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Don G. Berry ’53

Don Berry ’51, February 20, 2001, in Seattle, of complications from emphysema.

A creative spirit who disdained a conventional career, Don wrote three influential novels in the 1960s, all set in the Oregon Territory, regarded by some critics as the best novels ever written and set in Oregon.

Don attended Reed in 1949–51, where he was inspired by Prof. Lloyd Reynolds [English and art 1929–69] and developed close relationships with beat poets Gary Snyder ’51, Lew Welch ’51, and Philip Whalen ’51. His first novel, Trask, published in 1960, is the story of Northwest explorer Eldridge Trask and blends historical research with Don's interest in Eastern philosophy. A rip-roaring advendture, the book won a Library Guild Award. In 1962, he published Moontrap, which won a Golden Spur award for best western novel and was nominated for a National Book Award. His third published novel, To Build A Ship, appeared in 1963 and was based on a diary written by pioneer Warren Vaughn. He also published a history of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, A Majority of Scoundrels, in 1961, and a history book for children, The Mountain Men, in 1966. He later worked on a series of documentary films.

Don became fascinated early on with computers and the possibilities of the internet, and developed a web site as a means to share his writings. The site known as Berryworks, has contained a full length novel, short stories, essays, and artwork, and included a system of links to other websites that he called "The Dombri Maze." Of the internet, Don once said, "It has always been my dream to write exactly what I want to write and give it away to anybody who wants it. Cyberspace makes that possible . . . Cyberspace is the unknown, and it is chaos, and that is where I am truly happy." Although in poor health in the last few years, he continued to maintain the website and to write until very recently. Survivors include two sons and a daughter. A memorial service was held on March 10, 2001, in the Eliot Hall chapel.

Appeared in Reed magazine: May 2001

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