This story originally appeared in the fall 2013 Harker Quarterly.
Jason Berry, English teacher and athletics coach at The Harker School, died suddenly on Sat., Aug. 24 of a pulmonary embolism resulting from a blood clot in his leg. A memorial was held Aug. 29 and family and friends nearly filled nearby WestGate Church to say goodbye. Heartfelt memories of his childhood and early years as a teacher were shared; the loss to his family and the community was mourned.
A large group, many of whom were alumni, then moved to Harker’s Saratoga campus for a reception. Family members joined the group shortly after it started, and Head of School Chris Nikoloff as well as two of Berry’s colleagues addressed the group very briefly, followed by more memories exchanged, and more tears shed for the life cut short.
Born in New Hampshire and highly regarded as a teacher by his students during his five-year run at Harker, Berry wrote as a critic during his time as a member of the American College Theatre Festival and was honored for Excellence in Teaching by the Clemson University PanHellenic Council. The Harker Class of 2012 selected him as the faculty speaker for the 2012 baccalaureate ceremony, during which he said to the soon-to-be graduates, “Be who you want to be, and if that doesn’t agree with you, then find, once again, your center, your inner voice; don’t settle for an imitation of yourself. Bend the rules, but try not to break them.”
During his high school years, Berry was a decorated All-American soccer player, an experience he later applied at Harker as a head coach of the girls soccer team, leading the team to record seasons during the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years.
As a New England native, Berry described himself as a “rabid” follower of the New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox, Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins sports teams.
“Jason’s life reflected his wise counsel, and he was always, authentically, himself,” said Nikoloff. “He impacted many with his wisdom, wit and warmth, and will be deeply missed.”
In the Harker community, Berry is survived by his wife, MaryEllis Deacon, whom he married in June, and his in-laws, Butch and Jane Keller.
Add your thoughts to others’ at Jason Berry’s memorial page: http://berrymemories.com/; read more about the memorial at the Winged Post: http://bit.ly/146UUaj; and see more photos at Harker News Online: http://bit.ly/1foRmQr.