COL. GRANT J. BERRY DECEMBER 15, 1922 - SEPTEMBER 7, 2018
Grant John Berry was born and raised in San Francisco. He attended public schools, including Galileo High School, where he participated in track & field and football. At 19, he enlisted in the Marine Corps. He entered the War in the Pacific during WWII, where he was involved in three major campaigns, including engaging in combat in the battle of Peleliu, which suffered a higher casualty rate than any other amphibious operation during the Pacific War.
Upon returning stateside, Grant attended the University of California, Berkeley, on the GI Bill. In 1948 he graduated summa cum laude with an AB in Humanities, emphasizing history and art. In 1951 he received his Master of Arts degree in History, the achievement of which he said he was most proud in his life. His Masters’ thesis was on events leading up to the Capitulation of Corregidor. He also completed requirements for his preliminary teaching credential and received his commission from the Marine Corps.
While at Cal, he met and married Claire Aldrich of Sacramento. They were together for 30 years. Their plans for getting on with their lives were circumvented by the Korean War, in which Grant, as an officer, was once again engaged in combat.
Upon returning from Korea, they settled in Merced, where they built a house with a CalVet loan and raised a daughter. He taught at Merced High School (and the short-lived El Capitan High,’59-’62) for 30 years, teaching U.S. History and the California Cadet Corps.
Grant was in the Marine Corps for 40 years. While not on active duty during the wars, he was in the Reserves. Though receiving orders to report to several bases throughout the years, the family primarily spent three months of each year living at Camp Pendleton, where Grant taught at Officer Training School. He was proud to retire as a “fullbird” colonel. He was 6’1”, with long limbs, and big feet and hands. He stayed trim and fit throughout his life and was said to have the “best posture in the business.” One summer, while stationed at Twentynine Palms in his 40’s, he threw a javelin so far as to rival Olympic athletes, that the Marine’s painted the javelin gold and presented it to him.
In the mid-1970’s, Grant met Dorothy Cooke of Marin County through activities at Cal. After a several-year courtship, they were married. They were together for 40 years until her passing last year. They lived in Merced for about a decade before moving to Pebble Beach, where they lived for many years before moving to Monterey. They enjoyed traveling to Great Britain and were avid attendees at Cal football games.
Grant painted throughout his life, starting in the cubist style, then later transitioning to more abstract forms. He enjoyed listening to Stan Getz and Antonio Carlos Jobim. He loved old movies and had an encyclopedic knowledge of every film and actor in the industry from the 1930’s through the 1970’s. He was an extrovert who loved talking to strangers, frequently telling them that whatever they were about to ingest or purchase at the supermarket was “good for your eyebrows.” He had a quirky sense of humor that he retained until the very end, his final years being spent in his hometown of San Francisco.
His cremated remains were spread in the Heritage Eucalyptus Forest on the grounds of the Presidio in San Francisco. He received full military honors, including a three-volley salute, the playing of taps by a lone bugler, and the ceremonial folding of the flag and presentation of it to his daughter by a Marine Corps colonel. A memorial luncheon followed at a nearby Italian restaurant attended by members of his family, his step-family, and their friends. He is survived by his daughter, Charmaine Berry, and his grandson, Valon Beriginn, both of Walnut Creek. He will be missed.