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William (Bill) Ray Berry Jr.

May 13, 1934 ~ February 2, 2024 (age 89) 89 Years Old
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William (Bill) Berry Jr. Obituary

Dr. William Ray Berry Jr - Billy passed peacefully at his residence on February 2, 2024 after suffering from late stage dementia. He was born in Grand Junction, CO, on May 13, 1934, to William (Ray) Berry Sr and Josephine Laura Berry.  Billy has two brothers, Gerald (Jerry) Berry and Daniel (Dann) Berry.    

Billy and the Berry family played a pivotal role in developing Monarch ski area.   The family passion for skiing invigorated the endurance required to establish and maintain Monarch ski area in the harsh mountain winter environments in those early years.  

In 1939, Claud Ferno obtained the Forest Service permit and also obtained the funding from the Works Progress Administration to build the ski lodge (named Inn Ferno) and two rope tows, that was deeded to City of Salida.  From 1939 to 1947, Monarch was operated by Roman Fisher, Don Proctor, and others, but did not open every season because no one was willing to run the rope tows.  

In Billy’s early childhood, the Berry family moved to Salida, CO.  In 1948, the Berry brothers and other young Salida boys approached City Hall to question whether the ski area was going to operate, and the response was – “if someone is willing to go up to the area on weekends and start the engine to run the rope tows.”   That someone was Ray Berry, local car mechanic, to run the Chevrolet engine for the tow ropes.  In high school years, Billy and his brothers made their own skis in wood shop, creating methods and tools to bend the tips and fabricate the bindings.   

Billy graduated high school in 1952.  Billy served in the Marine Corp from 1953 to 1956.   During his first year, he won the title of best shooter for the entire Marine Corp.   His picture was on the front cover of Leatherneck magazine.  After military service, Billy returned home to Salida.   While at an engagement party for his brother Jerry, Billy was reunited with a childhood friend, wearing a red dress.   Karol Reekers was the most beautiful woman he ever laid eyes upon.  He married her in 1957.  Karol and Billy had children, Valerie and Stephanie.  Grandchildren include Allexia McKee, Arrielle Kidd, Avary Arrayan, and great grandchild Rayven McKee. 

In the summer of 1957, Ray and Billy approached Ed Touber (mayor of Salida) and city council members to purchase Monarch Ski Area.   At the council meeting, Ray was asked “What is a fair price?” Ray said, “I don’t know.”  Ed asked, “Ten dollars or hundred?”  Ray responded, “Either one.”  Ed slammed the gabble and responded, “Sold for hundred dollars.” 

At the time of the purchase, Monarch still had the small lodge, outhouse, and two rope tows powered by the Chevrolet car engine.   There were two runs named Gunbarrel and Snowflake.

Billy’s savings from the Marine Corp paid for the first improvement at Monarch.  Billy purchased a used “T” bar from Cripple Creek ski area that was installed in 1957.   Trees were cut for “Freeway” the first run served by the new “T” bar.  In 1960, he designed and built the “A frame” that he and Karol lived in before they had kids.   The “A frame” was moved several times for parking lot expansions and was last used as a warming hut for the ski patrol.   The early artwork used for the ski patches, billboards, and brochures using the snow-capped letters and cartoons are examples of Billy’s artistry.   

In 1960, Billy helped blast the holes and pour the foundations for the lift towers (made from oil well pipeline) for the Davis Mountain Lift (later renamed Garfield).  The Davis Mountain Lift was the only chairlift in San Isabel Forest at that time.  One of the trails “Little Jo” was named after his mother Josephine.   Another trail “Ray’s romp” was named after his father Ray.   The first half of the lodge used today was built in 1963 (top floor) and 1964 (bottom floor) for $75,000.  During the Berry years, the family boasted that they had at least one skier every day.    

The established ski area was then purchased by Elmo Bevington in 1967 for $139,000.    

After selling Monarch, Billy attended and graduated from OHSU School of Dentistry.  He opened his own practice in Oregon.  Later, he was contracted to work in the Kwajalein Islands where he worked as a dentist for the locals.

Billy traveled all over the globe in his sailboats, sometimes taking family and friends on his trips.  Alone, he accurately navigated with a sextant, fixed mandatory repairs while at sea with his “you-never-know” repair kit, escaped a near encounter with pirates, while enjoying the solitude, wildlife, freedom, and challenge of sailing.  

Billy had an amazing life.    

A graveside service will be held on Monday February 12th 2024 at 11:00 am at Fairview Cemetery in Salida, CO.

 

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Services

Graveside Service
Monday
February 12, 2024

11:00 AM
Fairview Cemetery
8105 Cty Rd 144
Salida, Colorado 81201

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