THE BRASS RING
DAD’S STORY By Phil Berchtold
I was born in Boston in 1950 into a dysfunctional family and in 1954 we moved to Sharon, Massachusetts. The stability and affluence of this quaint town inspired me to a better life.
Outside my family I found peace and joy in Sharon. The clean lake, the woods behind my house, the nature trails at Moose Hill, all provided a fun and safe environment. I remember when I was five, my mother sent me to Sharon Heights Shopping Center for baby bottles. I got lost, spent the money on candy and stayed in front of Morse’s Food Mart all afternoon. It was a different day in 1955.
Being the poor kid on the block, I always felt on the outside looking in. My peers had nice shoes where the soles of my shoes flapped as I walked. I was embarrassed by my family, my status, my life, and I determined to change it all. I managed to be the first of my seven siblings to attend college and I was excited that I was escaping the chains of what appeared to be my destiny of defeat.
I wanted a chance at the Brass Ring.
It didn’t take long for me to succumb to the college party scene.
The desire for some joy in my life overrode my better judgment
and I dropped out of three colleges. My twenties became a blur
of parties and drinking to drown out my failures, during which I
smashed up five cars. As I told the inmates at the James River
Correctional Facility near our home in Crozier, Virginia when my
family sang for them, “I’d be right there with you if it weren’t
for God’s mercy.”
A few months before my thirtieth birthday I got the best job of my life
and met Clareann. Immediately I was drawn to her beauty and her God.
She introduced me to Jesus Christ in a way I had never known, and I said, “This is the God for me!”
I repented of my sins, asked Him into my life, and married Clareann on Valentine’s Day 1982.
They say love is blind, and that was me. The fact that Clareann had seven young daughters was not an issue. Some thought I was deaf, dumb AND blind! But I always wanted marriage and children, so I felt blessed to get the whole package at once. The girls were very loving and well behaved and immediately accepted me.
In Clareann I had found my soul-
Although I had become a “New creature in Christ” the habits of my unfortunate upbringing did not just disappear, and The Miracle Worker had no problem with that! In our Home Church we worship God, read the Bible, and “Confess our sins and pray for one another that we may be healed” (1 Peter 3), and I have been healed physically, spiritually, and emotionally in 36 years of our fellowship.
In 1989 the girls wanted a change so I left my job as Sales Manager at Wise Potato Chips and we all moved to California. Six years later I adopted all seven sisters, five of whom remain in my home to this day.
My new job in the Foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains became our Home Church Ministry and what amounted to a girl’s boarding house. During this time we purchased a home recording studio. When I fell in love with Clareann, I also fell in love with her music. It was anointed of God, touching the soul, and her voice rivaled that of Linda Ronstadt, my favorite singer. She had taught the girls to sing and we've recorded hundreds of CDs of her original songs (as well as daughter Lisa's) now numbering close to 2,000.
To keep us happy, the sisters (who are all in the medical field) sent us out to explore exotic and interesting places to vacation, a family favorite being Israel. Last visit, after breaking into song in the Garden Tomb Jerusalem,they purchased our CD. It’s been a joy to hear them spontaneously sing all over the world, especially in Romania where our youngest daughter has lived for 14 years. In visiting her (for the 15th time next May) we’ve been able to help Romania’s poor and abandoned babies.
After 12 years in California, we moved to Pennsylvania,
then to Virginia in 2006. We feel very blessed to live
here in a 18 room home where the world can now hear
our music on our website at
Little Clare came into our lives in 2007 and no one
is more excited to be a Papa to this beautiful child
than I am. Born premature (25 weeks) at 1.5 pounds,
she was left in the NICU for six months, had 17
medical diagnoses, and a feeding tube. We praise
God that she is now a healthy, happy 10 year old.
Adopted July 24, 2008, Clare is the joy of everyone
We are all a work in progress, I can now say I not only
Got the Brass Ring, but I got the Golden “Crown of Life
which the Lord has promised to those who love Him”
(James 1). And I pray you will encounter the same “God of Love” as me,
for “With God all things are possible”.