Joseph Thomas Berry Life History
Contributor: Hokie374 Created: 2 years ago Updated: 2 years ago
History of Joseph Thomas Berry
By Hazel Zufelt,wife,and edited by daughters Beverly and ReNee
Joseph Thomas Berry was born in Provo, Utah; June 14, 1916. He was the only child of Joseph Orion Berry and Alice Isabella Winn. Many males in the Berry family line were named “Joseph,” so he was called “J.T.” In his adult life many called him Joe, but the use of “J.T.” still prevailed with family and close friends. He married Hazel Olive Zufelt 1 September 1940 in Provo, Utah.
Orion, J.T.’s father, married Alice Isabell Winn 11 Feb 1914 in Salt Lake City, UT. Orion was 22 and Alice was 20.
At the time of his parent’s marriage, both of their parents lived in Provo, Utah. Grandfather Berry financed college expenses as well as living expenses for the couple. Orion went to dental school in Chicago at the Chicago College of Dental Surgery. They lived in a four floor “walk-up” near the university. Orion did well in college and received a degree in Oral Surgery.
At the time he established his offices in the Medical Arts building in Salt Lake, he was the only dentist qualified to do oral surgery in Utah and as far east as Denver. One very technical operation that he performed was on a woman who had a floating cuspid tooth that had not formed normally, and it lay loose above the sinus. This was gradually working its way toward her brain. At the time, it lay in the right temple area in the nasal and sinus atrium. A surgical removal was absolutely necessary. She came from a prominent, wealthy family in a Middle Eastern state. She was a very beautiful woman, and neither she nor her husband wanted her face scarred with surgery. Orion extracted three or four back upper teeth and through these root canals went up into the sinus and then through a series of X-rays, using a long pincher-type probe, reached the tooth and gradually drew it down. It took a series of 15 or 16 procedures to get it out. It was small and slippery and was hard to get hold of and difficult not to have it slip into the temporal brain area. J.T. had three of the X-rays taken during the surgeries. Orion built the lady a bridge after her mouth had healed. This was before the time of antibiotics and many of the modern dental machines. Orion was well-paid and received a lot of good publicity.
J.T. was born in 1916 during these college years. Not much is known about J.T.’s early years other than the fact that he went to elementary school at Westmore in Salt Lake. There are a few incidents which come from the grandparents which give a little insight into his life.
While J.T. was a baby, Alice’s sister, Emma Lou, had her wedding. Grandpa and Grandma Winn lived in Provo at the time, and told of Alice being there with J.T. who was a baby. He was so cross that someone gave him some whiskey to see if he would go to sleep. It seems that it cheered him up considerably. He sat up, rolled his eyes, and jabbered until his head reeled and he passed out drunk. Grandma Edith Lyle Murry Berry, Orion’s step-mother, laughed and laughed and said J.T. was so funny, and Grandma Winn couldn’t imagine what was the matter with the child.
J.T. was given piano lessons, which he hated, probably because he was tone deaf. Once his mother told him to practice while she was away. When she came home and asked if he had done so, he said, “yes.” Then she asked him what was on the piano stool, and he didn’t know. She had left a dust rag there and had caught him in his fib. When he was in high school, he was in an opera and in later life liked to laugh about this and say, “Did you know I was once an opera singer?”
When he was growing up J.T. had a German Shepherd dog named Bud who was an excellent watch dog. J.T. loved him and Bud would pull him in a wagon or follow him when he rode his bike. One summer night, a friend of Orion’s came during the night to wake him for something and scratched on the window and called. Bud jumped from the bed through the screen, knocking it out. He hit the man’s chest and held him. Orion had to go through the house, get the dog and tie him up to keep the dog off his friend.
A woman next door kept cats and Bud hated them. She kept a basement window open, so the cats could get in and out. As an adult, J.T. had an aversion to cats which probably originated here. One time Bud chased a cat and as it went through the window Bud grabbed its tail. The skin came off and slid down the bony structure. Bud came around the house with it in his mouth. J.T. thought it was hilarious; because, it looked just like a beard hanging from Bud’s chin. The poor woman screamed and threatened to sue. Orion gave the cat a little anesthetic and cut off its tail and stitched the skin over the end of the bone and the cat got along all right.
Orion was a good father and provided well for his family. As a child Orion and his brother Joy had almost everything given to them as they were growing up, but had to ask for everything, and then take the attendant lecture that went with it each time. They never had to learn how to economize or prepare for life’s hardships. They did well in learning their professions; because, they knew they would not get any more money unless they did. But, knowing their father’s money would be theirs someday; they also indulged themselves and had a good time. Both began drinking. Orion joined civic clubs, and the Elks club became a favorite hang-out which would later affect J.T.’s life.
J.T.’s mother, Alice, was a cultured woman and a gracious hostess. Alice and Orion entertained and were entertained in homes of prominent people in Salt Lake. Wines were served with their dinners. During the prohibition era, Orion made wine and beer at home which were much stronger than those sold commercially today. Most people had a favorite bootlegger at this time.
This is a good place to talk about J.T.’s grandfather, Joseph Smith Berry; because he played a significant role in J.T’s life. The atmosphere of this family revolved around the grandfather. His wife’s name was Samantha Parker. His role was probably like many of the men in this period of history. A man’s word was the law, and they ran their homes with an iron hand. He was an uneducated man as far as formal school was concerned, but he was a shrewd, provident business man. From a humble beginning of herding sheep, to sheep owner, farmer, land owner, and real estate investor, he became a wealthy man. He dominated every situation--family, social, or business by sheer force of his will- power. He was blunt and sometimes rude. I am sure Grandfather Berry was a kind and generous man with his money, but he did not know how to give of himself personally. He gave of his money to his family and received poor returns. He ruled his family and waved his money like a magic wand, and they jumped when he told them to. I think he was a lonely old man.
His two sons, Orion and Joey, resented his demanding and dictatorial manner. He alienated their affection but received their respect. Both were rude, crude practical jokers—often hurting or embarrassing others. They smoked and drank and both progressed to become alcoholics. Their private lives were opposite of what Grandfather tried to force them to live.
Daughters have a way of getting around fathers and his daughter, Chloa, (prounounced "Cloe) was very accomplished in this this way. She was left with a family to raise when her husband died and she relied on her father. They were very close. She caused further alienation between the father and his sons and their sons.
Grandfather Berry used to drive around on Sunday mornings to see that everybody went to church—all of Chloa’s family went. Her sons grew up to be fine men and went on missions. Neither Orion or Joey went to church, so they suffered in silence, craving a cigarette, while grandfather gave his weekly lecture on what they should do and how disappointed he was in the way they had turned out. I, Hazel, was told that Grandfather then drove down to the old Cullen Hotel and sat playing pinochle with a couple of his cronies. He always had a pitcher of water by him and drank it constantly. He was what they called a “water diabetic.”
Grandfather Berry was a superstitious man and had some very strong hang-ups. For instance Chloa was packing to move on a Friday. The moving van and the men were there ready to load when Grandfather drove up and told the movers, “You can’t move today. I’ll pay you extra if you come back on Monday.” Chloa sat two days on her packing cases; because, he thought it was bad luck to start anything on a Friday, especially if it couldn’t be finished before Sunday. He never did business on a Friday. If a Friday fell on the 13th, he practically locked himself in the house. We often wondered if he even got out of bed.
Before J.T.’s mother died, Grandfather Berry asked J.T. what he wanted for Christmas. J.T. said a special kind of ball-bearing roller skates. Grandfather asked if some other kind would be just as good. J.T. said no, if he couldn’t have that kind he didn’t want any. We know how kids are, but Grandfather didn’t. Grandad said, “You shouldn’t ask for certain things. It’s impolite.” Grandad and young J.T. had some difficulties getting along. On Christmas every grandson got a pair of ball-bearing roller skates except J.T. He got nothing at all. Grandfather called him a spoiled brat and said it would do him good not to get everything he wanted. J.T. probably was spoiled at that point because of being an only child, still he was a child.
About this time, J. T.’s parents bought a home on Browning Avenue before Alice’s death; Orion was also talking about having a home built on the lower eastern hills which was becoming the elite section of Salt Lake City. However, Orion was also drinking a lot.
Alice had a miscarriage when J.T. was 8 years old and went to Nephi to be with her parents. During this time, she wrote to Orion telling him she expected him to send her some money. She had none and was embarrassed to have her parents buying every little thing for her. She told him she thought the neighbor children were a bad influence on J.T. She also said that there were things they needed to talk about-- inferring that they were having marriage difficulties.
When J.T. was eleven years old, his mother died due to a uterine infection (Death 1927; She was 33 years old). J.T. told his daughters, Beverly and ReNee, of coming home from school and seeing the ambulance taking his mother to the hospital. He begged to see her, but the ambulance left. He tells how he rode his bicycle down the road chasing them. He never saw his mother again.
Alice’s parents, the Thomas Winn’s, wanted to take J.T. and adopt him, but the Berry pride did not allow that. Orion “fell to pieces” and began to drink very heavily. J.T. had a housekeeper who looked after him and Orion often stayed at the Elks Club, sometimes for days at a time. J.T. was left alone to do whatever young men did. Once he had to go find his dad and ask what to do because the power had been turned off. His father had forgotten to pay the utility bill. Orion eventually drank himself out of his dental practice. J.T. picked up smoking and drinking at a very young age.
One story involving, J.T. and his father happened during the depression and the prohibition of alcohol. This was told with a lot of drama and humor. In this era many people made bootleg whiskey in their homes or hidden on farms called stills. The mash (of corn or other grains) after souring and working had to be screened and drained and run through a series of glass tubes to purify it (called distilling).
Harry, a friend of Orion’s, had a big racket going. He brought whiskey from Canada. In his home, Harry had a wood paneled wall that concealed shelves filled with good Canadian booze. The state police went all out to top imported whiskey, so the alcohol was brought in at night from different places on the Canadian/US border by fast cars. Harry had a big black car with a “souped-up” motor. He didn’t do all the running himself, but a good part of it. He had a lot of police paid-off, but once in a while a small guy in business would get picked up. Harry would pay lawyer fees and take care of the guy’s family so nobody squealed on Harry. The police suspected him anyway.
A time or two Harry would put his car with its load into Orion’s garage at night instead of going home or to any other cache he kept. This helped him elude the cops on stake-out at his house. A couple of times Orion had to take a bullet out of Harry, so nobody would know he was involved. One time Harry had gotten word that the cops were going to raid his place. The night before the raid he moved all his liquor. He pushed back the hidden panels, and filled the shelves with books and novelties. His car was actually in Orion’s garage, and later a man came and fixed the bullet marks in the car, filled the holes, and painted it. The next day a friend drove Harry’s car to his home. The cops searched it for marks but found none. Harry had a bullet hole in his shoulder but couldn’t put it in a sling for fear of giving himself away. The cops found him clean and Harry sued them for false arrest. He then went out of business. I don’t know if he won the suit, but it was a big story in the paper. It must have been a terrible worry for Harry’s wife while this was going on. Perhaps all the furs and jewels made up for it. Orion was supposed to be only a casual friend, and the police did not suspect his part in this business.
Both J.T. and his dad “sweat it out” for several days while Harry’s last load was stacked in their basement.
Grandfather Berry had a personal, full-time lawyer on a yearly salary. Jim Neeley was grandfather’s “yes-man.” Grandfather would tell Jim what he wanted to do and Jim would figure how he could do it. Much money was paid to Grandfather in cash without a contract or receipt of payment so he wouldn’t have to show it on his income tax. Yet men respected him, and in a business deal, his word was good.
Orion’s mother, J.T.’s grandmother, was Samantha Parker. She was a tiny woman, less than 5 feet, dark and beautiful. Joey (J.T's uncle) had one of the last pair of shoes she ever bought. It was a high button shoe of black patent leather with a two inch heel, a size 4. Everyone spoke of her with tenderness, as though she was something fragile that should be protected. In the early part of their marriage she lived alone on their farm while her husband was away months at a time with the sheep. They lived in Kanarraville, Iron Co., Utah and the three children were born there. She worked every day to the limits of her strength supervising her sons and hired men on the place and caring for a large garden. She washed clothes in a galvanized wash tub with a scrub board. (Clothes were boiled in those days to clean them and eliminate some of the hard scrubbing. They were then lifted out of a boiler with a broom handle and into a tub of cooler water and then scrubbed.) Later they moved to Provo where she began to have an easier life. For years they lived in Provo close to the center of town. Samantha died in 1915 in Salt Lake. She was 65.
In 1920 Grandfather Berry married Edith Lyle Murray. They moved into a lovely home left her by her father. It was located in Murray, Utah. She was a nurse and had never been married. She was a brisk, efficient woman, and grandfather didn’t intimate her one bit. She was a good wife to him. She called him “Berry,” although she showed respect for him and never contradicted him in public. I know of times when she straightened him out very firmly about family relationships.
One such incident involved J.T. He was in college and worked all summer at Grandfather Berry’s place in Murray shingling a section of the roof and doing all the yard work on the extensive grounds. He had a financial arrangement with Grandad who didn’t think J.T. would stick to it. When fall came and college began J.T. drove out to get his summer’s pay. Grandad wanted to know how much tuition and books were and what J.T. thought he needed in clothes. That was how much Grandad gave him saying that J.T. would probably just throw it away on a lot of nonsense. He said, “When you need more I’ll give you what you need.”
J.T. was so mad he left the money on the table and walked out without even arguing with him. Lyle said, “Berry, that’s not your money anymore. It is J.T.’s. He earned it.” She called J.T. back and made Grandad give him all he had promised to pay him. Grandad gave him all he had promised to pay him. When Grandad started his lecture on how J.T. should spend it and how he should live Lyle said, “Now Berry, that hasn’t anything to do with you; it’s his money.” The first thing J.T. did was head to the beer parlor and sit with shaking hands and stomach and drank beer while he fumed inside. Grandad would have given J.T. more than he had coming to him if J.T. had crawled back every time he needed anything and asked for it.
J.T.’s maternal grandparents were the Thomas Cunliff Winn’s, the ones who wanted to raise J.T. when his mother died. They were a lovely, gentle, cultured couple. J.T. said that Grandpa Winn’s life was a sermon. He did live what he believed. There was no malice in either of them. Grandpa Winn was a brilliant man. He had a flour mill operation and several pieces of business property. He was also a C.P.A. and did books for a prominent business company. J.T. used to visit him, and they would play chess.
Grandma Elsie Pitt Winn was a lovely little woman with fine, soft, snow-white hair. They always kept a can of coffee for J.T. to use when he came to visit. She also kept tea for visitors and always developed a headache when she made it for anyone, in order to justify herself drinking it. Tea was supposed to be medicinal and not for pleasure. At the time J.T. married, the Winns were living in an apartment in Salt Lake City. Grandma Winn was not a complex person, just a sweet, charitable little soul. She told J.T., when she was showing him pictures, that he could see that she was the prettiest woman in the first ward Relief society. J.T. felt sure that this was what she honestly thought. Grandma Winn had a sense of humor as naïve and innocent as a little child.
Once in talking to Hazel, J.T.’s wife, about Alice and Orion, Grandma Winn made a remark that had more insight than Hazel had expected. She said that Orion had been a handsome, bright young man when they first came to know him, but in spite of his dental training, he had stopped growing at about age twenty-five. He continued to think and act, and be amused in the same ways that he had just after high school.
The Winn’s, eventually, moved to California near their son Herman and his wife, Ion. Herman was a professor at a college in Los Angeles and Ion was a principle of a school for delinquent girls. I tell you this; because, they loved J.T., and he would visit them every year. Because he was a coffee drinker, the coffee can went with the Winn’s to California. It got old and lost its essence, but J.T. always drank it with his amused smile.
In 1940 J.T. was working shift work in Provo and Hazel Olive Zufelt was working in a department store. They met and dated for a while. J.T. was so tired trying to keep up a courtship and working nights that he proposed, and they got married in Brighton. J.T. was 24 and Hazel was 25. J.T said now they could both get some sleep.
Before World War II began Grandfather Berry lent them money to start a business. They started the “Berry Jewelry Store” in Provo, Utah. Grandfather held the title to the store until the loan was paid off. They worked hard to pay the loan off early because J.T. hated being indebted to Grandfather. When they went to give the last payment to Grandad and get the title, Grandad was in shock. He said he would just keep the title for them; because, they weren’t responsible. He really believed they would never pay it off. They argued and once again, Lyle the step mother spoke up and said it was their title and Grandad needed to give it to them. He threw it on the floor, and they were forced to pick it up and leave.
J.T. and Hazel had some fun times before J.T. was drafted. J.T. had a delightful sense of humor and had a wise crack about everything. There was a hotel above the jewelry store and they had their apartment there. The apartment had hard wood floors and they used scatter rugs for protection and color on the floor. They had a dog named, Butchie. He loved to swim, so they would all go to Utah Lake during the summer. When they got home, they would open the door and the dog would run up the stairs, hit the rug and slide on it through their living room and under the bed. They also went fishing for cat fish in the lake. There were some really big ones that could be filleted out. They fought hard and were fun to catch.
J.T. was drafted into service in World War II and because of his flat feet he was not eligible for infantry. He knew how to type and was stationed in an office in Salt Lake City doing clerical work. Hazel was running the jewelry store and the hotel that was above the store. She was pregnant with ReNee and their first child, Beverly was two years old.
After the war, when J.T. decided to sell the store, Grandad Berry wanted him to sell it to Mr. Morgan. It would have been less than J.T. was asking. They had an argument and J.T. walked out. He went over to Joe’s Spic & Span and sold it to Mr. Talboe for his boys to have after the war. J.T. got the money he had asked for and began working at Geneva Steel.
Geneva Steel plant was built to help the war effort and the war needed steel. It is still a going business today. J.T. worked there the rest of his life. He hated his job. He always wanted to be a white collar worker and I am not sure why he didn’t pursue his education after the war. Perhaps because of the depression men were just thankful for having work.
J.T. and Hazel bought a house on 2nd South and 2nd East in Provo. It had two large weeping willow trees in the front, a front porch, and an upstairs with high ceilings and alcoves which provided lots of room to play. It also had an enclosed back porch where the girls slept in the summer. There was an apricot tree in the back yard the girls liked to climb and pretend they were jungle girls.
J.T. liked to fish but wasn’t very good. Often they would go to the lake and fish or fish in Provo River. J.T. would sometimes get his fishing line caught in trees and bushes which made everyone laugh.
One vacation they took while the kids were in upper elementary school was to West Yellowstone. They got there and had some chili and all got sick and turned around and came back home. They didn’t even get to see Old Faithful. Another vacation was to California to visit friends and Winn’s. The family went to Knox Berry Farm which was a high light. Other than those trips, the family went to Tabiona, Utah every summer to visit mom’s sister Daphne VanTassell. The VanTassells invited them to their father’s day reunion even year when they moved to Ephraim, Utah. J.T. always joked with the kids and performed a trick making it look like he took his finger off which they loved.
He taught the girls to ride their two wheeled bicycles and on Sunday morning they would go on bike rides all over town.
In Nov 1953 the family was blessed with a baby boy, Roger Verl Berry. Sadly he died in March 1954 only four months old. He had what was called a blood infraction at the time. Two inches from his heart there was a narrow spot in the blood vessel. When he got older the blood backed up into the heart and caused heart failure. J.T. and Hazel had an autopsy performed, so they would know why he died. This probably could have been prevented now days. This was a difficult time for the whole family, and J. T. lost his only son.
One Christmas when the girls were older and J.T. was working swing shift, 3:00pm -12:00 pm, they had a fun experience. J.T. came home and he and Hazel set out Christmas and didn’t want to go to bed and have to get up early. They went downstairs where the girls were sleeping, turned on the lights, and shouted, “Merry Christmas! Santa’s come and it is time to get up.” After the presents were opened, the girls looked at the clock and it was 2:00 am. They all went back to bed and slept in-- A Christmas to remember.
When the girls were young J.T. would come to church functions and a couple of times he M.C.’d talent shows for the ward as he had a fun sense of humor and could joke between numbers. As a youth J.T. was moved along in the priesthood until he became a teacher. He didn’t really understand what the church was. Shortly before his death he asked Hazel saying, “I don’t want a lecture; just tell me what is meant by the standard works.” This indicates he really knew very little about the church. ReNee Korene Berry was engaged to Dondavid Stephen Powell, and married May 27, 1969. At that time J.T. went to sacrament meeting with the family. I think he wanted to show off his tall son-in-law and let everyone know his daughter was marrying well even if she was 24.
After moving to 10th East in Provo about 1956, he would come to the salmon bakes which happened every summer in 22nd ward, but he stopped coming to any other functions.
J.T.’s wife, Hazel Olive Zufelt Berry, was a strong-willed woman. She came from a family of ten children, four of the siblings died young. She had 4 older brothers and a sister 14 years older than she was. She was the youngest in the family and learned to squabble for everything with the boys. In high school, she got Rheumatic fever and wasn’t able to graduate. She always wanted to go to college and took many classes at BYU. She was active as she could be in the church. She served in the stake Primary for a while and also taught in-service and Beehives. She was also a lot of fun and very creative. She was the most well-educated person I have ever known. She was an avid reader and would read while J.T. watched TV. This bothered him because he felt like she wasn’t really doing anything with him. She was very verbal and sometimes not kind. I am sure her sharp tongue didn’t help J.T.’s drinking problem.
There was a lot arguing and contention in the home. The family was fortunate because even though J.T. had a drinking problem, he was not abusive--most of the time he just got docile and depressed. Still the drinking cause marital unhappiness, financial problems, and the arguing complicated the problem.
In 1969, J.T. and Hazel went out to California to see their first grandchild. J.T. had ten weeks of vacation and for an alcoholic it was not a blessing. However, he had been attending AA meetings and had been sober for the whole time. He loved the baby. As the time approached for him to go back to work, it was like he couldn’t face the job he hated any longer. He called the girls and told them he loved them. Then he got drunk. Of course, that facilitated an argument. He had often threatened suicide and helped clean up the mess of some of his friends after their suicides. I guess he decided that was the only way out of his then unhappy life. He shot himself in his car at the top of Orem hill. He was loved by those who knew him as a kind, gentle, lost man with twinkling blue eyes and a quick sense of humor. It was devastating for the family, but they went on.
Hazel died in 1991. Before Hazel’s death she did the temple work for J.T. and had the family sealed together. Hazel was able to help the girls love their father even if they didn’t approve of his behavior. To accept and love others as they are is a great lesson which has followed them in their dealing with others.