’t he tell me this?’ I want to ensure these women know what they need to do to be involved so they don’t end up in this position.”
Blair Drake is a contributing editor for MOAA and lives in Souderton, Pa. She previously served on the editorial team of Military Officer magazine for nine years.