Captain Gregory James Berry passed away on August 19, 2023, at his home with his wife Nina and daughters Angela and Natalie by his side after a hard-fought 5-month battle with glioblastoma. He was 70 years old.
Born August 26, 1952, at the Winslow Clinic on Bainbridge Island, Washington to John and Carmen Berry, Greg grew up in Eagle Harbor with his two brothers and other long-time island family friends. He graduated from Bainbridge High School in 1970 as class salutatorian and earned varsity letters in football and basketball.
Greg earned a degree from Seattle University in Business Administration with a minor in Economics. He spent summers fishing in Alaska to help finance college and flying lessons at Boeing Field. He obtained a Private Pilot’s License at age 19. After graduation from college, he pursued his passion for aviation with the U.S. Navy.
Greg entered NavalAviation Officer Candidate School at NAS Pensacola, Florida in 1974. After earning his commission as an Ensign, Greg was transferred to NAS Beeville, Texas for pilot training in tactical jets. He flew the T-34, T-2, and the A-4 in the Training Command. Upon earning his wings of gold in 1975, Greg reported to VA-128 at NAS Whidbey Island, Washington for training in the A-6E Intruder and was subsequently assigned to Attack Squadron 145. He deployed to the western Pacific and Indian Ocean with VA-145 aboard USS Ranger in 1979. Following his tour in VA-145, Greg was ordered to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Five at the Naval Weapons Center, China Lake, California for duty as an operational test pilot. He transferred to the Naval Reserve in 1981 and flew the EA-6A electronic attack variant of the A-6 with VAQ-309 at NAS Whidbey Island. Greg completed 20 years of service in the Navy Reserve and retired as a Lieutenant Commander.
After leaving active duty, Greg was hired by Northwest Airlines with an initial class date of August 9, 1982. He began his NWA career as Second Officer (S/O) on the Boeing 727 at Minneapolis-St Paul. As seniority permitted, Greg upgraded to S/O on the DC-10 followed by a long litany of copilot checkouts. His initial captain check out was on the Boeing 757 based in Minneapolis-St Paul followed by an upgrade to the Boeing 747 Classic based in Seattle and later in Anchorage. When the base closed and the 747-200 was retired, Greg held the top number of flight hours for the present NWA pilot group. Following the merger with Delta, Greg was based in Seattle flying the Airbus A-330. He retired from the airline in August 2012 as a Seattle based A-330 Captain with 30 years total time at NWA/DAL.
Greg and Nina Berry were together for 50 years and married for 47. A loving husband, dad, grandpa and friend; he cherished his family and lifelong friendships, while also befriending new ones and every dog he met. He served as his daughters’ swim club president and basketball coach. From a family of Croatian fishermen, he enjoyed commercial and recreational fishing his entire life. Greg was always ready to lend a hand and help others. During time off, he helped his contractor uncle build houses on Bainbridge Island, including the home he raised his family in. He spent his retirement days building his workshop and doing woodwork.
Known for his calm demeanor, common sense, sharp wit, humor and kindness, Greg was a truly genuine human being with a heart of gold. It was never about him; it was always about family, friends and colleagues he cared about. In typical pilot fashion, Greg passed on National Aviation Day. He wrote the following parting message to share with his friends and colleagues:
Nothing unique about me or my circumstances, except for now having both perspectives. When hearing of something like this in the past I might have hesitated to send a text or email thinking it too impersonal or insignificant and would just be adding clutter to an already overloaded frequency. I quickly learned I was wrong and completed a hard 180 accepting each as a personal gift and delivered directly to me to boot! Singularly, each might appear to be but a small ray of light, but in concert the illumination best expressed to my fellow aviators as“the peek worth a thousand scans.” The answer to what I needed was simple: nothing. I already had been given an ample supply by my family, friends and now the superheroes known as caregivers.
If you’re not an aviator, look for someone with a big watch nearby who should be able to explain it to you… but NOT TOO BIG… because that person won’t have a clue. Every hand extended, kind word, visit, phone call and messages provided me comfort and strength. How can darkness in a person’s life so quickly switch to brightness and joy without the full acceptance of love and friendship, because that’s exactly what happened in my life, through all your graciousness and love. I want to thank each and every one of you for granting me the peek worth a thousand scans… GJB
Greg was preceded in death by his parents John and Carmen Berry, his brother Ron Berry, his in-laws Felix Sr. and Asuncion Narte. He is survived by his loving wife Nina, daughters Angela (Michael) and Natalie, beloved grandchildren Max, Jolie, Gia and Lucy, brother Tom Berry, eight sister and brothers-in-law, twelve nieces and nephews and extended family.
All are welcome to attend his Memorial Service on Saturday, November 4, 2023, at 10:00am (rosary beginning at 9:15am) in St. Cecilia’s Catholic Church: 1310 Madison Avenue North, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110, with a Celebration of Life reception at Kiana Lodge: 14976 Sandy Hook Road Northeast, Poulsbo, WA 98370 immediately following.
In lieu of flowers, kindly consider a contribution to our fundraiser: https://fundraise.gbmresearch.org/gregberry created in his honor to help fund the research to find a cure for glioblastoma and/or K9s For Warriors whose mission is to train shelter dogs as service animals and pair with veterans experiencing military service-connected trauma.
(-The Berry Family, Vice Admiral David Charles Nichols Jr. and Captain Joe Kohler)