September 7, 1917 – September 19, 2019
When Berry was born to George and Emma Jacobs on the 7th of September, 1917 the average life expectancy was 54 years. Everyone who knew him agreed Berry was anything but average; it’s no surprise he fought his way to the remarkable age of 102.
Berry grew up on a working farm in Whiteville, NC, with his parents, his older siblings Bertha and Eddie, his little brother Lance and his grandmother. He was a prankster and firecracker from the start, typically hiding under his grandmother’s dress when his father was looking to reprimand him.
Hard work was always a part of his life, beginning on the farm, of course, and then driving a school bus at only 17 years old. After 30 years serving the US government, he ran a real estate company with his brother Eddie. Berry also opened a private school in Norfolk, Virginia in the 1950s that is still operating today. He put in long hours throughout his careers but he prized balance – still coming home with the energy to pick up a hammer or the wheelbarrow and to play, swim or ride bikes with his daughter Susan. He was a leader in his church and in his community, serving various clubs and organizations, but his family was first. He had a quiet faith with a deep assurance in his Savior.
He was a dependable, patient and loving husband, father, and grandfather. He championed his wife, daughter, and granddaughters, encouraging them to do things they didn’t think they could, always telling them that they had what it took. He was Susan’s biggest cheerleader when she went back to school and earned her OTA degree. He loved his son-in-law Scott and enjoyed countless afternoons of watching sports or tackling projects together in the workshop. To his granddaughters, he was storyteller extraordinaire and the “keeper of the cookie jar.” A repertoire of fine-tuned accents punctuated his tales and jokes, leaving everyone in stitches!
Berry was easy to be around. A self-proclaimed introvert, he enjoyed the company of people but also relished a short nap or working a newspaper crossword puzzle. An avid sports fan, he cheered for the Redskins while living in VA and for the Panthers in NC; but he wasn’t fanatical enough to yell at the TV. He was great in the kitchen, known for his seafood and hush puppies, but he also made a mean rum cake. He dreamed of opening a restaurant. He loved fishing and boating, spending most of his retired years (before moving to Charlotte) out in the Lynnhaven Inlet of Virginia Beach and off the shore of Nags Head, NC where he owned a house with friends so they could fish by day and play cards by night. He really knew about boats; at 101 he patiently taught Susan how to back up her new boat trailer.
Berry had some thoughts on living past 100: he attributed his longevity to eating lots of tomatoes, having a 5 o’clock martini each night, moving when he didn’t feel like it and trying not to worry about the things that were out of his control. He didn’t make friends with old people because they complained too much and acted too old, but he loved animals and sided with his granddaughters when they campaigned for a new pet.
Berry maintained an active, full life; at every stage, he craved projects, cultivated a garden, exercised at home and kept a pulse on news and politics. He was eager to help others and acted quickly on his promises.
Berry’s age didn’t define him as he approached and passed 100, just like it had never defined him as an older father. When Susan was 10 years old, she looked at his license and learned he was 63. She was floored and ran to her room sobbing. How could her youthful, active daddy be 63? She wrote out a list of all the milestones she prayed he would live to participate in: celebrating her high school and college graduations, giving her away at her wedding, knowing her babies. Berry lived for it all – and then some. He even got to see both of his beloved granddaughters graduate high school.
Berry Jacobs leaves an unparalleled legacy of selfless devotion, passionate living, meaningful work, delight in God’s creation and creatures, and lasting joy. He is survived by his daughter Susan Waters, her husband Scott, and his granddaughters Madison and Emma all of Charlotte, North Carolina.
A service to celebrate Berry’s life will be held at 3 pm on the 29th of September in the chapel at Ellington Funeral Home, 727 East Morehead Street, Charlotte NC, 28202.
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