David F. “Sonny” Berry Jr., age 87, passed away on Monday, January 27, 2020 at the State Veterans Affairs Nursing Home in Kosciusko.
Born on September 20, 1932, in Benton, he was the son of the late David F. Berry, Sr. and Doris Gilruth Berry Montgomery. He graduated from Benton High School, where he was an avid athlete and he then attended Holmes Jr. College, where he played football.
David served in the U.S. Army at Fort Benning, Georgia, Recon Company, and during that time he married his Yazoo City sweetheart, Rubye Lee Smith. They later raised their five children in Benton. Together, they owned and operated David F. Berry Water Well Drilling Company, and in 1963 they remodeled the old Benton Post Office into an ENCO (EXXON) service station. They later added on a complete grocery store, which subsequently burned. They then rebuilt Berry’s convenience store in its present location in Benton.
In his later years, he enjoyed sitting on a bench almost every day in Berry’s, after his son, David, and daughter-in-law, Suzette McCullough Berry, became the owners, where he enjoyed telling tales of fishing and hunting. He was always proudly displaying pictures of his family’s big outdoor hunting and fishing adventures. From that same bench, he always loved humoring locals with his jokes and stories, or eating a famous “Berry Burger.”
David and wife, Rubye, were members of the Benton Country Club, where they both served as board members and social chairpersons for years, because they both enjoyed golf, swimming, and dancing. They both loved Benton and living in Yazoo County.
Master Sgt. David F. Berry, Jr. was a Conservation Officer of Yazoo County for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks for over 28 years, retiring in 2000. He was instrumental, along with many others, in founding the Yazoo County Sportsmen’s Association. He was also one of the founders of the Yazoo Fox Hunt, which was an annual political event including guests and supporters such as the Governor of the State of Mississippi, the Mississippi State Legislators, and other statewide and local political, law enforcement and community leaders, and the NRA, all supporting the Mississippi Dog Hunter’s Association and the NRA. He was very involved in introducing or stocking of whitetail deer and wild turkey into Yazoo County hill country.
Along with his family, David was an avid outdoorsman. He loved boating and fishing the local waters for catfish and going to Louisiana to fish camp to often fish with his sister, Doris Berry Gunn, and her family, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and with his family and many friends. In earlier years, he enjoyed primitive camping and later he loved “glamping” in his RV, and traveling across the entire USA and Canada. He enjoyed taking videos and photographing landscapes, family and hunting and fishing trophies. He also enjoyed hunting for Civil War artifacts and arrowheads around Yazoo County. He displayed many of his findings in the original Berry’s service station which was located in the old Benton Post Office building in Benton.
After Rubye’s death, David was later remarried to Cheryl Carver, and they enjoyed traveling by RV across the USA and Canada. After their separation, she remained his best friend and one of his caregivers.
David is survived by his oldest daughter, Deborah Dean “Debbie” Berry of Benton; his three sons, David F. Berry III (Suzette) of Benton, Robert Alton Berry (Kaylee) of Benton and Thomas Gilruth “Gil” Berry (Gail) of Brandon; ten loving grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren, and many nieces, nephews, cousins and extended family in MS and in LA.
He was preceded in death by his parents, David Ford Berry Sr. and Doris Gilruth Berry (Montgomery); his younger brother, Chris R. Berry; his sister, Doris “Little Doris” Berry Gunn; his wife, Rubye Lee Smith Berry; and his younger daughter, Sunnye Kay Berry McGraw (Patrick).
The family would like to extend their sincerest gratitude towards the State Veterans Affairs Nursing Home in Kosciusko, MS and to the many hospital and hospice caregivers, and to the in-home private sitters for their care and support during David’s final years with heart and lung disease, Alzheimer’s and cancer.
A heartfelt thank you to the many friends and family members who were very accommodating and caring during the years and who often stopped by to visit. Also, thank you to the loving friends and neighbors who donated food and drinks, or to those who often donated their time and efforts in helping the Berrys to maintain David’s property over the years. Thank you to the wonderful congregations of local churches who provided the family with many prayers and blessings.
Also, the family would like to extend their sincerest gratitude to Stricklin-King Funeral Home for being very understanding and accommodating during this difficult time. A special thank you to the MS Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Honor Guard, Officers and the Commission. The family would like to also thank Drake’s Designs of Jackson for their beautiful design style and attention to our floral requests over the years. Also, thank you to The Yazoo Herald for their support during times of fundraising and for their continual coverage of Yazoo County family and public event news. They would also like to thank anyone who has ever made a donation to any of their many Alzheimer’s fundraising events over the years.
Celebration of Life visitation will be from 9:30 until 11 a.m. on Saturday, February 1, 2020, at Stricklin-King Funeral Home, 718 Calhoun Avenue, Yazoo City, MS 39194. Funeral services will also be at Stricklin-King at 11 a.m. A graveside service and 21-gun salute by the MS Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Honor Guard will be following at Black Jack Baptist Church Cemetery in Vaughan, with lunch reception to follow at Black Jack Baptist Church, both at 1914 Black Jack Rd., Vaughan, MS 39179.
Serving as pallbearers will be David’s grandsons, David Ford “D” Berry IV, Michael Christopher Berry, Austin Carter Berry, Jason Nicholas Berry, Thomas Blake Berry; and his grandsons-in-law, Michael V. Gray-Lewis and Dr. Thomas Bennett Smith.
Honorary pallbearers will be David’s nephews: Robert Gunn, III (Robie), Robert W. Smith, Jr., Thomas S. Smith, James A. Smith, and nephews-in-law, Timothy Davis and Michael H. Stephan, as well as Rick McCullough.
Pastors will be Rev. Andy May and Rev. Tommy Burns. Vocals will be by Etta Nolan Saxton.
In lieu of flowers, the extended family would request that donations be made to a favorite charity or to the following: Hunters for Mississippi Children, Inc. #HFMC, (non-profit), 220 Heartland Trail, Flora, MS 39071; Alzheimer’s Association, Mississippi Chapter, 207 W. Jackson St., #1, Ridgeland, MS 39157, ALZ.org; Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation, 110 E.42nd St., 16th Floor, New York, NY 10017, alzinfo.org; American Cancer Society, 1380 Livingston Ln., Jackson, MS 39213, cancer.org; American Heart Association, 4830 McWillie Circle, Jackson, MS 39206, heart.org; American Lung Association, 438 Katherine Drive, Flowood, MS 39232, lung.org.