BERRY, James Walter
July 31, 2014 11:40 PM | 1434 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
James Walter Berry, age 85, died peacefully at Atlanta Hospice after a battle with cancer. Walt was born in Knoxville, TN, on October 2, 1928 and graduated from Central High School. As an insatiable lifelong learner, his agile mind served him well in career and at home. He loved all machines and never met one he couldn’t tear down and rebuild. There were no gadgets he couldn’t master, no lawn mower he couldn’t fix, and no computer program he couldn’t learn…but the ones with wheels were often his favorite prizes. At sixteen he soloed his first airplane and by seventeen was racing motorcycles and hotrods. A favorite story was his subbing for race car driver Lee Petty after he fell ill in Florida. As most of us knew him, “Granddaddy”, was larger than life. Standing 6’ 2”, and always with a story to tell. In his early career, as an engineer at Lockheed, he flew and trouble-shot the C-5A transport plane, sometimes coming up with in-flight test fixes which really did include chewing gum and duct tape! Later occupations involved similar organizational and mathematical acuity. Whether supervising at Lozier, Wick’s, or Target where he installed shelving and stocking materials, opening stores on time and under budget. Over the last few years, Granddaddy returned to his roots and embraced car restoration. He travelled cross-country to buy Karmann Ghia convertibles in disrepair and lovingly brought them back to life. His last project was rebuilding a “kit” car known best by Fast and Furious fans as the Avenger GT-40. This red screaming machine brought him every challenge imaginable in the re-build, prompting him to name her “Christine” after Stephen King’s murderous car. He loved taking these cars to auto shows up and down the east coast. Granddaddy was a devoted and loving husband to wife, Berneice, and father to Bill, Brian, and Rex. His grandchildren and great-grandchildren were the lights of his life. He embraced every detail of their lives and truly enjoyed spoiling them. Whether he let them walk across his dining room table or drive his convertible ‘Ghia’s as they left their wedding reception, they all knew how crazy in love he was with them. His “Brand X” license tag sums up his outlook on life. He believed you had to live life to the fullest—never looking back—only forward to the next adventure and what that surprises it held. His favorite quote says it all: “The purpose of life’s journey should not be to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting ‘Damn! What a Ride!’” Walt is predeceased by wife Berneice Berry, and survived by son Bill Berry and wife Carolyn, children Kristen and Matt, and Kristen’s daughters: Parker and Alys, son Brian Berry and wife Marty, children Sara and Erin, and son Rex Berry and wife Janet, children Max and Monica. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, August 16, 2014, at 1p at Medford-Peden Funeral Home in Marietta, GA. In lieu of flowers, donations in Walt’s name should be made to the Andrew and Eula Carlos Hospice Atlanta Center or the American Cancer Society.

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