The Surrey Historical Society honorary member and Crescent Beach resident Jack Berry, passed away just short of his 100th birthday. Jack was a founding member of the Semiahmoo Fish & Game Club, and the Surrey Museum & Historical Society, a real inspiration, always active in heritage preservation. His career life was most interesting, including war service, and a career as a Canada Customs Officer. Jack Berry was well known in the Lower Mainland, so active in volunteer work with community groups. His passion for photography lasted throughout his life. He provided authors Whiteside, Treleaven and Hastings with many photographs to illustrate their Surrey histories.
Jack Berry was born in England May 3rd 1918. His father was an amateur photographer who after marrying and working full time, found he could no longer pursue his hobby, so little Jack was given daddy's view camera to play with. Jack spent many quiet moments on the floor, chewing and squeezing the bulb at the end of a long rubber tube that operated the camera's shutter mechanism. Needless to say, as he grew stronger, the camera wound up in bits as did his toy train. Thus began his life–long love of photography.
In 1925 the Berry family immigrated to Canada at the invitation of Captain and Bessie Williams to work in the Crescent Beach Hotel. (see Crescent Hotel and Lodge) Bessie had a Brownie box camera. Once in a while Jack was allowed to take one or two pictures to finish off a roll of film. Over the years the camera gradually came into his possession and many more pictures were taken around the beach, some of which have survived to this day.
The Crescent Hotel closed in 1932, the family moved to New Westminster to operate a corner store. Jack left the store in 1938 and got a job as assistant gardener to Frank Dwyer, a well known horticulturist at the time.
After a call–up to Vernon in 1939 for a month of basic training, he joined the 2nd Battalion Westminster Regiment which drilled two nights a week in the New Westminster Armories. Jack enlisted in the permanent forces in 1942 and promptly became a unit photographer on top of his other regular duties. Before the invasion in 1944, Jack was transferred to a field medical unit in the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division. The Second Canadian Infantry Division had the task of setting up the administration of the Canadian Sector for the 3rd Division Occupational Army. Afterwards the 2nd Division returned to Holland to be disbanded.
In the meantime, Jack's folks had sold the store in town and returned to their home at the beach. When Jack was discharged in 1946 that is where he lived for a short time. He first obtained employment in a grocery store operated by Neville Curtis.
Jack settled in Cloverdale with Gladys whom he had met and married in England. They raised two sons, John Edward and Robert David. Naturally the home had to have a darkroom. The Federal Government was hiring locally so Jack applied and was accepted as a Canada Custom Officer. Many of the federal employees were avid fishermen. They formed the Semiahmoo Fish and Game Club. Jack became secretary of the club and handed in news items to the Surrey Leader. Stan McKinnon, editor asked Jack to write a weekly column.
The Surrey Museum had just opened. A society was formed to assist the curator, Doug Hooser, with exhibits and publications. Jack joined and used his camera to record newly acquired artifacts for insurance purposes. He also ran photographs in the Surrey Leader on strange objects to stimulate public interest. A darkroom and copy stand were set up in a back room of the museum where pioneers who did not want to part with their pictures, could bring them in to have copies made for the museum archives.
Following the passing of his parents, Jack returned to the family home at the beach in 1972. After retiring from the Public Service in 1973, he was offered a part–time security position at the Peace Arch Hospital, which worked into a full–time maintenance position. There, he was given the opportunity to set up slide shows on pre–op and post–op procedures along with home care for patient's information. Retirement from the hospital came in 1983.
In the 1980s Jack met Joyce and they become companions and best friends. Sadly Joyce predeceased Jack.
Continuous exposure to chemical vapors during darkroom developing were injurious to the health so the dark room equipment was packed up and stored in the crawl space under the house. The coming of computers and digital photography provided a second chance. The old photographs and negatives could now be scanned and brought back to life, but who was interested? Nearly everybody had a digital camera. Jack Brown and his web page came to the rescue and provided an outlet with his History of the City of Surrey.See Jack Berry of Crescent Beach
Jack was a volunteer at the Surrey Museum before there was a Surrey Historical Society. His expertise in photography saw him working with images, using the dark room and maintaining the photo displays. When Jack Brown was writing his Masters' Thesis on the Historical Geography of South Surrey, back in 1970, Jack Berry was the person who prepared the photos on behalf of the Museum. Jack Berry was one of the founding members of the Surrey Museum and Historical Society in 1969. He was elected vice–president in 1970 and served as President from 1971 to 1976. In 1981 he returned as vice–president, and from 1982 to 1984 he was a Director. He was an executive member as the three original versions of the Surrey Story were published. He was President when the consolidated version of the Surrey Story was published in 1978. Jack had been instrumental with photography work for the early volumes of the Surrey Story. He was an executive member when the book "Rivers Roads and Railways" was published in 1981.
Jack was one of a three person committee that became the forerunner of the Surrey Heritage Advisory Commission. He was appointed in November of 1973.
Jack and the Societies' Executive were leaders in Preservation Initiatives. This involved both successes and failures that included: preservation of the Petroglyph and its installation in Heron Park in Crescent Beach; the attempt to preserve the Indian lookout in Ocean Park; preserving and moving the Anderson Cabin; preservation of the Memorial Tree on Highway 1(Charlie's Tree); preservation of the Semiahmoo Trail; preservation of road names; naming schools in Surrey after pioneers or the district in which the school is located; preservation or naming of lanes and pathways in Crescent Beach. There are probably other initiatives than those listed but you will agree that the list is important and impressive.
More recently, Jack has been a major contributor to the Surrey History web site. He had been directly involved in the writing, photographs, and inspiration of more than a dozen of the Surrey History pages. Jack's recall of historical information, his sharing of his person photographs of Surrey, and his willingness to answer any or all questions made him an invaluable research resource and a major contributor. It was for all of these contributions to Surrey Heritage that Jack was granted an Honourary Membership in the Surrey Historical Society.