A life dedicated to serving others
It was the year 1937, Lorenzo Dow Berry (better known as Wimpy), after graduating from high school in Melbourne, Florida, applied for President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s new Civil Pilot Training Program where he achieved one of the highest scores nationwide.
After Pearl Harbor was struck on December 7th, 1941, Wimpy Berry was hired by the US Government as a civilian pilot whose job was to pick up aircraft from various aircraft factories and fly them to Alaska where they were to be transferred to the United States' then ally, Russia. It is believed by many that he delivered more aircraft to Alaska than any other single pilot, so much so that Russian leader, Josef Stalin, sent him a letter of commendation and appreciation for the job he had done.
Wimpy Berry and his brother Don leaving for WWII.
During this part of his career, Wimpy flew a large variety of aircraft which included the Boeing B-17 Fortress, Douglas A-20 Havoc, Consolidated B-24 Liberator, Curtiss C-46 Commando, Lockheed P-38 Lightning, and Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, in total he was qualified to fly over 40 different types of aircraft in US military’s inventory.
At the end of the war he stayed in the USAAF reserves and became a civilian flight instructor at Chapman Field, in what today is known as the Village of Pinecrest, Miami-Dade County. It was at Chapman Field that his newest life adventure would begin; for it was there that he was visited by representatives of the Dominican government who were searching for veteran flight instructors in the US to help train and set up their more modern air force which would feature surplus WWII aircraft of mostly US manufacture. He came to an agreement with the Dominican government and in 1947 moved to the island to begin what most believe was one of the most important chapters of his life.
Wimpy flying aircraft in the Dominican Republic.
A love story
After his commitment to the Dominican Air Force (FAD) ended, he began a carrier with the national air carrier, Compañía Dominicana de Aviación, where he attained the position of chief pilot of the airline. It was at the beginning of this new chapter in his aviation career that he met Flérida Yabra Yeje who would become his wife, his soul mate, mother of his children, business partner, and partner for life.
By 1956 Flerida Yabra had her fill of Wimpy's exploits in aviation, rescuing aircraft that none of the other pilots would dare to fly, close calls with mechanical failures and weather related issues, etc., and she “convinced” him that it was time for another career.
Wimpy and his wife Flerida Yabra at their home.
"Wimpys," The first supermarket in the Dominican Republic
Wimpy's mother’s family had owned a general store in his home town and he had friends, contacts and experience in the grocery business so they decided to open a full service, American style Supermarket, the first in the country and put it in the first ever fully air-conditioned commercial building in Dominican Republic, It was named "Supermercado Wimpys" and opened in 1958.
Pretty soon it was the place to meet for all levels of society, even Juan Domingo Perón, the then ex-president of Argentina who was residing in Dominican Republic, would visit with Wimpy and Flérida, building a close friendship that would last until Perón’s last days on earth. He was, without a doubt, the most popular and well known American citizen in Dominican Republic.
Wimpys opening announcement in the newspaper.
The plot against Tyranny
Not long after the opening of their supermarket, a good friend and pilot for CDA was murdered in cold blood by the Trujillo regime that had been in power since 1930, and this led to both Wimpy and Flérida's participation in the soon to begin plot to dethrone Rafael Leonidas Trujillo M. and his regime.
After some trying and perilous moments Wimpy and Flérida continued to work hard at growing their business. Elections were held and a new government was elected. A few months after the new government had been established, duty called upon him again. Members of the military intelligence had intercepted communications between the newly elected government and both Cuba and Moscow, they were plotting on how to make a second Cuba out of Dominican Republic. Both Wimpy and Flérida contacted their local friends, the few survivors of the Trujillo plot, and the US Embassy and the conclusion was reached that they had not put their lives in peril to free that nation from a tyranny to jump right back into another one.
During the revolution of 1965, Wimpys Supermarket fell into rebel hands, was ransacked and most of it’s equipment destroyed. Their children, Lonnie Berry and Jeffrey Berry, were sent to Florida in early May and Wimpy and Flerida joined them a few months later until they returned to Dominican Republic in early 1968.
During the almost three years in a self imposed exile to insure the safety of their children, the supermarket was rebuilt, and a new government was elected in Dominican Republic. Unfortunately the new administration was populated by previous members of the Trujillo regime who wanted some sort of revenge and they made it almost impossible for their business to flourish again. Nine times incendiary devices were planted in their store, unfortunately only the first eight were found, the ninth one destroyed their store by fire in late 1969 and after receiving continuous threats regarding their children, they decided to leave Dominican Republic and move to Miami in March of 1971.
Wimpy Berry and his wife Flerida Yabra talking with Juan Domingo Peron and his then-lover Isabel Martinez de Peron, in front of the Wimpys supermarket entrance.
Huascar Tejeda and Roberto Pastoriza at Wimpys.
Juan Domingo Peron poses with kid at
Anacaona & Lonjeff, S.A.