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.


Condolence & Memory Journal

Mr. Berry was such an important part of my teen years spent at HMBHS...he was so very supportive during critical times in my life, and also was a fan of mine by attending the various musical and dramatic events I performed in while going to school. He had a wonderful ear for listening, and strong shoulders when we needed to shed a few tears, and I will remember him SO fondly, forever. I pray that his family is doing okay, as they lost a very important human being in their lives! He was one of the best men I knew, and I will always think of him with a smile.

Posted by Pati Whitcomb - Santa Rosa, CA - Student   December 29, 2016

My sympathy to Don's family. So sorry for your loss. It is neat to see what an impact Don made on those around him. I have some memories of him in admin when I was a student at H.M.B. High in the 90's. Bless your heart, Don. Someone has earned his angel wings.

Posted by Joe Heckman - Santa Rosa, CA - Student   December 21, 2016

I met Don & Joyce when I sold their home in Half Moon Bay on Grand and helped them buy their home in The Villages which was a perfect home for them on Cribari Dell. It was an honor to know Don and stay in touch with him on occasion. He was a teacher and coach like me and I can call Don a real friend and a man that I am proud to have met.

Posted by Dennis Lunder - San Jose, CA - Friend   December 19, 2016

I studied math (geometry) and ran cross country under Mr. Berry's tutelage at Sanger High during the early '60's. As an undisciplined student and an utterly inept athlete, I can only imagine what he might of thought of me. Nonetheless, Mr. Berry stuck with me and I eventually survived college level calculus and statistics, and earned a junior varsity letter in cross country due in large part to his efforts. Mr. Berry saw potential in everyone, and had the skill, talent and perseverance to help many of us achieve a potential that we had been unable to see in ourselves. Mr. Berry will be missed, but his spirit will live on in the success achieved by those whose privilege it has been to know him.

As the pain of loss subsides, I hope his family finds comfort in the legacy Mr. Berry has left behind.

Posted by George Johnson - Hydesville, CA - student   December 13, 2016

Thank you Coach and long time Friend for all the support you have given to me both in High School and College. Sanger High will miss you You are a strong part of Sanger and will not be forgotten.

Posted by Gerald Adams - Sanger, CA - friend   December 12, 2016

For those in the family, I know Don's passing feels greatly like a loss. I recently lost my Dad too; I rather know what you're going through. But for those of us outside of the family, how can Don's leaving be a loss when he left with us such a reservoir of good will, wisdom, generosity, and kindness? In the years that I had the gift of working with Don at the High School, whenever I need guidance he was there; whenever I needed support Don always knew and was always there with that wisdom, guidance, and encouragement.
One of the things that impressed me most about the man was how he always had the right words for parents and students. It was wonderful how he handled students and parents in conferences. His consistent message to students was how much their parents loved them. His consistent message to parents was to keep on loving their kids, and never give up on them. I watched him wear many hats, and he was perfectly suited for each of them.
I was blessed to know him; I will never forget him; and I will always miss Don.

Posted by Ken Church - Grand Lake, CO   December 12, 2016

Don hired me at a time when I was wondering if I could/should re-enter the teaching profession. He had confidence in my skills even when I was uncertain. His support of me never waivered! Thank you, Joyce, for sharing him so graciously.

Posted by Jill Ballard - Montara, CA - Friend   December 11, 2016

Don blessed the lives of so many. As a high school student in the turbulent 70's, he showed us how to blend caring, compassion and authority. He was that rare person who was a leader, but not one person ever had a negative thing to say about him. He was admired by all. My condolences to his family and in particular to my life long friend, his daughter, Janet and her husband Kendall.

Posted by Frank Besnyi - Half Moon Bay, CA - Friend   December 10, 2016

I felt very honored to have Don call me a friend. I always thought he missed his calling .... as a entertainer .... probably a comedian. I shared many a Cougar football game alongside him....he loved them. Pumpkin Festival .... it would take a day and a half to walk with him .... he knew everyone and they knew and loved him. 49er's .... he would probably be crying now. Many, many, many fond memories. I believe folks step into our lives for a reason and we become a total of those folks. Don will always be a part of me (I hope). One of those people I was so lucky to have shared a minute or two with....A truly wonderful human being. Rest well Don. Joyce, I deeply and truly hope your comforted by prayers, both mine and others.

Posted by Gary Frink - Half Moon Bay, CA - Friend   December 06, 2016

Jackie Robinson once said, "A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives." As evidenced by the thousands of lives Mr. Berry touched and all of the comments in this Guestbook, his life was incredibly important. Thank you Mr. Berry for being such a positive influence on my life. Rest in Peace.

Posted by Charlie Baker - Portland, OR - Student   December 06, 2016

Mr. Berry was and will always be a great man in my life. He was caring and supportive of all. I met him when I was the Lieutenant in charge of Law Enforcement on the coast. Don helped me become an asset to the community. I did and will always live up to the standard he lived by, although not easy as he was so altruistic. What a good fellow....

Posted by John Quinlan - San Mateo County, CA - Friend   December 06, 2016

My favorite leader at our high school. He truly knew how to blend authority and discipline with compassion. He seemed to be able to always rein in those who tested the boundaries, but always giving another fresh start to them as well. He believed in his students and fostered that belief in themselves. He helped me surprise another teacher with a special dedication in the yearbook when I was yearbook editor. Always made me smile and feel safe. A cherished gentleman. I extend my sympathies to his family and friends who will miss him. We are lucky to have known him.

Posted by Kelly Sunshine - Petaluma, CA - Student   December 06, 2016

Dear Joyce, our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family in this time of sorry and adjustment. You have lost a husband and father and we have lost a great teacher, coach, and friend. There is no question, Gyl and I are better for having you and Don in our lives. He taught me so much as my teacher, as my coach, and as my friend. We will miss him dearly. With much love,

Posted by Dennis & Gyl Keiser - Sanger, CA - Student   December 05, 2016

Dear Joyce and family, I am really saddened by the passing of Don. He was such a wonderful person,a good friend and the best boss I ever had. He surely will be missed and so many very lucky children got their yearly Santa phone calls each year; including my grandchildren. I know God has a very special place for Don. Our prayers are with you and your family

Posted by Toni Bajda - Half Moon Bay, CA - Friend   December 05, 2016

I graduated from Half Moon Bay in 1977. Mr. Berry always made me feel that he truly cared and was not just "doing his job". I have always had such great respect for him. He will be genuinely missed.

Posted by Loretta (Retta) Baker (Shanahan) - Seneca, IL - Student   December 05, 2016

Don was a great guy & he will be missed

Posted by Sandy Lauder - Richardson, TX - Friend   December 05, 2016

Don always had a smile no matter how he was feeling or what he was doing. I had the privilege of knowing Don for many years and always felt like one of the family. On his earlier trips to Wyoming he was such fun to be around. We had some great times. I will miss Don's wonderful spirit and sense of humor. Hugs to all the family.

Posted by Jo Humphreys - Laramie, WY   December 05, 2016

Love and respect this man so much.

Posted by Mark Center - Murrieta, CA - Friend   December 05, 2016

Don Berry

Don Berry

Don Berry

Don/immediate family