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Bob Berry

On Thursday, May 19, I lost my good friend and housemate, Bob Berry. We lived in the same house together for almost 30 years. He was a Grateful Dead fan to the very end, and what a long, strange trip it has been.

There is a lot I could write about Bob, and I probably will. For now, I will just relay the last hours of Bob’s life, starting on the evening of Wednesday, May 18. I had just arrived home from work and discovered that Bob sitting in the living room. He had thrown up on the coffee table and said he was feeling fine until he suddenly felt the urge to vomit. He didn’t have the strength to stand up to get to the bathroom. I cleaned up the liquid which looked like spilled water, and Bob went to his room to rest. We suggested taking him to a doctor if he got worse. That night, Bob came down to the kitchen while I was cleaning up. He got himself something to eat, so I assumed he was feeling better.

The next morning after I went to work, Bob reported he was still not feeling well, but turned down offers to take him to a doctor. His daughter heard him running the water in the bathtub. Not long after, she went into Bob’s bedroom and found him sprawled out on  his bed and unresponsive. He had thrown up again. This time he had thrown up blood. Another housemate called 911 and then called me. When I arrived home, the police were there, examining Bob’s body. The coroner ruled the cause of death to be natural causes.

The family has ordered a thorough autopsy, and the results won’t be known for awhile. After the results are known, Bob’s body will be cremated, and at least some of the ashes will go to a family grave in San Diego.

Right now, I am focusing much of my attention on contacting as many of Bob’s friends as possible. Unfortunately, there are too many that I do not have phone numbers. There are people he knew at UC Berkeley, both during the Free Speech Movement and People’s Park demonstrations. There are those he worked with at the Berkeley Barb. Through the years, Bob has interacted with many transportation activists, especially bicyclists. He was a regular rider in San Francisco’s Critical Mass. There are people who have been attracted to Bob’s offbeat political activism, including a revival of the Whig Party that Bob called his 1976 bicentennial project. There were the admirers of his vast collection of books that we now have to find good homes for.

A memorial for Bob Berry will be on Friday, June 10, 2:00 PM at Berkeley Friends Church, 1600 Sacramento Street, at the corner of Cedar Street. It is walking distance from North Berkeley BART and University Avenue AC Transit bus lines.

Bob’s manager at Caltrans kindly wrote the following:

It is with great sadness and regret that I report that Robert (Bob) Berry passed away on May 19, 2011.

Bob was born in San Diego, CA on March 18, 1949 to Charles W. and Sara W. Berry. 

In the mid to late 1970s, Bob worked as a DC-3/C-47 cargo handler for Zoom Zoom Air.  Bob enjoyed sharing his fond memories of working for Zoom Zoom Air.

Bob started his Caltrans career in July 1983 as a Junior Engineering Technician in the Project Development branch.  In 1984, on Halloween Day, he transferred to the traffic branch.  Shorty after, in early 1986, Bob was promoted to Transportation Engineering Technician and transferred from Traffic Signing section to the claims section.  A year later, in August 1987, Bob was promoted to Assistant Transportation Engineer.   In May 1991 Bob transferred from Claims to the Traffic Signing section, and in March 1993, Bob began working as a Legal Liaison Engineer.

One of Bob’s finest talents was his ability to identify and find key documentation that repeatedly helped the state prevail in “deep pockets” lawsuits.  Throughout his career in the traffic office, Bob diligently provided timely, insightful, and reliable assistance to state attorneys in defending the state in lawsuits.  With his dedication, knowledge, and enthusiasm, Bob saved the state millions of dollars in settlements.

Bob was a free spirit, an avid bicyclist who did not own a car, and had a love of DC-3 and C-47 aircrafts. His life style was the 1960’s (“hippie”)

Bob was touched by many, either through a joke, a kindness, or some other positive manner.  His family would appreciate if you would email your memories of Bob to his daughter Avila and his brother Bill.  The family would like to preserve your written words as a living tribute to Bob.

Bob is survived by his brother William Berry and his daughter Avila Birch.   

The memorial service will be on Friday, June 10, 2011, 2 pm at the Berkeley Friends Church (1600 Sacramento St, Berkeley, CA 94702), corner of Cedar St.  The church is also within two blocks of the North Berkeley BART station.  The family hopes that people attending the memorial service would arrive in tie-dyed t-shirts to honor Bob’s free spirit.

Our deepest condolences and sympathy to his family. 

May 31, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 7 Comments