Steven Christopher Berry
Date of birth: May 13 1954
Date of death: December 6 2017
Steven Christopher Berry, 63, passed away at Providence Medical Center in Portland on December 6, 2017, of multiple complications associated with renal disease (kidney failure)—a long battle, courageously fought, right up to the end.
Steve lived a full, complex, and more than a little peripatetic life in diverse locales. Born in California in 1954—the first-born child of Gaye Elizabeth Berry and Burl Gordon Fain—he moved with his mother in 1954 to South Dakota. His aunt Elaine remembers his pure soprano voice and flawless ability to pick out tunes by ear on the piano at age three. In 1957, his mother remarried and Steve’s first sister, Catherine, was born. Two years later, his sister Karen appeared. In 1969, Elizabeth remarried again, and all three kids acquired their adoptive father, Dennis Berry. Steve’s younger brother, Eric, was born to Dennis and Liz in 1971.
Steve was an avid student when motivated and an omnivorous reader from an early age; Doc Savage, Isaac Asimov, the Great Books, Mark Twain and so much more. He attended school in Claremont, Aberdeen and Rapid City, South Dakota, and in Edina, Minnesota. He finished high school in Booneville, Arkansas, where he was voted “Most Talented Boy.” He attended art school on scholarship at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Later, he studied at the University of Montana in Missoula, and finally got certified at technical school in Portland, Oregon. His favorite subjects were music, choir, art, and (in college) philosophy.
Music was an overwhelming passion for Steve. His mother taught him to play the acoustic guitar when he was 12. His gift for picking, paired with his beautiful tenor, guaranteed him a place at talent shows, commencement ceremonies, weddings and parties. He played professionally as a rhythm guitarist in his early twenties with the Dave Everest Band in venues throughout Idaho and Montana. Long hair, pearl-button western shirts, bell bottoms, hot licks and cool chicks. This was an adventurous time for Steve, but it took a toll on his health. He lived briefly in Redding, California with his parents to regain his stamina, then made the move with them to Portland, Oregon.
Portland was an important city to Steve. Here, he worked at various file clerk-type jobs and became involved in the local science fiction scene. Steve found a group of fun, intelligent friends who stayed with him for the entirety of his life. He helped put on the first Orycon, edited the Porsfis newsletter, and generally had a blast. He pursued another band, this time with his sister Cat as lead singer, called Beaut. He also talked his city-hating younger sister, Karen, into moving to Portland.
Eventually, Steve was lured north by the employment opportunities of Seattle. He settled into his career as a technical writer, working for Boeing and other employers in the Puget Sound area. He found great success in this career. He was able to travel the world, help his family financially, and attend music events all over the country with friends. He lived in Bainbridge, Seattle, and Edmonds. He loved commuting by ferry and hanging out with his island friends, especially when he could do both at the same time.
A special love emerged during these years; Elaine Andersen. Elaine and Steve met on an Americana music board. Their mutual love for Emmylou Harris and the Millers was just the starting point for what they had in common. With her, Steve found a kinship of spirits and shared humor. Along with their cats, Tori and Mystic, and eventually Clyde and Alvin, they navigated a world that started with jam sessions and Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, and became more and more constrained by illness.
Steve was a man of dignity and privacy when it came to his health, so few people outside the family were aware that Steve’s body kept failing. They only knew he kept fighting. Steve experienced kidney cancer, total renal failure, repeated heart failure, several heart surgeries, advanced colon cancer, and so much more. He was in dialysis three or four times a week, with medical crises that sent him in and out of hospitals and skilled nursing facilities. Elaine was at his side for all of it, even through the loss of her dear son Bryan. She endured it with a sense of humor and rock-solid faith. Neither Steve nor Elaine ever complained. They just did whatever it took to have another day, week, month or year together.
Throughout Steve’s life, his love of music was profound—all kinds of music, but with a special love for Dylan, the Beatles, folk, folk-rock, country-rock, bluegrass—and his skills as a songwriter, singer, and musician were continually growing. He played the guitar and mandolin, and wrote songs prolifically. When illness took his ability to sing and play, he combined his love for tech and music by creating and editing Wikipedia pages. He communed with hundreds of like-minded fans about the artists he loved, and kept in touch with all of them through social media, which was a tremendous outlet for him once illness circumscribed his daily life. He also reconnected with the Fain family online, another part of his heritage. Steve was an intensely social introvert, and the importance of his virtual community can’t be overstated.
Everyone who knew Steve knew he was a special person. Though he didn’t have children of his own, he was a playful, interested uncle who loved nothing more than taking whoever he could to the latest animated Disney movie. He was tremendously proud of his nieces and nephew, and always ready to talk about whatever interested them at the time, be it N’Sync, Minecraft or bias in the public school system. His strong opinions were always expressed with tactful conversational grace, and he extended kindness and generosity to every generation in the family.
Steve is survived by his partner Elaine Andersen, his father Dennis Berry, his sisters and brother, Catherine Moncrieffe, Karen Berry and Eric Berry, six nieces and nephews including Lauren Modica, David Moncrieffe, Rachel Modica-Russell, Naomi Modica, Frances Bringloe, Rachel Berry, and great-nephew, Cassius Modica-Murray. His friends and family will forever remember his wit, talent, curiosity and his smile, which lit up his entire face.
20 tribute candles have been lit
Candle lit by Staff at Crown Memorial Center Our sincere condolences.
Candle lit by Eli the moment. Wishing the entire family peace. May you be comforted by all the special memories you have of him.
Candle lit by Erin
Candle lit by Christin
Candle lit by Sue Sabol I knew Steve as the adored brother of Karen. Steve let us stay at his place on Bainbridge for a much needed girls' weekend. Years later he extended help and kindness to me during a really tough time in my life. I heard him sing at his mom's memorial service. He truly did have a beautiful voice. Love to the family as they begin to navigate this loss.
Candle lit by Hazel Missing you, Steve, but grateful you are beyond the travail of ill health. The angels are enjoying your singing & playing, that's for sure.
Candle lit by Grant I was so pleased to get to know Steve and the Berry clan, who invited me to their social gatherings at a time when I so very much needed it. There is always a lot of joy and laughter in the family and I was welcomed (my bourbon too :) ) My love to all of you at this sad time. He will be missed.
Candle lit by Sean I never have the words...but want Steve's family to know that his struggle, and his always-amazing positivity, made a huge impression on everyone who knew him, including me. He will be missed.
Candle lit by Hester Steve was a kind and gentle soul. I 'met' him on line through a shared love of music, and I always enjoyed his positive and thoughtful attitude. Much loved and missed!
Candle lit by Erica
Candle lit by Keri Jones
Candle lit by Keri Jones Love you, Steve.
Candle lit by Jody Lowery I met Steve online through our shared love of music. I enjoyed every interaction with him. Never once did he complain. He taught me to not take advantage of the days we have left. I’ll miss you buddy.
Candle lit by Jennifer Hollowell You are missed.
Candle lit by Daryl P Brothers A gracious man who taught me a lot about life and appreciating every little gift .
Candle lit by Ellen Peterson My condolences to the Berry family. My thoughts are with you as you go through this difficult time. Steve will always be with us - I hope that's a comfort.
Candle lit by Beth “Good night Sweet Prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest” love to Elaine, and all the family Steve loved so very, very much.
Candle lit by Maudeen It was a pleasure to know Steve and attend musical events over the years with him--along with a special group of music lovers. I always enjoyed his posts on our "Emmylou Book Group" where we discussed books, politics, music, movie, TV shows, and much more over the years. We all were gifted with his presence over the years. He's already greatly missed.
Candle lit by Lori You are missed and loved.
Candle lit by John Pollock A year later and I still can't believe you're really gone. What a void you left. You were (are) one of the great ones. My life was (is) all the richer for your presence in it. I imagine you singing and playing with the Angel Band now and all the other musicians who have passed. Godspeed Steve.