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home : obituaries : obituaries August 20, 2017

6/6/2017 12:13:00 PM
Gwendolyn Berry March 2, 1922 - April 11, 2017

Gwendolyn Berry, a resident of Sisters for 24 years, passed away peacefully at home. She was 95.

Born in Missoula, Montana, she was raised with her sister in Portland. Gwen attended St. Mary of the Valley Catholic boarding school in Beaverton and graduated from Jefferson High School in Portland in 1940.

An adventurer her entire life, Gwen was inspired to help her country during World War II, applying to the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), a program designed to utilize the talents of women who were trained to shuttle military aircraft around the United States during the war while the nation's men served overseas. Gwen was accepted out of 25,000 applicants.

She took flying lessons in Blythe, California, in preparation for joining the WASP program. She was ordered to report to Sweetwater, Texas, for advanced training but, alas, the program was cancelled before she joined.

Sometimes bad luck plays midwife to good fortune. A picture of her flight school graduating class wound up in the hands of a talent scout for Howard Hughes' RKO Pictures. He found Gwen and asked if she wanted to screen-test for stardom. Gwen politely said no. She had other ideas.

After a brief marriage that produced one son, Gwen met her husband-for-life on a blind date in 1957 in Portland. John "Jack" Berry (deceased in 2006), was working at Aetna Life and Casualty's field office in Portland. A gal working in the office who knew Gwen set them up. Jack's eyes left their sockets when he saw her for the first time and were reportedly still missing when they married in 1958. Jack's work called him to field all over the East Coast. Gwen dutifully followed.

While focusing on her family, Gwen found adventure in travel and camping. By the end of her life she visited most of the national parks in the U.S. and all 50 states, some several times. Gwen also enjoyed rock hounding and was a great cook.

In 1993, Jack and she retired to Sisters. In the house they custom built on 12 acres of land, Gwen marveled at the Cascade mountains. Here she tended to the land and enjoyed the company of friends and family.

Gwen is survived by sons Scott Christiansen of Gladstone; John Berry of Sisters; and Michelle Berry Helitzer of Simsbury, Connecticut; and several grandchildren, including twins Gretchen and Kirsten Helitzer.

Services were held in late April.

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