Willie Berryman, 86, of Fort Worth, TX passed away on January 10, 2021 from an unexpected medical condition in Fort Worth, TX. He was born on September 22, 1934 in McKamie, Arkansas. In 1942, Willie migrated with his parents and four siblings from McKamie, Arkansas to El Centro, California with their dreams of finding a better future. The family settled in a small one-bedroom house on the eastside of town. As a young boy, Willie enjoyed the outdoors of fishing, hunting, riding his bike, and playing sports. He began working as early as 8 years old, helping his parents in the cotton fields of Arkansas. As he grew older, he continued working in the fields pitching watermelons in Imperial Valley. Due to his family's limited income, Willie was always looking for ways to earn money. He sought jobs cutting lawns with his grandfather, selling newspapers, and shining shoes downtown in El Centro. Willie was always motivated in doing well for him and his family. Willie attended the historic, segregated Douglas High School in El Centro up until his Sophomore year. In 1952, he and other non-white students integrated to the primary white Central Union High School, before schools were integrated through Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954. Initially, Willie was uncomfortable attending a predominantly white school. However, he soon began to acclimate and gain acceptance from the white students and teachers. Willie was an outstanding athlete performing on the varsity football, basketball and baseball teams. However, his true joy was playing baseball. Some thought he might become the next "Willie Mays!" Willie graduated from Central Union High School in 1954. On June 7, 1954, Willie enlisted into the United States National Guard, where he received an "Honorable Discharge" on June 6, 1957. In June 1954, Willie was employed by the El Centro Post Office. He became the first African American letter carrier in El Centro. Willie was well-liked by his customers, where it was not uncommon for him to receive gifts, especially during Christmas. He served as Union President of the National Association of Letter Carriers, where he presided for six years. Willie served under nine postmasters and witnessed many changes in the postal service industry. In 1989, he retired after 35 years of dedicated service. Willie is quoted as saying, "If I had to do it over again, I would definitely choose the U.S. Postal Service as my place of employment with no reservations." Willie was a dedicated member of Second Baptist Church in El Centro for 31 years. He served on the church's Board for many years and was often willing to help the church and its members. On October 8, 2000, the pastoral leadership publicly acknowledged Willie's longstanding commitment by naming its fellowship hall, "Deacon Willie Berryman Fellowship Hall". He was preceded in death by his father, Jewell Berryman; mother, Vera (Watson) Berryman; second wife, Orchard (Fontenot) Berryman; and younger sibling, Shirley (Berryman) Bellamy. Willie leaves to cherish his memories his beloved wife, Dorothy Berryman; his children, Debra (Berryman) Morris and Ryan Berryman; grandchildren, Renettra Morris, Heidi (Dante) Soares, Joshua Morris, Lamar (Ruby) Berryman and Ashley (Gerald) Carter; many great-grandchildren, along with Tamiko Berryman and her children. Along with his beloved wife, Dorothy Berryman, he leaves two step-daughters, Sylvia (Stephen) Pigg of Waldorf, MD, Beverly (Wiley) Lane of San Diego, CA, and a host of family members. He also leaves behind his siblings, Floyd (Emma) Berryman of El Centro, Paul (Piccola) Berryman of San Diego, CA, Ruby Berryman (Hundley) of Sacramento, CA, Pauline (Richard) Tobin of Pomona, CA, Johnnie (Carl) Arterberry of Phoenix, AZ and Khalid Berryman of El Centro. Viewing will be held on Sunday, February 7, 2021 at 2 p.m. at Frye Chapel and Mortuary in Brawley. Graveside service will be held on Monday, February 8, 2021 at 11:30 a.m. at Evergreen Cemetery in El Centro. Gifts/cards/flowers can be sent to Dorothy Berryman, 4129 Yancey Lane, Fort Worth, Texas 76244. For more info. contact Ryan Berryman at (909) 864-2167.
Published in Imperial Valley Press Online on Feb. 7, 2021.