PONTIAC, Ill. — Mrs. Mary Ellen Miller passed away peacefully at Evenglow Lodge Nursing Home in Pontiac, Ill., on April 23, 2013, from complications due to Alzheimer’s disease.
Born Mary Ellen Adams on Nov. 9, 1918, in Cross Hill, S.C., Mary Ellen was the first of four daughters of Edward Archie Adams and Lyl Culbertson Adams. Mary Ellen and her three sisters – Lyl, Emily and Margaret – grew up on a cotton farm and attended local public schools.
Mary Ellen graduated first in her class from high school in 1935, and enrolled at Winthrop College, where she excelled in academics and extra-curricular activities, including the debate team and election as vice president of the student body.
Mary Ellen was president of the annual Dixie Debate Tournament at Winthrop in 1938. She graduated from Winthrop magna cum laude with a bachelor of arts degree and a dual major in history and French. Shewas elected to “Book and Key,” Winthrop’s equivalent of Phi Beta Kappa.
Upon graduation from Winthrop in 1939, Mary Ellen accepted a teaching position at Dalton High School, where she taught primarily French and history. Soon after her arrival in Dalton, Ga., she was introduced to Carl Berry, whom she married on June 26, 1941, at her parent’s home in Cross Hill, S.C..
When World War II began with the Pearl Harbor attack, Carl volunteered for the Army Signal Corps and began basic training, followed by two years of electronic training. Mary Ellen interrupted her teaching career in 1943, and was able to accompany Carl during a portion of his training in Bradenton, Fla., in the fall of 1943.
Shortly after Carl was deployed to Europe in early 1944, Mary Ellen was recruited for an assignment as a cryptanalyst with the Signals Intelligence Service (SIS). SIS was the U.S. Army’s code-breaking division headquartered at Arlington Hall, Va. Mary Ellen made significant contributions to speeding victory in the Pacific with her work on the Japanese Naval Code (JN-25) and Japanese Diplomatic Code (Purple) until August 1945.
Upon Carl’s return from Europe at the end of August 1945, Carl and Mary Ellen returned to Dalton, Ga., where Carl resumed his work with the Pruden Insurance Agency and Mary Ellen became a stay-at-home mom with the birth on her son, Carl Berry Jr., on May 23, 1946.
Mary Ellen was interested in politics and active in the League of Women Voters. She was elected Dalton’s “Young Woman of the Year” for “outstanding community service” for 1952 by the Dalton Junior Chamber of Commerce. Over the years, Mary was an excellent Sunday School teacher, serving the high school students of the First Methodist Church and was active in “Meals on Wheels” and “Dock-Up.”
In 1959, Mary Ellen resumed teaching French and history at Dalton High School on a part-time basis to alleviate a shortage of teachers. After the untimely passing of her husband, Carl, in 1963, Mary Ellen resumed teaching full time. As a French teacher, she organized and chaperoned annual trips to France for summer studies at several locations under the American Institute for Foreign Study (AIFS).
Several of Mary Ellen’s students later earned advanced degrees and made the teaching of French a career. In France, she met a French teacher accompanying students from Pennsylvania, and was married to Francis C. Miller in 1966. As a team, Mary Ellen and Fran continued to support students studying abroad each summer. Mary Ellen retired from teaching in 1981, and with Fran and several friends and former students, made a final trip to Europe for sightseeing in the summer of 1989.
Mary Ellen and Fran also enjoyed traveling to Hawaii to visit grandchildren and family. Over the years, they enjoyed 13 trips to the islands, where Carl Jr. and family were stationed for 17 years with the U.S. Navy’s Submarine Force. Besides a love of travel, Mary Ellen’s hobbies included duplicate bridge, garden club, Lesche and New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves baseball. She loved to work in her yard, where she spent many hours with her roses and was also an avid walker for fitness. She continued to walk several miles per day well into her 80’s.
Mary Ellen is survived by her son, Capt. (Ret) Carl Thomas Berry Jr., USN, and his wife, Barbara, of Morris, Ill.; two grandchildren, Carl T. Berry III of Tampa, Fla., and Adam Berry of Chicago, Ill.; one great-grandchild, Liam Berry, of Tampa, Fla.; a brother-in-law, Al Sykes, of Vienna, Va.; a sister-in-law, Nanette Berry, of Mableton, Ga.; numerous nieces and nephews; and many other relatives and close friends.
Mary Ellen was preceded in death by her parents; her husband of 22 years, Carl T. Berry; her husband of thirty-four years, Francis C. Miller; sister Lyl Smith, and brother-in-law, Lt. Col. (Ret) Don Smith USA of Columbia, S.C.; sister Emily Jean Sykes of Vienna, Va.; sister Margaret “Peg” Garvin of Columbia, S.C.; brother-in-law William Henry Berry and his wife, Aileen Rogers Berry, of Dalton, Ga.; brother-in-law Col. (Ret) Floyd Lacewell Berry USA and his wife, Helen Springer Berry, of San Antonio, Texas; brother-in-law James Steed Berry and his wife, Virginia Hamrick Berry; and bother-in-law Charles Huston Berry of Marietta, Ga.
In lieu of flowers, memorial remembrances to the First United Methodist Church, 500 S. Thornton Ave., Dalton, Ga., or to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, 322 Eighth Ave, 7th Floor, New York, NY 10001 (www.alzfdn.org), would be appreciated.
The family would like to extend a special thank you to the staffs of Evenglow Inn and Evenglow Lodge in Pontiac, Ill., for their wonderful caregivers who paid such loving attention to Mary Ellen over the past six-plus years.
Words of comfort may be sent to the family at www.lovefuneralhomega.com.
Love Funeral Home, 1402 N. Thornton Ave., Dalton (across from Hamilton Medical Center), is in charge of arrangements.