Wilma Katherine Johanson Berry (Jo Berry) was born April 6, 1925, into a large family, the Johanson family in Fredericksburg, Texas. She passed away March 7, 2022, in Fort Worth, Texas. People that have known her over the last 60 or 70 years have never heard her called by her first name as her maiden name, Johanson, got shortened to Jo. And when grandchildren came along, she was known to them as “Jo-Jo”.
Jo was full of life and loved her family and friends in a style that was her very own. Jo was known for her beauty and impeccable style. She was also known for her amazing cooking especially her BBQ brisket and smoked chicken. Jo loved playing in the yard growing things green. Wilma Jo lived the last 13 years with her oldest son Jeff, who lovingly cared for his mother as her primary care provider with Susan his wife supporting him. The last four months of her life were also supported by Community Healthcare of Texas, providing home hospice care through a very difficult and lengthy end of life experience. The hospice nurse present on her last day said that her passing was the most peaceful that she had ever witnessed.
Her life growing up was during a tough time in history, the Great Depression, which kept the “misery factor” high. Jo was one of 11 children born to Peter Abraham and Emma Nora Johanson, and everyone worked. They worked on her uncle’s farm, and any other work they could find. Jo never talked of her childhood, as though it was all a closed chapter and there were more relevant matters to talk about. It could also be said that she did not have a childhood-people of that time seemed to go straight from infancy to adulthood and just skip childhood altogether.
During World War II everyone seemed to be involved somehow with the war effort, Jo and her sister, Vera were part of a group of six women in their hometown to go to Fort Worth for work. Convair, (also known as the “Bomber Factory”) was hiring women to build bombers for the Army Air Corps. Jo worked in the Quality Control Department. While she was helping to get bombers delivered, the young man she was destined to marry, 19-year-old Navy radioman, John Berry, was attached to the Marine landing party going ashore at IwoJima on the first wave, then Okinawa, and later the occupation of Japan. When the war ended, Jo stayed in Fort Worth. John Berry somehow survived and came back to his hometown of Fort Worth where they met and were married at the Methodist church that John Berry grew up in, now known as University United Methodist Church. John and Jo Berry bought a house and had three boys, Jeffrey, John Kent, and Chris, who were affectionately called the “three house apes”. After surviving the Great Depression and a World War, the challenge of raising three boys was tough, but not impossible, and these boys grew up to bring into the world ten grandchildren and eleven great-grandchildren. These children were the great joy in Jo-Jo’s life. It was almost as if she experienced childhood for the first time vicariously through them. Jo Berry was part of what is now called the “Greatest Generation”. At the same time, we celebrate her life, the celebration is mixed with a touch of mourning because we know that they just don’t make people exactly like this anymore, the last of a rare breed, and that fact makes it harder to say goodbye.
Jo was preceded in death by her parents; and 10 of her siblings.
She is survived by her sons, Jeff Berry and his wife, Susan of Fort Worth, Kent Berry and wife, Vicki of Crawford Texas, Chris Berry of Salt Lake City, Utah; one daughter-in-love, Carol Helzer Berry; ten grandchildren, Kelsi Berry and her significant other, Matthew Wendt, Jennifer Phillips Norris and fiancé, Andy Miller, Ryan Ireland-Phillips and wife, Kelsey, Lindsay Truly and husband, Kyle, Bethany Jordan, Benjamin Berry and wife, Callye, Brittany Smith and husband, Trent, Lou Berry, John Berry and Jason Berry; 13 great-grandchildren, Joel Norris, Mackenzie Smith and fiancé, Tyler Ross, Josiah Norris, Jared Norris, Gareth Jordan, Benjamin Jordan, Owen Truly, Olivia Truly, Lillian Boyter, Leighton Williams, Luke Smith, and Blaze and Wade Berry.
Jo was a member of Bethel United Methodist Church on Southwest Blvd in Fort Worth until Bethel UMC closed. Service of Death and Resurrection will be held at University United Methodist Church, Fort Worth on what would have been her 97th birthday, April 6th at 2:00 PM with its pastor, Rev. Beth Evers and Rev. Kent Berry, officiating. Service music will be provided by Vicki Cribbs Berry. Jo requested that her ashes be interred near her father’s grave at the Eckart Community Cemetery.
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