Remembering Guy Berry

Guy Leonard Berry, III, of Sapulpa, was born the second of four children to Guy L. Berry, Jr. and Barbara Bass Berry on May 2, 1949 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He died peacefully in his home on November 7th, 2022, at the age of 73. 

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Guy Berry

Guy’s foremost role was that of a dedicated father and husband. 

Professionally, he was a respected banker, a visionary leader in the economic development and transportation realms of Oklahoma, and a tireless community servant for Sapulpa and Creek County. Guy had a profound impact on the quality of life in Sapulpa and the greater Tulsa area. 

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Locally, Guy was involved with two City annexations, a plethora of bond issues and beautification projects, economic development initiatives, and street improvements. He maintained a close relationship with the Sapulpa Chamber of Commerce and its directors, acting as its Board President in 1989, helping found and chair its Pride in Sapulpa Committee, and chairing its Transportation Committee. He was named Citizen of the Year in 1999. 

Guy helped spearhead the effort to raise over $2 million dollars to construct Sapulpa’s first public swimming pool in over 50 years, resulting in the Sapulpa Aquatic Center at Liberty Park. It didn’t sit well with him that local kids, many alone in the summer, didn’t have a place to go or anything healthy to do nearby.  

Guy was instrumental in facilitating the development of the Polson Industrial Park, a 150-acre hub of industry near Town West, that has helped rejuvenate the area.  

Guy developed a residential redevelopment program with the bank that partnered with property owners to demolish derelict homes and buildings. It’s estimated that over 250 deteriorated properties were eliminated through this program—a huge source of pride for him. 

Guy was passionately involved in the state’s transportation projects, and was appointed a Highway Commissioner for the Tulsa area by Governor Frank Keating. He served in this role for many years, completing a multitude of projects that will benefit Oklahomans for decades to come, including the Creek Turnpike, the reconstruction and widening of I-44, the Gilcrease Expressway expansion and bridge over the Arkansas River, the completion of 81st Street in Sapulpa from Highway 66 to Highway 97, and many, many others. He was later appointed to the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority by Governor Mary Fallin.

Guy was honored to be a member of the Board of the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce, a rare affiliation for one residing in Creek County, and one that he treasured. 

Guy had a unique gift for galvanizing the people and resources needed to see a project through to its fruition. Put simply, he got stuff done, and almost always in a behind-the-scenes capacity. A deep sense of duty and fairness drove him, rather than a desire for accolades or recognition. 

He didn’t take his commitments lightly and didn’t shirk his duties. He was a present and vocal participant in anything in which he was involved. 

Guy traveled extensively, both globally and on U.S. soil, and lived in many places, but was most proud to call himself a Sapulpan. He knew he was blessed to call Oklahoma home and to live the life he did.

Guy enjoyed an active and idyllic childhood with his brothers Bob and Bill and little sister Missy, their numerous Sewell, Jennings, Berry, and Bass cousins, and a cohort of close friends and neighbors.

He attended Culver Military Academy in Culver, Indiana, following in his father’s footsteps. Upon graduating in 1967, he migrated back south to Norman, Oklahoma, to earn an Economics degree from the University of Oklahoma in 1971. During his time at OU, he was an active member of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity and the Army ROTC. He made friends at these institutions with whom he would retain relationships for the rest of his life.  

Guy continued his Army involvement after college in Indianapolis, later moving to Washington D.C., where he worked for the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. In 1972 he arrived in Dallas (coinciding with the arrival of the Washington Senators major league baseball team), where he spent 5 years as a bank examiner for the Federal Reserve. This experience both solidified his love of the Texas Rangers and his disdain of working for the government. 

In 1977, having made his way home and having started a bank auditing firm, Guy met OU doctoral candidate Dianne Elizabeth Dennehy. The two wed in 1978 and had daughter Elizabeth Helene Berry in 1981. When Dianne died in a car accident in 1993, Guy unhesitatingly transitioned into the role of a dedicated, single dad. 

Guy began his tenure in the family business at American Heritage Bank (then American National Bank) in 1980, replacing his father as its President and becoming Vice-Chair of its Board when Guy, Jr. succumbed to cancer. 

Guy took the utmost pride in being a third-generation community banker. Under his and his brother Bill’s leadership the bank grew and thrived, surviving Oklahoma’s tumultuous oil and gas era of the 1980s and coming out the other side stronger than before. It remains a strong, respected institution, now the 12th largest and one of the oldest family-owned banks in Oklahoma. This is in part due to Guy’s reputation, vision, and impeccable code of ethics. 

In the summer of 1999, on a flight from Chicago to Tulsa, Guy chose an empty seat next to Caroline Celen. Their mid-air conversation evolved into a courtship and they married in June of 2001. Their beloved son Henry was born in January of 2003, perpetually brightening the lives of his parents, sister, and grandparents. 

Guy was a lifelong member of the First Presbyterian Church where he served as a Trustee and an Elder. He had a deep faith in God and was compelled to live from a place of integrity.  

His family is exceptionally proud and grateful to have had him as their father and husband. We know that when he met his maker and was reunited with those who went before him, he was told “job well done.” Now, may he rest. 

Guy was preceded in death by his father, Guy L. Berry, Jr., his mother, Barbara Bass Berry, and his wife, Dianne Dennehy Berry. Guy is survived by his beloved wife of 21 years, Caroline Celen Berry, son Henry Winston Celen Berry, daughter Elizabeth Berry Thompson (Michael), granddaughter Vivienne Dianne Etta Thompson, brother Robert Bass Berry, brother William Lloyd Berry, sister Melissa Berry Simmons, and many cousins, nieces, nephews, friends, and colleagues across the country. He truly was “unforgettable” and will be deeply missed by those he has left behind.

A Celebration of Life service will be held at the First Presbyterian Church of Sapulpa at 3 p.m. on Friday, November 18th, 2022.