He loved his family and my family, and me,’ Lynn Breeden says of the tender-hearted man she met 20 years ago on a rainy day at the Stoneybrook Steeplechase in Southern Piness. ‘I surely will miss my champion’
So many memories.
So many stories.
So many moments, Lynn Breeden says, she’ll treasure.
“It was love at first sight,” Breeden says of that rainy day 20 years ago at the Stoneybrook Steeple Chase in Southern Pines, when she first met Dolph Berry. “We were both smitten. It seems as if I always knew who Dolph was, and then we met through mutual friends. We had many, many friends in common, as well as our love of Fayetteville. The timing was just right.”
She was attractive, with honey-blonde hair and an infectious personality.
He was an accomplished lawyer with a dry wit, good humor and one story after another to tell about the trappings If you were with him, you had better be ready to hear about the good old days,” Breeden says with such fondness. “He was famous for saying, ‘Well, anyway, to make a long story short,’ and I would say, ‘It’s too late.’ About 10 years ago, a cousin of mine said to him, ‘Good grief, Dolph! How old are you anyway – 100? How can one person have done so much, met so many outstanding people and have so many stories?’”
Dolph Berry was born July 13, 1934, in Whiteville, the sixth son of the late Rev. John W. Berry and Lila Woodson Berry, and the family later lived in Wilson before finally settling in Fayetteville, and where all of the Berry brothers would become gifted football athletes at Fayetteville High School.
“For eight or 10 years,” Breeden says, “there was always a Berry boy on the football team.”
Dolph Berry would earn an athletic scholarship in 1952 to play the game at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. While a pre-season injury ended his athletic pursuits, he would earn a degree in communications and broadcasting – skills that would eventually follow Dolph Berry into the Cumberland County courtrooms after graduation from the UNC-Chapel Hill law school in 1962.
“He was a year ahead of me in law school,” Dick Lewis says. “He had such a keen mind. He thought through things practically. He was just born to be a lawyer.”
Berry began practicing with the late Charles Rose Jr. in this city, and later practiced with Bob Caudle, Wade Byrd and his late brother Doran J. Berry.
“He graduated in the top three of his class,” Wade Byrd says. “We practiced together at least 25 years. Dolph was one of the smartest lawyers I have ever known. He was so bright. Dolph just had this feel for practicing the law.”
And a presence before any jury and any judge.
“He was one of the honorable lawyers,” says Rudolph Singleton, a retired lawyer. “He had a good delivery and he had good timing.”
Berry played his part, too, in seeking racial equality by soliciting downtown and community restaurant operators to reconsider restrictions against African-Americans during 1963 civil rights protests downtown.
He was like that – just and fair to all.
And later in his 60-year legal career, one who always had time to counsel young lawyers learning their craft.
Dolph Berry loved this community, and calling Fayetteville home. He treasured friends like Jim Soffee, Bud Tisdale and the late Mike Uzzell.
“To say it is an honor to be allowed to speak of his life is an understatement,” Berry would say on June 14, 2018, in eulogizing Mike Uzzell at Haymount United Methodist Church. “If you are the father you wish to be, be like Mike. Tell your kids you love them, and they’ll love you for it. They’ll remember you for it.” If you want to be a genuine friend to someone, he would say, “Be like Mike.” And if you believe in your Lord and savior, “Be like Mike.”
Suzanne Ezzell still remembers asking Dolph Berry to speak at her husband’s service.
“He started crying,” she says. “He really loved Mike, and they had a mutual admiration for one another.”
H. Dolph Berry died June 5.
He was 85.
He was one of the Berry boys, and for a lifetime a part of the fabric of this community.
He was Lynn Breeden’s soulmate.
He was her heart, and she his.
“The most beautiful, gentle, loving, caring soulmate, caretaker,” she would write in his obituary, “ and partner.”
Lynn Breeden forever will treasure that rainy day at the Stoneybrook Steeple Chase in Southern Pines with friends Suzanne Uzzell, Mary Ester Martin, Bill McLester, Larry Jones, and the day Dolph Berry placed his jacket over Lynn Breeden’s shoulders to shield her from the falling raindrops.
“The timing was just right,” Lynn Breeden says. “Each of us was starting a new chapter in our lives. We lived through so much together… celebrations, illness, losses. He loved all sports, and ‘Carolina’ and history, especially WWII, his friends, his family and my family, and me.” I surely will miss my champion.”