William Berry taught his four children to be caring, courageous and kind.
That’s why his eldest, 9-year-old Finn, was able to pick his way down a steep boulder field in the Wenatchee National Forest after his father slipped and fell Saturday afternoon.
Finn hurried to his dad and carefully slipped his T-shirt underneath Berry’s head before scaling the 200-foot rock wall he’d just climbed to go in search of help. The boy walked 2 miles before finding hikers who could call 911.
By the time rescuers found Berry early Sunday, the 40-year-old Lakewood man had died of his injuries.
On Tuesday, Finn’s grandfather said the family considers him a hero.
“We’re really proud of him and what he did,” Jack Ernst said. “It shows what an awesome dad Will was.”
Finn desperately misses his father, the boy’s mother said, and is doing as well as can be expected.
His legs still are covered with cuts and bruises from his rescue attempt, and he has talked a great deal about what happened during the father-son fishing trip at Lake Donald last weekend, Wendy Anneke Berry said.
Her husband and his two brothers usually take an annual fishing trip in Washington. This year, they decided Finn was old enough to come along.
Father and son were returning from a day of angling and took a passerby’s advice to go through the Loch Eileen area to return to their base at High Camp. While skirting a steep area about 6 p.m., Berry lost his footing and tumbled into the boulders below.
Ernst said the death is “unbelievably difficult,” but Berry died doing what he loved with someone he loves.
Family members described Berry as a devoted family man who loved the outdoors (bow hunting and fishing) and was always designing and building play areas for his kids in the spacious backyard.
He worked as an engineer at Intel Corp. in DuPont, but his real work was at home.
“He had two full-time jobs,” said Wendy Anneke Berry, his wife of 12 years. “He took care of us. He’s my best friend. He’s the love of my life. He’s a truly great, great man.”
The couple met when he was a senior in high school and stayed in touch throughout college. After eight years of mostly email correspondence, they ended up in the same area again and went on three dates.
That’s all it took for Berry to declare his love and persuade her to marry him. They settled in Lakewood and had four children – 4-year-old twins, a 6-year-old boy and 9-year-old Finn. A fifth child died in infancy.
Berry thrived on being a husband and a father. He read a book to his children every night – most recently Dr. Seuss’ “Wacky Wednesday.” His children reciprocated by giving him a photo book for Father’s Day with the inscription, “Hardworking, self-sacrificing. Devoted: that’s our daddy, an amazing example of a godly man.”
Berry also built the kids a bike rack, a sandbox with a triangle rain cover and a tree house complete with a basket that can be pulled to and from the main house.
They use it to send Mom messages such as “I’m hungry” when they’re busy playing.
The kids romped around the yard Tuesday, frolicking like children do but obviously aware that something is different.
Mom and Grandpa had tears in their eyes while they talked. Berry’s tool belt and battered brown leather size 12 boots sat on the porch steps.
“It’s hard to imagine going on, but we have to,” Ernst said. “Life’s that way.”