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Sonja Yvonne Rhodes Berry

June 21, 1944 ~ August 29, 2018 (age 74)

Sonja Yvonne (Rhodes) Berry arrived in this world on June 21, 1944, in Charleston, South Carolina and departed THIS life on August 29,2018, in Austin, Texas.  Sonja was the second child of Preston Rhodes Sr, and Ethel Louise (Johnson) Rhodes.

As a child, she attended church services with her family at Morris Street Baptist Church and later Wesley Memorial Methodist Church in Charleston.

Sonja and her brother Preston would often travel to Washington DC and New York City to stay with family during the holidays. She enjoyed getting away from Charleston to experience the hustle and bustle of big city life but always maintained her southern charm no matter where she went.

As a descendant of a long line of teachers and preachers, Sonja valued the opportunity of a good education and developed a thirst for learning.  She completed her high school career at Immaculate Conception High School (ICS) in Charleston. A former classmate remembers her as very studious and focused.  She was on a mission and going places.

She left Charleston to attend Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. It was at Fisk where she acquired her Bachelors Degree in Social Work and where she met the newly discharged veteran; later to become her husband, Noel Berry. At Fisk, Sonja hung out on and off campus doing things college students do. While Sonja had many talents, it's been said that she was DEFINITELY NOT a member of the Fisk Jubilee Choir.

After they married, Sonja and Noel moved to Lexington, Kentucky where Sonja completed her Master's Degree in Social Work at the University of Kentucky, Lexington.  Sonja and Noel had two children, Noel Berry Jr, and Andrea Berry (deceased).

Sonja taught special needs children for a year and then landed a job in her desired field of Social Work while living in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Unfortunately, Sonja and Noel’s marriage ended in divorced but over the years they remained connected.

Sonja later moved to Texas where she continued to work for many years as a dedicated advocate for change.  Eventually, she rose to the level of Director at the University of Texas - Austin Department of Social Work. During her tenure, she collaborated on many papers (some published in books) and mentored dozens of aspiring change agents.  Sonja was a source of hope and inspiration to her students,  colleagues, and everyone she touched.

Sonja could be described as a quiet, gentle, independent woman who had a desire to make a difference in the world through improved relationships. She loved her family, even though miles separated them. She often spoke of how proud she was of her family and her rich southern Charleston roots. She kept family photos and to demonstrate her sentimentality she kept a handwritten love letter written in 1912 by her grandfather to her grandmother. She felt that letter was the ultimate display of affection and she tried to share that warmth to all she touched.

She had a huge passion for sewing, travel and making fruitcakes. She perfected her sewing skills, learned by her mother and grandmother by staying active in many sewing circles and quilting clubs in and around the Austin area. She loved shopping for fabrics and creating outfits not just for herself but for local children as well.

Before her passing, she was looking forward to moving into an assisted living unit where there was a woman who she learned was just as passionate about sewing as she was. She was excited about meeting and getting to know a fellow seamstress, shopping for fabrics and comparing notes.

When she could tear herself away from one of her three sewing machines, you might find Sonja on her way to Oregon, Washington state, Alaska, Rome or Africa. How she loved Africa!. The one place she made several pilgrimages to. The lessons and friendships made in communing with people of differing cultures was such an adventure for her. Sonja would often travel solo, again demonstrating her tenacity and determined nature. She would not be hindered. She loved the adventure that her travel afforded.

She was not pleased that her health caused her to eventually end her travels but she was so happy that she could relive her memories through photos and trinkets obtained from all over the world. One of her most cherished pieces of memorabilia was a large giraffe she brought back from Africa. That giraffe gave her pure joy and reminded her of how blessed she was to have had the opportunity to visit such places.


The passion for fruitcake making must be an acquired one and Sonja found it not only fun but therapeutic. It became a tradition for her. She would make several and it's been said that she would make a fruitcake for just about anyone who asked.  There would be a gleam in her eye with just the mention of the word fruitcake.  She made sure that her art of fruitcake making was passed down to her niece.

Sonja lived a full and joyous life with no regrets and we all should follow her example. She adored her family and friends and she will be eternally missed!

                                                              Sonja's Family

Father : Preston Rhodes Sr. [Deceased] , Mother: Ethel Louise ( Johnson) Rhodes [ deceased] 

Brother: Preston Rhodes Jr, [ Deceased]

Children: Noel Berry Jr. , Andrea Berry [ Deceased]

Niece: Michelle Rhodes Brown ( Milbert) of Columbia, Maryland 

Nephew: Preston Rhodes III of San Diego, California

Cherished Great Niece and Nephew : Victoria Brown and Raymond Brown of Columbia, Maryland   

First cousins : Rosalind Young ( Jerry) of New York, Marion Johnson Jr, , Washington DC, Alfred Johnson ( Rochelle) of Temple Hills, Maryland, Gloria Johnson Hanson of Clinton, Maryland;

Angela Johnson of Silver Spring , Maryland ; Jocelyn Johnson of Maryland and Gerald Johnson of Washington DC. 

In addition, she leaves a host of other family members and many devoted friends

The family would like to thank everyone for your sympathies and condolences.    

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