Remembering Susan Berry: ‘She had so many gifts she shared’

Published 3:00 am Saturday, April 8, 2017

Sue Bee’s handprints are all over Troy.

Her handprints can be found in the pottery she made, the pictures she painted, the soil she tilled, the children she hugged and the lives she touched.

And Mary Susan Berry’s death on Sunday brought a soft sadness to countless friends of all ages.

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“I can’t imagine how many children Susan taught in kindergarten and first grade that would name her as their favorite teacher,” said Pat Duke, who has been friends with Sue Bee since 1953.

“Susan was in junior high school when she began helping me in the summer art classes at Murphree Park,” Duke said. “There was just something about Susan that drew children to her. They adored her. Even at that young age, I knew she had to be a teacher and she was always an artist.

“I’ve never known anybody like Susan. She always had a smile on her face and she was so much fun to be with. She was special and I’m going to miss her. Everybody who knew Susan will miss her.”

Sallie Fenn and Susan were art friends and heart friends.

“But then, Susan was a friend to everyone,” Fenn said. “She was open hearted; she was kind and caring. She was extremely tolerant expect when it came to discouragement and cruelty. Susan was a free spirit and she was a fighter. She went through three brain surgeries, and she never felt sorry for herself and or wanted anyone to feel sorry for her. She was Sue Bee and she was OK.”

Mary Susan Berry was a part of the things that she deemed important – her “grown up” church, Collegedale Church of Christ, and the church of her youth, Hamilton Cross Road Church of Christ. She was front row and singing at the annual singings at the Old Country Church each Sunday before Thanksgiving. She loved those old-time hymns.

Susan was a member of the Flora-Bunda Garden Club and she taught a gardening class at the Colley Senior Complex. As Fenn said, “Susan liked to play in the dirt.”

“Susan was a longtime member of the Pilot Club,” said Heilon Motes. “She was dedicated to Brain Minders, a bicycle safety program, because children were her heart and she wanted to protect them as best she could.

“Susan was a lovely, fun-loving person and she brought joy into many lives. She will be missed by many.”

Although Susan devoted 34 years of her life to teaching children, she was just as devoted to teaching adults.

“Sue Bee taught smocking, crocheting, painting and ceramics at the Colley Center,” said Catherine Jordan, center director. “She taught a class on dough ornaments and so many of us have Christmas dough ornaments she made for us. She was a member of our advisory council and helped oversee our programs. Susan Berry was a big part of most everything we do and she will be missed in a big way.”

Berry’s artwork will be a physical part of her legacy. She was an outstanding painter who worked mainly in oils and acrylics.

“Susan’s show at the Johnson Center for the Arts was one of the most successful shows we have ever had,” said Vicki Pritchett, JCA director. “Almost every one of her paintings was purchased. And, those who have one of her paintings have a treasure.”

And, Berry’s legacy will also be in the love of reading and stories that she passed along.

“One of my fondest memories of Susan is of her sitting in a rocking chair in the Tile Gallery reading ‘The Nutcracker’ to children while surrounded by Nutcrackers from her collection of hundreds,” Pritchett said.  “Actually, she read only a little of the story. She told most of it and the children listened almost spellbound as she brought the stories to life. Susan Berry had a gift – no she had many gifts – and she shared them all with a sweet and loving heart. We have lost a treasure, a real treasure.”