- Associated Press - Monday, August 17, 2015

JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) - William Berry decided his son must die so that his wife might live.

Idale Berry was 46 years old when she became pregnant with her seventh child. During the seventh month of her pregnancy she came down with pneumonia, and doctors believed she started menopause. Her body was racked with fever, and it was going to kill her.

A doctor gave William Berry a choice. He could deliver the premature baby and his wife would live, but the child would almost certainly die. The couple still had a younger son at home, and the father made a grim decision. The doctor used forceps to pull the baby from his mother’s womb.

The baby boy weighed four pounds and was extremely weak. It was Jan. 22, 1940, and there were few ways to care for a baby so small. A group of nuns at St. Bernards took the baby to their convent.

Somehow they saved his life. They named him Bernard. Later he was given the first name of Jerry. More than 75 years later he’s still thankful, and he doesn’t even know who those women were.

“I’m not sure how or why … but they saved me,” he told The Jonesboro Sun (https://bit.ly/1N46qZ6 ).

Jerry Berry’s parents told him the story when he was young. He stayed with the nuns for an undisclosed amount of time, he said. When he got better, he went to live with his parents.

The decision his father made seems harsh, but Jerry said he understands.

“My parents already had a son at home who needed to be taken care of. … They were the best parents a kid could ask for,” he said.

One remnant from his time at the convent are three St. Christopher medallions. During his life, he’s worn the medallions even though he is of Baptist faith, he said.

His parents told him the story about the nuns when he was young, but they told few others. Years passed and the gift the nuns gave was extended. Jerry got married and had two children of his own; now he has five grandchildren.

When he was an adult, Jerry Berry wanted to find out who the nuns were who saved him.

He was able to collect a list of names, but he was never able to confirm who aided him, he said.

Many years have passed, and nearly all of Jerry’s family members have died. All his siblings, parents and wife are gone.

He’s been in poor health in recent years and doesn’t think he’ll live much longer. But he is extremely appreciative of the gift the nuns gave him. At his funeral he hopes a contingent of nuns will attend.

“They were with me at birth and then would be with me at my death. … It would be a complete life circle,” he said.


Information from: The Jonesboro Sun, https://www.jonesborosun.com

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