Mr. Donald (Don) Berry

  • Born: February 28, 1935
  • Died: November 29, 2016
  • Location: San Jose, California

Tribute & Message From The Family

Loving family man, Educator, Coach and your favorite Santa

Message From The Family

The loss of the man we called husband, dad, "Mr. Berry", "Coach Berry" Principal Berry", "Uncle Don", "Grandpa Berry" & "Santa Don" is profound. His legacy will be the wonderful people whose lives he touched. Please share your memories/photos here.

Donald Eugene Berry (Don), age 81 of San Jose, CA, died peacefully at his home, Tuesday, November 29, 2016 due to heart failure. Don was born February 28, 1935 in Tulare, CA to Wm. Howard and Wilma Berry. He is survived by his brother Dewey (Janet) of Zamora, CA; loving wife of 62 years Joyce, Son Richard (Pam) of Madera, CA and daughter Janet (Kendall) of San Jose, Ca; grandchildren Ryan Berry (Coral), Jillian Berry Beer (Brendon),both couples of El Segundo, CA; Kendra Mills Handley (Chris) of Cameron, NC; Triplets Keenan Mills, Kristin Mills, both of San Jose, CA, Katelyn Mills Black (Jon) of Palo Alto, CA; great grandchildren Mackenzie, Paige and Greyson Handley of Cameron, NC, and his special buddy of eight years, his Cocker Spaniel, Waldo.

A celebration of Life will take place near his birthday next year. Cards and letters are welcomed. Please in lieu of flowers (mom's allergic), we suggest donations to the Memorial fund that has been established through Givingforward campaign at: to help Joyce with medical and memorial expenses.

Don was loved by many for his tireless dedication to his students as a lifelong educator, coach, and family man. He was a champion in cross-country and distance running at Tulare High School (Class of 1952), and continued his championship ways at College of the Sequoias (COS) in Visalia. He also met his wife Joyce Alviso, from Hanford, CA at COS and they were married in 1954. While at Tulare, Don was a member of the high school championship marching band and continued with the band at COS. He was recruited by renowned track coach Bud Winter and attended San Jose State from 1954 to 1957. Don chose San Jose State over Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, competing in both sports at a competitive level while studying and working, especially when he became a father in 1956.

After receiving his Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree from San Jose State, he began his teaching (mathematics) and coaching (cross-country and track and field) career in 1957 at Sanger High School. He was instrumental in beginning the Sanger Invitational Track Meet (now known as the Sanger Metric Meet) and organized the torch carriers to run from Tulare to Kingsburg, CA for the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, CA. This honor was bestowed on Coach Berry because he was a fellow track athlete and graduate of Tulare High School, as were Olympians Bob Mathias (Decathlon) and Sim Innes (Discus), all honored at a special celebration in Tulare, the night before the torch relay. Special permission was given to Don, by Walt Disney, (Director of pageantry), for the Sanger cross-country team to carry the flame to Sanger, to light an Olympic torch that was constructed at the high school stadium. The torch is lit, to this day, at every track event at the Sanger stadium.

In 1964, friend and former track coach at Madera High School, Fred Mangini, at that time, an administrator at Carlmont High School in Belmont, CA recruited Don to come to Carlmont and work with Track Coach Loren Lansberry with their champion cross-country team. The family drove to Belmont to look at the school and decided to make the move. And so, he began a 10-year career, as a physical education teacher, coaching track and cross-country (Carlmont hosted the Fiftieth Annual (1915-1968) California State Track Meet at Edwards Field, Berkeley). He was also introduced to administration, where he flourished in mentoring students, keeping them on the right path to a bright future. He was the Director of Student Activities, Curriculum Assistant, Administrative Assistant, Vice Principal Dean of Girls and Consultant in Child Welfare and Attendance. He always saw the good in students and helped them to find it as well.
In 1974, Don moved his career a little closer to home, which was Half Moon Bay, CA, and put his administrative skills to use as a High School Administrator until 1992. He was a Principal, Vice Principal, Director of Vocational Education, site Supervisor of Counseling and Special Education, Director of Student Activities, and Athletic Administrator and a member of the North Peninsula Board of Managers for 12 years. After 18 years of service at Half Moon Bay High School, Don left to try retirement. He continued as a consultant for the Cabrillo Unified School District where he wrote and prepared a disaster plan for the entire district. He also began substitute teaching at Cunha Intermediate and Half Moon Bay High School.

Because of his administrative background, in 1995 he was asked to be Acting Principal at Pescadero High School for two years until one was hired to replace the former principal who became Superintendent. Don liked the job so much, and everyone liked him, he stayed for three years. He loved his job as principal, as well as the people of the community of Pescadero, and the beautiful drive along the California coast. He initiated the South Coast Health Fair and assisted in implementation of Lighthouse for Literacy in partnership with Joint Venture-Silicon Valley. He also prepared a disaster plan for the Pescadero-La Honda School District.

He officially retired from a career in education in 1998. He and Joyce moved to the Villages in San Jose, CA to be closer their daughter and family in 2010.

He was a charter member (26 years) and Coastside Charter President of the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA), a member of the State Executive Board of the California Association of Directors of Activities, State Union and Senior Advisor to the California Association of Directors of Activities, State Junior and Senior Advisor to the California Association of Student Councils, and a member of the Board of Directors of the YMCA Camp Jones Gulch.

He served on the Central Section CIF Track and Field Cross Country committees, Central Coast Section CIF Administrator for Women's Tennis Committee for 15 years, North Peninsula League, Central Coast Section CIF Board of Managers for 12 years, Bay counties League of North Coast Section CIF Board of Managers, and CIF State Track and Field Championships Games Committee.

While in Half Moon Bay (HMB), he was Commissioner and Chair to the City of HMB Parks and Recreation Dept from 2006-2010 and was honored to received the HMB Rotary Club of America Citizen of the Year Award in 1998.

Don worked summers (1951-1954) for the National Forest Service, eradicating blister rust). He loved family camping at Wishon Reservoir, his favorite spot for fishing and photography; he had continuing interest in all sports, especially Track and Field statistics and was a 20 year season-ticket holder for the SF 49ers.

Thank you to the doctors, nurses, and staff at the Kaiser Permanente San Jose and Santa Clara Hospitals, and the Optimal Hospice Program for their excellent care of Don during his prolonged illness.