The life of jazz musician, Cleveland Berry, 77, celebrated in Placencia
Cleveland Berry, 77, one of Belize’s most endeared jazz musicians, known for the hit songs “Hurricane Hattie” and “Good Mawnin, Miss Lady”, lost his battle with cancer on Friday afternoon, July 6, when he passed away at the Belize Healthcare Partners in Belize City.
Relatives said that Dave Brubeck’s “Take 5,” one of Berry’s favorite jazz tunes, played in the background as his soul went to sleep.
Berry is a longtime Placencia resident and proprietor of Galley’s Restaurant in that village, a venture he and his late wife began more than three decades ago.
He was cremated and a service was held at the St. John’s Memorial (Anglican) Church in Placencia today, Monday.
Speaking with Amandala this evening, Julie Berry, one of his six surviving children, reflected on today’s service, saying that it was truly a celebration of his life. The eulogy was delivered by her brother, Cleveland, Jr., and there were Scripture readings by four of Mr. Berry’s grandchildren.
No wake was held because he didn’t want a wake, Berry’s daughter said.
Following the religious service today, relatives and friends gathered at the restaurant, and the family was, late this evening, trying to decide what to do with Berry’s ashes, since he had not specified.
Julie said that today has been filled with truly special moments, such as the reflections of a 95-year-old couple who got married in Placencia, and who are among her father’s fans.
She noted that her father, who began to explore his talent in his teenage years, was blessed with a special talent — able to play a song after hearing it just once, even though he knew nothing about reading notes.
His favorite instrument, said Julie, was the acoustic guitar, which can still be seen hanging at his restaurant. He also played the harmonica, the flute and the keyboard.
Local Placencia bands, such as Ugly Ducklings, used to leave a plug for him to drop in his jazz intonations, his daughter recalls.
His family recounts that Berry’s career reached its peak in the 1950s, but he is also known for a 1970s show Jazz Hour with Cleveland Berry on Radio Belize.
The Association for Belizean Artists First honored Berry in 2005 with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Four of Berry’s children, who live abroad, were in Belize at the time they found out he was ill and needed emergency surgery.
Cleveland Berry is survived by his children: Belinda Berry, Cleveland Berry, Jr., Dawn Pollard, William Berry, Julie Berry and Andre Berry. He is predeceased by his wife, Juliana Berry (nee Pate), and his eldest daughter, Dr. Marla Berry-Holder.
He also leaves behind a sister, Farida Berry-Vernon of Canada; and brother, Ronald Berry.