Early Settlers of Union
Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements
Mists of History on Their Way of Life
By: Ethelene Dyer Jones
Tribute to Elizabeth Reed Berry, Teacher and Friend
task! To rear the tender thought,
To teach the
young idea how to shoot.”
Thomson (1700-1748 – from “The Seasons—Spring”
Union County High School
Class of 1947
Trip to Washington,
DC, May 25-30, 1947
R.: Mr. J. H. Cooley, Principal; Just graduated seniors: Max
Glenn Franklin, Max Stephens, Bill Abernathy, Price Turner, Charles
Charles Jenkins, Jewel Payne, Robert Dyer, Dennis Wilson, and Mr. N. V.
Standing, L. to
graduated seniors Mary Lou Hunter, Lois Melton, Joyce Crump, Loujine
Helen Brooks, Ethelene Dyer; Homeroom and English Teacher Mrs.
Berry; County School Worker Mrs. Doris Caldwell, Visiting Teacher
Officer), and Mrs. Star Bedenbaugh, Home Economics Teacher; and Just
Seniors Madge Nicholson, Maggie Lee Sullivan, Charlene Wimpey and Verna
It was the fall of 1946 when
came as a new teacher to Union
County High School.
was a senior and she was assigned to be homeroom advisor for my Class
1947. She had graduated three years
before from Bessie
at Forsyth, Georgia and had been born
reared in far-away (to us) Augusta,
daughter of Robert Henry Reed and Mary Chambers Reed.
She had been employed her first two
years of teaching in Murphy, North
Carolina at a school there.
When she married Union
native John Berry in 1946, she looked for a job in our county and was
straight away by the Board of Education and our Principal, Mr. James H.
Cooley. Maybe she volunteered to be
senior class sponsor, or perhaps she was assigned that task. Whichever,
soon in contact with a vivacious, pleasant, happy young teacher who was
enough older than her students to let us know she meant business in
discipline. But her kind ways and
aptness to teach soon endeared us to her.
Soon students and teacher had struck up a rapport that would
beyond our graduation time of May 1947.
In this tribute I will pay respect to
teacher, first and foremost, and as a dear friend of lifetime
proportions. I shall never forget her
influence upon my
life. My heart was saddened as I heard
of her death on Sunday,
May 30, 2010 at age 87. Her
years, beset with illness, were filled with much tender loving care
son W. R. Berry and her daughter Annette Berry Crawford.
But until her illness of long duration, she
was exemplary in keeping in touch with “her students” of the Class of
inquiring how we were faring in our own work and living out our lives. She was still our teacher, as James Thomson
so aptly stated, “rearing our thoughts and encouraging our ideas to
(albeit by our own advancing years these thoughts could no longer be
young and tender).
When Elizabeth Berry married my
long-time neighbor on the edge of Choestoe and Owltown, John Berry, I
bereft young girl who had lost my mother one year prior to her coming
community to live. We attended the same
church, Choestoe Baptist, and even before she became my senior year
had become Christian friends. She
encouraged me greatly, and we started a little “Sunday evening dinner
celebration.” This involved coming to my
house one Sunday for a meal (which I had to cook, even at the young
I was, because I became the chef and housekeeper at our farm home
Mother’s death). The other two in the
three-some Sunday evening meal-sharings were Mrs. Berry, as she and
us, and my double-first-cousin Marie Collins whose mother (my aunt)
Collins, would prepare a wonderful meal with Marie’s help.
How I had the courage to lay a table and cook
for this group and our friends prior to Sunday Night “Training Union”
was called then), I’ll never know. But
would always compliment me on my meals, my clean house, and my
participate in the fellowship meal. From
that experience I learned much about how to entertain guests and gain
confidence in opening my home to visitors.
At school I remember much that Mrs.
Berry led us to do. She sponsored our
“senior play,” the drama we rehearsed to perform and for which we sold
to raise money. We had a junior-senior
prom, and Mrs. Berry
was instrumental in planning and implementing a wonderful event. We had a banquet to which we invited our
poet, Byron Herbert Reece. It was my
duty to introduce him. Mrs. Berry aptly
with the introductory speech. And then
when graduation came, I was thrilled to be named valedictorian of my
class. Mrs. Berry, desiring that I should give a
speech on graduation night, was my main constructive critic and coach
preparing the address.
We had the rare privilege of taking an
educational trip to our nation’s capitol following graduation. About half of my classmates, twenty of us,
went on the trip. It seems antiquated
now, but instead of a comfortable rented coach, we rode the whole trip
Blairsville to Washington D. C. on a school bus. Accompanying
us were Mr. J. H. Cooley, our
principal; Mr. N. V. Camp, our science teacher; and lady teachers Mrs. Elizabeth Berry and Miss
Bedenbaugh, and county visiting teacher Mrs. Doris Collins Caldwell. It was a trip of a lifetime, and we country
students who had hardly been any farther afield than Blairsville,
Murphy, N. C.
or Gainesville, at the most, were led by our teachers on that trip to
to meet our legislators and senators and how to get the most from our
tours of the Capitol, the White House, the
Smithsonian, Arlington Cemetery, the Treasury Department, the Library
Congress and the stately monuments of our nation’s capitol, as well as
Washington’s home at Mt. Vernon. Up to
that point in my life, it was the trip of my life.
I have been forever grateful for Mrs. Berry and the others who
went the extra mile to “rear our tender thoughts and teach our young
had a great influence upon my choosing
teaching as my own career. Several years
after she left Union
County High School, she got
certification in school library
media services, and she and I attended many professional meetings and
again the fellowship of being together with mutual interests. When my Class of 1947 began having Class
in 1984 and rejuvenated our love for each other and our teachers, Mrs. Berry was a
As when we were her students in
1946-1947, she was always interested in what we were doing to make a
in life. She encouraged us as we made an
historical quilt of the history of education in Union County,
as we erected a message board at the entrance to the school grounds,
especially as we set up and financed the Class of 1947 Scholarship Fund
assists a graduating senior from Union County High with college costs
To the family of our teacher and
friend, Mrs. Elizabeth Berry, our deepest condolences.
Know that she had a powerful impact and a
lasting influence upon our lives.
Jones; published June
in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville,
GA. Reprinted by
permission. All rights reserved.
Jones is a retired educator,
freelance writer, poet, and historian. She may be reached at
phone 478-453-8751; or mail 1708 Cedarwood Road, Milledgeville, GA
Updated June 15, 2010
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