↑  A view from the loess hills of Iowa across to the flatlands of Nebraska. My mother guided me to this overlook, and together we talked my son through his fear of climbing the tower, where I got this shot. It was the last day we would be outdoors with her.

Dr. Mary N. Berry
June 17, 1939 - August 9, 2008

Many people believe that, upon losing someone we are close to, we don't grieve for the one who is gone... we mourn what we ourselves have lost. We gather together to sympathize and share the pain of losing someone important to us.

Some believe we may lessen our grief by instead celebrating the life of our loved one, re-living the joy they brought us; remembering the good times. But I can't do that while feeling the pain of my own loss.

I'm selfish that way. I want my mom.

There's an adage that says: humility is not thinking less of yourself— it's thinking of yourself, less. My mom was the most humble person I've ever met. She would not brag about her scholastic or professional achievements; she didn't seek honor or glory in the things she did— she wouldn't want to seem proud or boastful about her accomplishments. Those things seemed to just be tools to help her help others: to help children learn— and help teachers to teach them.

I could never quite pin her down to giving me a job description— when the subject was herself, she would shrug it off and change it. Yet, I knew enough of what she did to be so proud of her that I was proud of myself for just being related to her.

Most recently, I was called upon to take my mom on a 2-day road trip across the state, to visit an eye specialist. Since she had received cornea transplants and made countless visits to eye doctors, I asked her about her eyesight. She said that one eye was much better, and seemed confident the other would eventually improve as well. She said her driver's license was about to expire, and she hoped her vision would be good enough to renew it. She seemed happy, her little grandson was well-behaved, and it was a pleasant, enjoyable trip.

So the suddenness of her passing is a shock. I can't remember her ever complaining about her own physical condition. Or emotional well-being. Or mental state. Selfless to a fault— if she had any ailments, she would keep them to herself. She wouldn't want to burden anybody else with her problems.

I can only hope two weeks in the hospital gave her enough time to accept what was happening, come to terms with it— and yet be brief enough to not feel like some horribly long, arduous, protracted travail. It seemed so quick, as if in her selflessness, she wanted to avoid being a concern any longer than necessary. As if to allow us to continue our hustle and bustle while she decided, "I'll just wait over here..."

There are those that believe she's gone to a better place. That she's in the arms of the angels. That God has called her home to His garden.

But I don't care. I'm selfish that way.

And I want my mom.

For more than 20 years, Dr. Berry worked as an educational consultant in elementary education and computer-assisted instruction at Western Hills Area Education Agency, retiring in 2002. Prior to that, she had experience in teaching grade levels first through eighth grades in public and private schools in several locations including Illinois, New Jersey, Alabama, Ohio, Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska.

She earned in three years a bachelor's of science degree in education (1960) with honors at Southern Illinois University (SIU). Following a year of teaching, she earned a master's of science degree in education (1962) from SIU. In 1973, she was awarded the doctor of education degree from Indiana University. Her dissertation concerned individualization in reading instruction.

She later taught library science graduate and undergraduate courses and served as administrator of library/media centers at both building and district level. She worked in programs for the gifted and talented as a teacher of the academically talented, as a district advisor and as a program facilitator.

While at the AEA, she was most pleased with her work in the latter 1980s, helping schools develop appropriate uses for the computers in elementary classrooms. In addition, she worked with teachers and consultants for disabled children to provide the latest in assistive technology. Later, she worked to implement Reading Recovery, a research based individualized program designed to bring at-risk first and second graders to grade level achievement, helping such children avoid a school career of reading remediation.

After retirement, she maintained a Web site to help elementary teachers use the Internet in their teaching. A member of Grace United Methodist Church, she had started working with the church library and wanted to try to make it especially "kid friendly."

She would have wanted any memorials to support the Reading Recovery Council of North America.

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