Michael J. Berry

LTC Michael "Mike" James Berry (Ret.), 54, of Leavenworth, Kan., passed away, Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014, following a lengthy battle with brain cancer. He was surrounded by his children and holding his wife Katherine's hand.

Michael Berry

A graduate of Sartel High School, Mike earned his bachelor's degree from Minnesota State University in Mankato and later attained a Masters in Business Administration from Webster University. Mike proudly served full time for over 21 years in the Army National Guard and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in 2005. Military service was such an important part of Mike's life that in retirement he chose to work for the Ft. Leavenworth Command General Staff College as an Instructor, and eventually reached the level of Assistant Professor. He resigned from his position in 2014 due to his illness but continued to cherish his students and coworkers.

An extremely talented golfer, Mike also loved to build things with his own hands, creating several items of furniture and home décor now treasured by his family. He also built a massive Cutty Sark model boat, and was proud of an enormous Marlin fish molded from one he'd caught years ago, neither of which the family is as fond of. Mike was an avid Minnesota Vikings fan and an eternal optimist who never gave up hope that "his team" would one day win the Super Bowl again. In addition to expanding his son's vocabulary every time the Vikings blew their Super Bowl chances, Mike also greatly enjoyed playing video games with his son, who has wisely chose to become a Chief's fan.

In recent years, Mike amassed a considerable collection of Hawaiian shirts. Throughout his chemotherapy treatments, he greeted his medical team and fellow patients with a cheery "Aloha!" each Friday, bringing smiles to their faces with his often outlandish Hawaiian shirts. Since this Hawaiian shirt tradition was something started among Mike's coworkers it baffled the chemo patients, but before long many had taken to wearing Hawaiian shirts for their Friday appointments, too.

During the course of his battle against brain cancer, Mike felt blessed to have an opportunity to complete an item on his "Bucket List" when he sang with a band at the VFW in Leavenworth during a fundraiser for the Wounded Warriors project. Since Mike's many gifts and talents did not include carrying a tune, this wish of his came as quite a surprise to his family. Naturally, he wore a Hawaiian shirt while he performed. Mike's song choice was one of his favorite songs, "Walking in Memphis" by Marc Cohn, and after many weeks of diligent practice his performance received a standing ovation. That experience was priceless to Mike, who frequently spoke of it fondly and watched his performance on YouTube even more often.

Mike was preceded in death by his father, James Berry, with whom he is now ice fishing in heaven. He is survived by his wife, Katherine; step-daughter, Dakota Day-Herrell; and son, Tate Berry. He is also survived by his mother, Marie Berry; two sisters, Denise Lacher and Diane Ostlie, all of Minnesota; and numerous aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and a nephew. He was a kind, gentle and generous man. Mike was very much loved and will be greatly missed.

A memorial service will begin at 12 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 3, 2015, at the R.L. Leintz Funeral Home. A short reception for family and close friends will follow. Memorials in lieu of flowers are suggested to the American Brain Tumor Association.