In Memory

Margaret Young ** (Berry)

Margaret Young ** (Berry)

Margaret Young Berry
1926 - 2006

Margaret McRae Young Berry was born July 8, 1926 in Walnut Grove, Mississippi to Floyd Heber and Ella May (Rasco) Young, joining three older brothers and a sister in their pre-Civil War home on a small cotton farm.  Following their mother's death shortly after Margaret's first birthday, their two grandmothers, a family friend, and two hired women shared in the role of caring for the five children.  However these circumstances may have shaped Margaret's earliest years, she developed a zest for learning and spent much of her childhood reading books and newspapers.  Although Margaret's father did not live to see her graduate in 1943 from Walnut Grove High School, he greatly influenced her liberal views.  After her father's death, the farm was sold was sold so that Margaret and her sister could further their education.  Margaret first attended East Central Junior College from 1943-1945, graduating in January, 1946 from Mississippi College, where she received the honor of "Who's Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges".  At age nineteen, she was teaching high school in West Point, Mississippi. Two years later she moved to Natchez where she taught History and English until 1959. The recipient of a Ford Foundation Fellowship in 1953 to Columbia University, she earned her Master's degree there in 1956.

Margaret accepted a position in 1959 with thc Department of Defense teaching at Johnson Air Force Base in Japan. It was there she met Gordon Berry.  The following year she returned to Mississippi, but a courtship via the postal service and a marital proposal hastened her return to Japan. On August 6,1961 she married Gordon and became a second mother to eleven-year old Cindy and nine-year old Miles.  The family moved to Bremerton in 1962, where she taught History and English at West High School for several years. She left teaching to become the Director of Federal Projects and Personnel Director of Bremerton School District. In 1978 Margaret was named Superintendent of Port Townsend School District, entitling her to the distinction of being the first female K·12 superintendent in the state of Washington.

Margaret was a natural teacher, well loved by her students, but felt they taught her more than she taught them. She was an extremely candid and fair administrator whose door was always open. She was a wonderful daughter, sister, wife, mother, aunt, and friend. A person who embraced learning all her life, Margaret was truly a woman ahead of her time, unafraid of controversy, unpopularity, or failure to pursue her passions about education and life. Margaret said what she believed and lived by what she said. The following quote is from a speech she gave in 1993:  "I am a woman whose strong sense of self makes it easy for me to support others whose desires are to create a world where all persons are treated equally--no matter their race, their religion, their nationality, their color, their sex,or their sexual orientation."  It would be difficult to find a person whose life was not better for having known Margaret Young Berry. She is much loved and leaves a remarkable legacy.

Margaret died November 5, 2006. Although Alzheimer's disease stole her brilliant mind, it never touched her spirit. She would be the first to tell you her life was full and rich and to express her gratitude for the countless opportunities and honors that came her way. She and Gordon enjoyed many years together of travel, golf, and time with family and friends all over the world. She is survived by her loving "houseboy" husband, Gordon; her daughter and, Cindy and Dale Starkenburg; son and, Miles and Sydney Berry; grandsons Miles, Maxwell and Marshall Starkenburg and Jeremy Novak; granddaughters Tiffany Berry and Stacy Kurtz; and two great grandchildren, Kanon Kurtz and Adrianna Starkenburg. She is also survived by her brother Leon and wife Kay of Walnut Grove, Mississippi; a niece, Alyce Pride of Florence, Alabama; nephews Steve, David and Danny Young; and numerous great-nieces and great-nephews in Mississippi. Margaret was preceded in death by her sister Mary Young and brothers Maxson and Hubert Young; a niece Charlotte Williams; and a nephew, James Young. A memorial service will be held in Margaret's honor April 3, 2007, 2 pm, at the Walnut Grove Baptist Church, Mississippi. On her birthday (July 8, 2007) a remembrance of her life will be celebrated with an open house at their Kala Point home in Port Townsend. Memorial donations may be made to the Alzheimer's Association, sent to 225 N. Michigan Ave., FI. 17, Chicago, IL 60601-7633 or by calling 1-800-272-3900.


Margaret Young Berry will be missed by her Falcon friends and students.