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Leesville community leader 'Sonny' Berry Jr. dies at 87

Credit: Berry Family Photo
Credit: Berry Family Photo(KALB)
Published: Feb. 24, 2020 at 1:08 PM CST
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Funeral services for T.L. “Sonny” Berry Jr. will be held at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, February 25 at East Leesville Baptist Church with Reverend Gil Arthur and Reverend Maurice Johnson officiating. A visitation time will be held at the church from 5 to 9 p.m. Monday, February 24.

Mr. Berry was born August 3, 1932 in DeRidder, and passed away February 22, 2020 in Leesville at the age of 87.

He graduated from Leesville High School in 1950 and was a proud Wampus Cat. He fondly remembered these years at the “old school on the hill”. He was a local hero who served in the United States Army from 1950 to 1952. During this time, he served in the Korean War and at the early age of 19 was awarded the Bronze Star for Valor.

One of Mr. Berry’s outstanding achievements was his involvement in the growth and success of Fort Polk and its influence on our community. His father’s example of community service influenced his commitment to helping establish Fort Polk as an essential, successful training facility for the military and their families. Mr. Berry knew how critical it was to build relationships in the civilian and military community; so he and his wife, Nancy, spent many hours hosting soldiers, commanders, and community leaders in their home. He was instrumental in organizing efforts to improve the quality of life for soldiers and their families by helping establish Bayne Jones Army Community Hospital, improving housing, providing educational facilities for military students, and securing land for the Central Louisiana Veterans Cemetery.

For over 40 years, he was a member of the Association of the United States Army and served multiple terms as president in various regions. For 24 years, he served as the Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army for Louisiana (1982-2006) as well as the Chairman for the Governor’s Military Advisory Commission for the State of Louisiana (5 years).

Mr. Berry also excelled in his business career and was appointed to many areas of leadership including serving on the Board of Directors for the Merchants and Farmers Bank & Trust Company, City of Leesville Office of Economic Development, and Fifth Planning District Consortium. He served as president for Berry Realty Co. Inc., West Gibson Inc., and McRae-Berry Insurance Agency. He was a co-owner of the Holiday Inn of Leesville, Inc. and was twice the president of the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce and was Chairman of the Military Affairs Committee for the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce.

Mr. Berry was a member of numerous organizations including the Leonidas Polk Chapter, AUSA Board (served as president for two terms), Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3106, American Legion, Louisiana Societe Des 40/8-V-274, Military Affairs Committee, Northwestern State University-Leesville Advisory Committee, City of Leesville Economic Development Committee, National AUSA Advisory Board, Vernon Parish Economic Development Committee, Leesville Civitan Club (served as president), Leesville Lion’s Club, and National AUSA Council of Trustees, and AUSA Fourth Region (served as president). Mr. Berry received numerous awards and decorations for his service in the military and community.

Even with all these accomplishments, Mr. Berry was most proud of his marriage of 68 years to the love of his life, Nancy King Berry. They enjoyed life together and built a large family that became the foundation of their love and happiness for years to come. He took pride in watching his daughters and son start their own families and they looked to him as an example of what a father, husband, and citizen should be. He enjoyed many hobbies including mowing and keeping his yard up, horseback riding, family cookouts, watching westerns, LSU sports, the Saints, talking on the phone to friends and family, and always calling on his son in laws when he needed a helping hand – which was quite often. He also loved following the lives of his grandchildren, great grandchildren and all their activities and events.

Mr. Berry was preceded in death by his father, T.L. Berry Sr.; mother, Denise West Berry; brothers, Richard West Berry and Robert Donald Berry; and great granddaughter, Blair Alyse Davis.

Left to cherish his memory are his wife of 68 years, Nancy Jane King Berry of Leesville, daughters, Ginger Berry Davis and husband Darwin of Baton Rouge; Callie Berry Toney and husband Kenneth Sr. of Leesville; and Liz Berry Van Dine and husband Dennis of Leesville, son, Teddy L. Berry III and Dee of Pitkin, and brother, Randy Berry and wife Debbie, of Leesville; grandchildren, Chris Davis; Rob Davis and wife Holly; Heath Davis and wife Brandy; Beth Toney and the late Paul Dutton; Kenneth Toney Jr.; Michael Toney and wife Pattie; Nancy Van Dine Scogin and husband Bailey; Jacob Van Dine and wife Candace; Emily Berry Collette and husband Britt; Airon Berry; and Ally Berry

great grandchildren, Trey, Catie, Tyler, Nick, Maddie, Dawson, Carson, Lauren, Landon, Kenneth, Lawrence, Augustus, Sye, Ava, Aubree, Baylor, Camille, Adallain, and Chanler.

Mr. Berry’s family extends a special thank you to Dr. Lubbos, Dr. Matthews, and the ICU staff of Byrd hospital for their excellent care.

In lieu of flowers, donations in Mr. Berry’s honor may be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, www.stjude.org/donate.

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