Many eulogize Berry as passionate teacher

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Family, friends, fellow teachers, and former and current students of Greencastle High School said goodbye Monday to a man who meant the world to many.

Robert J. Berry, 57, may have appeared to be the quiet teacher when he stood in the halls at GHS during passing period. But when it came to the subject of art, he was full of a passion that influenced many students, even beyond the realm of high school.

Berry died Sept. 19 following a battle with lung cancer. He had retired from GHS this past school year.

During his funeral at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church, Greencastle, Rev. Stephen Jarrell said to those who gathered to remember Bob that he was man who did not like to draw attention to himself, but he was drawing a lot that day.

During the words of remembrance portion of the funeral, GHS student Jane Fields read an article about Bob written by Justin Renner for The Inkpot, the school newspaper. In the article, Renner wrote about how the school attempted to replace Berry with substitute teachers, and how none of them possessed the same spirit and charm Bob did.

"His dedication was unparalleled by most teachers, making him a role model to students and teachers alike," wrote Renner. "He was respected by everyone for his devotion, and he gave us back that respect every moment of the day."

Fields said that Bob's class was the one thing GHS students could not get enough of. Even at 8 a.m., he was able to keep his students awake with his passion.

What exactly is passion? The dictionary defines, passion as "a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept." This sums up the way Bob felt about art and teaching the subject.

Bob Sedlack said that Berry encouraged all students to do their best, no matter their talent or skill level. He also gave his students the freedom to explore and experiment with art.

Sedlack also mentioned that not only was Bob a teacher and artist, he was a family man, a mentor, a friend, an Elk, a citizen, and a political activist. Through these philanthropic efforts, Bob was able to be the guiding light for many.

His son-in-law Bill Froehlich said that Bob's students influenced him as much as he influenced them. The Berry house is full of pieces of art. Some are Bob's, while the others belong to former students.

GHS Assistant Principal Russ Hesler told the BannerGraphic Monday that he and Bob taught near each other for several years. They both worked with raw materials to make beautiful things. Hesler said he appreciated Bob's expressionistic development.

Hesler thought Berry had a great outlook on life and he shared that philosophy with the students. After the funeral, Hesler pulled out a plaque and read one of the sayings on it. He said, "Teaching effects eternity, we can never tell where it ends."

Bob has effected eternity after shaping more than 125 minds for 24 years. Bob even gave up his prep periods to teach a student about art. In Renner's article, he quoted senior Janet Grumme who said, "He (Bob) taught with first hand experience, graded his students on creativity and self expression."

Jarell said during the services that if Berry could console all who grieved for him, he would have sketched or painted, much like Ludwig von Beethoven who played a composition to console a friend over the loss of his son.

Bob will be missed by all, even by students who did not take one of his classes. Both the art and the teaching worlds lost a bright, shining star the day Bob passed away.

Sedlack may have put it best when he said, "If people were paintings, Bob would be a masterpiece."

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: