Dr. Bernhoff “Bernie” Dahl, an eastern Maine physician and mountain climber whose career also included forays into real estate development, writing and running a garage door company, died Jan. 2 in Belfast. He was 82.
Dahl was best known in the Bangor area as the co-founder of Dahl-Chase Pathology Associates, which he began with Dr. George Chase in 1971. Today, it’s a group of 14 pathologists, doctors who examine tissues and medical specimens to help determine patients’ diagnoses, serving hospitals across Maine and elsewhere. Dahl-Chase Diagnostic Services is an associated laboratory that tests tissues and other medical specimens.
During his career, Dahl also co-founded the Hermon-based medical transport company UniShip Courier Services, which today is a joint venture with Northern Light Health. He also developed Freedom Industrial Park in Hermon and Oak Ridge Business Park on Stillwater Avenue in Bangor, according to his obituary. In addition, in 1980, he started the Bangor-area location for Overhead Door, a garage door sale and installation company, and he ran the location for 35 years.
The son of Norwegian immigrants, Dahl grew up in Hackensack, New Jersey. He attended Wheaton College in Illinois before attending Cornell University Medical College in New York; he later did his internship and residency at University of Vermont hospitals.
He briefly worked for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control before moving to Maine in the early 1970s at age 32 to become chief of pathology at what is now Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center. He was a longtime board member and past president of the American Pathology Foundation, and was named its 2004 Pathologist of the Year.
Dahl retired from pathology at age 54 after he was diagnosed with melanoma, for which he was treated and cured, though Dahl received another diagnosis of prostate cancer in 2004.
In addition to his various business ventures, Dahl was an avid traveler and mountain climber. He visited 55 countries in his life, according to a 2010 BDN article, and climbed mountains including Kilimanjaro; Russia’s Mt. Elbrus; Mexico’s Popocatépetl, Iztaccíhuatl and Malinche; and Argentina’s Aconcagua, which he climbed twice. He reached Mt. Everest Base Camp in 2001.
In October 1999, Dahl became briefly famous when he was caught in a freak blizzard while climbing Mount Washington in New Hampshire. Dahl recounted his harrowing experience, during which he nearly died before his rescue, in his second book “What Better Place To Die,” published in 2010. His first book, “Optimize Your Life,” was published in 2004.
In 2005, Dahl and his then-wife, Elaine, began building a modernist home in Winterport, dubbed “The Glass House,” inspired by the Resor House designed by Bauhaus architect Mies van der Rohe in 1937 to straddle a creek in Jackson Hole, Wyo., that was never built. In addition to its many hundreds of square feet of glass, the home featured zen gardens, a wood stove, walk-in closets, three bedrooms and a 6-by-8-foot glass shower with a heated seat and three showerheads.
“When you have enough money to be dangerous like this, you have an edifice complex,” Dahl told the BDN in 2010, when the house was on the market. He described the house as a form of therapy after his cancer diagnoses, and something that kept him busy in retirement.
Dahl was married three times, to Audrey, with whom he had two children, Eric and Sarah; to Elaine Pearson Dahl, from 1979 until her death in 2010; and to Janis Halloran Dahl, from 2011 until her death in 2018. He is survived by his children, step-children and 10 grandchildren, as well as by his companion during the last years of his life, Linda Holmes.