When Peter Berry died in Helena March 7, there was little public fanfare and not even an obituary, perhaps reflecting his desire for privacy. Yet Berry led a fascinating life and left many friends in Helena and around the world. Helena had truly become home to him.
He was born just outside of Johannesburg South Africa, on Aug. 27, 1930. After graduating from a university there, Berry moved to England and earned a master’s degree in business from the London School of Economics.
He worked in in business marketing and advertising in London and Montreal before moving to New York City to work for the Christian Broadcasting Network.
Berry came to Montana sight unseen from New York in late 1972 when incoming Gov. Tom Judge chose him to take over Judge’s advertising and public relations agency. Judge had placed his business into a blind trust during his eight-year tenure as governor.
Upon arriving in Helena, Berry told Larry Pettit, Judge’s campaign manager in 1972, “I’ll take care of the business. You take care of the politics.”
In spite of his close relationship with Gov. Judge, Berry scrupulously avoided partisanship. When asked, Berry, who carried both American and British passports, would simply reply, “I am a Monarchist.”
Berry also volunteered be Gov. Judge’s chief of protocol and joked that he was “a dollar-a-year-man.”
He loved it here in Montana. Berry hosted a Sunday night TV program and a radio show in Helena on which he would interview local people. With his proper British accent and dapper attire, Berry was a sophisticated and cosmopolitan gentleman in Helena.
In his new job, Berry took over from Judge as executive secretary and public relations man for many professional and trade groups and came to know people from all over Montana.
Berry later left Helena to become an executive for World Vision International, which fights poverty and injustice. He served mainly in East Asia, rising to become its regional director in Sri Lanka prior to his retirement.
When Berry retired in 1998, he could have lived anywhere in the world, but chose to return to Helena where he had made so many friends.
Instead of driving sporty MGBs as he had in London, Berry switched to a more practical silver Subaru Forester.
He invited numerous friends to dinner, and they enjoyed entertaining Berry in their own homes.
Berry became an integral part of the many Helena families, joining them for holidays and special occasions, becoming something of a surrogate uncle to their children. He was delighted when his own nephew, Rob, and his family moved to Montana.
Berry enjoyed being part of a long-standing coffee group called Flickers, which included persons of diverse occupational and political backgrounds.
A St. Peter’s Cathedral filled with friends celebrated Berry’s life on March 19. He was interred in the Cathedral’s Memorial Garden.