Midrand – BMW Flags at the BMW South Africa Head Office in Midrand and its Rosslyn Plant in Pretoria will be flying at half-mast this week as the company mourns the passing of one of its greatest sons. Berry Willis, long-standing BMW Dealer Council Chairman, passed away on 22 August 2011 at the age of 72.
Berry was an integral part of BMW South Africa for more than 30 years, having started his career as a Dealer Development Manager in 1978, and was well known for his forthrightness, diplomacy and incredible sense of humour.
Apart from successfully fulfilling various roles within the Sales and Marketing Division at BMW South Africa, Berry was also highly successful within the BMW Dealer Network and was well respected by both his peers and his colleagues. As BMW Dealer Council Chairman he was instrumental in uniting BMW South Africa’s view with that of the Dealers in this vital role.
“Often, Berry was the voice of reason between the two parties – smoothing over areas of conflict with his insightful thinking and sensitivities to the needs of both the Dealers and BMW,” says Bodo Donauer, Managing Director of BMW South Africa.
However, most will best remember Berry for his uncanny ability to deliver side-splittingly funny and achingly relevant speeches at BMW South Africa events and conferences. For most of the past 22 years, Berry entertained, cajoled and cavorted with the crowds in the BMW marquee at the annual BMW International Polo Series – with BMW Managing Directors and BMW guests alike bearing the brunt of Berry’s sometimes risqué but always hilarious anecdotes and jokes. Such was his ability as a raconteur that BMW Dealers and staff tried hard to fly beneath the radar on the many Dealer incentive trips which Berry attended over the years in fear that their funny indiscretions would become public knowledge at his next speaking engagement.
“Personally, during my time at BMW South Africa, I became close to Berry. He was a source of great advice and was a friend with whom I could laugh with and do business with; most often both at the same time,” adds Donauer. “In my opinion, BMW South Africa today lost one of its greatest sons and the company as well as its Dealer Network will never be the same without him.”
Berry leaves his partner Charmaine and his children Shaun, Kit and John and their families.