Marian Berray

Marian Fay Berray

1934 - 2024

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Obituary of Marian Fay Berray

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Marian Fay (Jankila) Berray, age 89, passed away on Monday, June 10, 2024 at Masonic Village in Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania.  


Marian Fay Jankila was born on August 2,1934 in Buhl, a small mining town of 1600 residents, on the Mesabi Iron Range in northeastern Minnesota.  Her parents, John and Helvi (Toumainen) were both 2nd-generation Finnish-Americans.  John operated a large power shovel for the Hanna Mining Company in many nearby open-pit iron mines and was a long time member of the Buhl Curling Club.  Marian grew up with her older sister, Gloria, her younger sister, Carole, and her younger brother, John.  They were very independent as they could walk to school (as cold as 40 below zero in winter), the grocery store, post office, ice cream store, library, and park.  She remembered that they only had one bicycle to share for all four children - it was a boys bicycle, but they almost never fought about it.


Marian loved school and got excellent grades.  She was always particularly proud of her hometown Martin Hughes High School, which was well-equipped and even boasted an indoor swimming pool (somewhat rare at the time) thanks to the support of the local iron mines, which had been critical to the country's industrial build up and war production during WWI and WWII.  Marian was Editor-in-Chief of "The Growler 1952" (her class Yearbook) and the school newspaper. She played clarinet in the high school band and the Buhl City Band. She also played the leads in three plays during her high school years.  She was Valedictorian of her Class of 1952 and gave the Valedictory Address at their Graduation Ceremony.  She was awarded the American Legion Auxiliary Scholarship Award and the Bausch and Lomb Science Award.  During her high school days, Marian also volunteered as a "Candy Striper", helping to assist elderly residents in the local nursing home.


Marian attended Virginia Junior College from 1952-54.  She received a Rotary scholarship as the outstanding freshman.  She also received a scholarship from the Hanna Mining Company, her father's employer, to pay the tuition for a semester at VJC.  She was the President of the Phi Theta Kappa chapter, which is the honor society of 2-year colleges.  Marian was also elected 1953-54 President of the VJC Home Economics Club and was subsequently elected Secretary for the Statewide association.                              


In 1954, on the advice of a friend, Marian decided to transfer to Stout State College in Menomonie, Wisconsin in order to complete her Bachelor of Science degree in Home Economics Education.  She applied to Stout totally on her own, without her parents' involvement, or even a campus visit, arranging everything by phone or mail.


Since Marian was from Minnesota, she had to pay out-of-state tuition.  Marian came to Stout each year with $300, her total wages earned as a nurse's aide during the summer.  That amount was to pay for tuition, books, rent, and meals.  There was no financial aid package.  Knowing that her savings would not last the year, Marian got a job in the Student Union preparing food and snacks.  To earn additional money, she cleaned the apartment of one of her professors and typed for another professor.  Her father sent her $20 on paydays from his job in the iron mine.  She only ate 2 meals a day to stretch her money and only had one beer a week at the Ratskeller.  Marian kept track of her daily expenses in a small notebook, which she held onto and still had more than 50 years later.  One of her fondest memories was her participation in the Stout Symphonic Singers spring concert bus tour to Florida.  They stayed in private homes as the group stopped along the way to give concerts.  For Marian, it was a wonderful experience as she had never been out of Minnesota or Wisconsin.  To her, Miami Beach looked like a paradise of white pristine hotels next to the ocean. 


At Stout, Marian also met her future husband, James (Jim) Berray at a local bar, because as she recounted, she was curious to meet the upperclassman who had badly burned his hands trying to start up a fireplace with gasoline.  They may not have ever met as Jim would have graduated with a previous class, but was drafted during the summer following his Junior year and spent 16 months in the US Army in Germany.  Following his Discharge in December 1954, Jim returned to Stout in January of 1955 and obtained his Bachelor of Science in Industrial Education in January 1956.  Jim then started working towards a Master's Degree and it was during this period that Marian and Jim met.


Marian graduated from Stout in 1956 (in the top 10 of her class), and began teaching in the quaint, scenic Mississippi River town of Fountain City, Wisconsin.  She taught Home Economics, grades 7 through 12, and a General Science class.  In the meantime, during the summer of 1956, Jim was attracted to the world of sales and was hired by the National Cash Register Company (NCR), initially selling adding machines, before moving to the Business Forms Division.


On December 27, 1956, Marian and Jim were married at Calvary Lutheran Church in Minocqua, Wisconsin.  Actually, there were 2 marriages that day.  Marian and Jim's marriage ceremony was performed in the afternoon, followed by a reception and then, in the evening, they returned to the same church for the wedding of Jim's brother, Jack and Nona Larson.  Wedding photos of the day show the two couples posing together.  After Jack and Nona's reception, they left for their honeymoon cabin at a resort outside of Woodruff on a lake.  It was in a very remote location and the bathroom shower was quite chilly as it was December in northern Wisconsin.  By morning, they were ready to leave - returning to Jim's mother's house by mid-morning.  Jim's mother and sister could not believe that they were back.  To make matters worse, Jack and Nona returned, too, the following day!


Following their wedding, Marian and Jim then lived apart for a while.  Jim returned to his sales job with NCR in Milwaukee.  Marian returned to her teaching position in Fountain City, Wisconsin. 

In the summer of 1957, following the end of the school term, Marian joined Jim in Milwaukee and they finally began their life together.


Their first son, Scott James, was born in October of that year in Milwaukee at St. Francis Hospital.


Two years later, Jim's career as a salesman of business forms for National Cash Register (NCR) brought a promotion and their young family transferred from Milwaukee to Washington Court House, Ohio, where they lived from 1960-61.  During their time in this county seat town, Marian taught 7th and 8th grade English.  Jim and Marian were active in founding a brand new Lutheran congregation and church in WCH, the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church.  Their family grew when in June of 1960, their second son, William Alan was born - on the very same day that they also took delivery of a brand new blue and white 1960 Chevrolet Bel Air 2-Door Sedan.


In 1961, Jim was sent by NCR to establish a Business Forms and Supply Division in the Philadelphia area and the young family moved to a second story two-bedroom apartment near the train line in Oreland, Pennsylvania.  Marian was expecting their third child and they became desperate to get a house.  Marian babysat and Jim did Gallup Poll work in the evening so that they could save every possible cent for a down payment on a house.  Their third son, Thomas John, was born in August of 1962.  Marian and Jim had managed to save $1000 and that October they bought a house in Plymouth Meeting, a new suburb northwest of Philadelphia.  When they moved in they literally had no extra money, but they had achieved their goal and they had their family home.


Marian stayed home to care for their 3 little boys and was active in community and church activities at Christ Lutheran Church in Oreland.  In June of 1965, Marian was crowned "Mrs. Plymouth Meeting" in a competition held in the twin-townships by the Whitemarsh Junior Women's Club.  Marian was ultimately one of three finalists in the state-wide competition to select a Mrs. Pennsylvania to compete in the Mrs. America contest.  Wearing her tiara, Marian rode with her husband and sons in an open convertible marked "MRS. P.W." - waving a white-gloved hand to the crowd during the 1965 Whitemarsh Township Fourth of July Parade along Germantown Pike in Lafayette Hill, PA.


Marian and Jim's community involvement contributed to a major improvement and accomplishment that will exist for generations to come.  The existing William Jeanes Memorial Library, was housed in a small stone building that had been built in 1935 on the grounds of the Plymouth Meeting Friends Meeting House (1708).  As a community resource, it had become inadequate to the growing needs of the young families that had moved into the numerous suburban subdivisions that had been developed in the surrounding area on former farm tracts.  As Friends of the Library members, Marian and James worked hard to get the funding and cooperation of the community to build a new library.  At times, it became somewhat contentious with "Library Yes" and "Library No" divisions within the community in advance of a local ballot question on the topic.  Funding and a state grant were ultimately procured, and Marian and Jim were there together for the laying of the cornerstone for the new library in 1970, with Jim serving as the official Master of Ceremonies. 


Meanwhile, in 1968, when her boys were all enrolled in school, Marian had gone back to teaching as a substitute, and then had a series of part-time teaching positions.  She worked very hard during this time, raising her family in addition to teaching. There were extended periods when she would teach part-time in the morning in one school, and then drive 45 minutes to another school to teach for a few hours in the afternoon for another part-time position.  Later, the business world beckoned to her and Marian worked for the Burroughs Corporation (later Unisys) in their Customer Education Center - which was her introduction to computers!  


After her sons graduated from high school, Marian helped the boys greatly with their college and financial aid applications and both Marian and Jim were very supportive of their sons throughout their college careers.  Their middle son, Bill, followed his parents' example and traveled to Menomonie, Wisconsin to attend and graduate from Stout, now known as University of Wisconsin - Stout.


In 1988, Marian returned to teaching, finally securing a full-time position teaching Home Economics at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School, just a short walk across Germantown Pike from her home, and the school that all three of her sons had attended.  During her teaching career, Marian earned her Master's Equivalency and Certification in Elementary Education.  By the time that Marian retired in 2000, she was teaching Family and Consumer Sciences, had created a new and fresh curriculum that reflected the changes in American culture, and was using the latest computer technology in her classroom teaching.  Always a careful planner, during her teaching career Marian wisely bought back service credits for her part-time and out-of-state teaching service and this prudent foresight increased her PA State Employees' Retirement System (PSERS) Pension, contributing towards a comfortable retirement for Marian and Jim.


After their boys married and started their own families, Marian and Jim visited their sons and their grandchildren, wherever they were, travelling to Japan, California, Virginia, Arizona, Colorado, and Minnesota.  They would drive over to Oreland at least once a week to greet their special needs grandson Kai as he got off the school bus in the afternoon and spend time playing X-Box Bowling and reading stories to him.

During their very active retirement, Marian and Jim faithfully swam their laps at Ply-Mar Swim Club together and continued their travels.  They visited, and had visits from, their relatives in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and went back once again to Menomonie for the Stout Golden Reunion Classes 1956-57-58.  Marian and Jim traveled to the Caribbean and took epic cruises on the rivers and waters of the continental United States, Alaska, Canada, Japan, and Europe.  On their trip to Russia, they included a side trip to Finland, where Marian's grandparents emigrated from to settle and work in the Mesabi Iron Range area of Minnesota.  

They also enjoyed visiting and staying at Bethany Beach, DE, where, during a visit in June 2017, Jim was first stricken with the ramifications of meningitis.

After a series of hospitalizations, Jim moved into Rm 232 in the Health Care Unit at Masonic Village in August of 2017.


Marian's thorough and careful life planning helped to make this possible.  Years before, shortly after these policies became available, Marian had the foresight to purchase Long Term Care Insurance - which was to prove to be very useful in helping to pay for the cost of care in the Masonic Village Health Care Wing.

In December of 2017, in order to be near Jim, Marian moved out of their beloved family home in Plymouth Meeting to Retirement Apartment 206 at Masonic Village.

For the next 5 years, she made the short walk through the door by Country Kitchen to visit and spend time with him and served as a tireless advocate for his care and well-being.


Married for 66 years, Marian was at his side, together with two of their sons, during Jim's final peaceful hours before he passed away on January 12, 2023.


Previous to Jim's death, Marian herself had been experiencing neuromuscular, vision, and hearing issues.  She had lost function in her left hand, needed a rollator to walk safely most of the time, and required an aide to come and help her during the day in her apartment.  Two months later, in March 2023, Marian suffered a bad fall in her bathroom during the night.  Following a stay in the hospital and her discharge, she moved directly into Rm 2027 in the Health Care Unit at Masonic Village.


During this time, she enjoyed telephone conversations with her brother John, and phone calls and visits with her sons, daughters-in-law, and grandson.  However, Marian's neuromuscular function, vision, and hearing continued to decline.  A little over a year later, Marian passed away peacefully in her bed on June 10, 2024.


Marian is predeceased by her parents, John (1906-1970) and Helvi (1911-1976), her older sister Gloria Samsa (1930-1981), and her younger sister Carole Wakefield (1937-2024). 


She is survived by her younger brother John Jankila (Sylvia), her sons Scott (Karen), Bill, Tom (Margot), and her six grandchildren - Kai - Megan, Amy, and Jill - Kate and Nick.


Marian Fay Jankila Berray and James Lloyd Berray's ashes will be interred together at the Washington Crossing National Cemetery on July 31, 2024.


In 2002, Marian did an "Ancestry Interview with Grandma Marian Berray" regarding her childhood memories with her granddaughter, Kate Berray Helms.  

In answer to Question 20, "What were your wishes?" she answered:

"I knew I wanted to go to college and graduate. I also wanted a nice house. 

One of my big wishes was to have a happy family with a good family life - that was by far my biggest wish.


Her three sons will attest that she achieved her big wish and that it continues to resonate through them and her descendants

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10:00 am - 11:00 am
Wednesday, July 31, 2024
Masonic Village Auditorium
801 Ridge Pike
Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania, United States

Celebration of Marian's Life

11:00 am
Wednesday, July 31, 2024
Masonic Village Auditorium
801 Ridge Pike
Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania, United States
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Marian Berray

In Loving Memory

Marian Berray

1934 - 2024

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