Tomyamaguchi’s Weblog

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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


  1. Tribute to Bob Berry

    I’ve known Bob Berry for over 30 years. He was an individual who was truly committed to the principles of individual freedom and universal transportation. He taught me about bicycle and pedestrian access and really encouraged me to understand transportation issues.

    Bob also took me to my first Grateful Dead concert. We attended many more together after that and although I did not become a full-fledged “Deadhead” I always enjoyed going and meeting the interesting individuals that were always present.

    Bob was a great family man and a very dedicated father. He was always kind-hearted and always willing to share with other people. I will miss Bob but always remember his spirit and our memories together will always be a part of me.

    -Michael Winter

    Comment by MICHAEL WINTER | June 6, 2011 | Reply

  2. I knew Bob through Critical Mass and bike activism issues. I wrote up a goodbye post that you can access here:

    Comment by Hugh D'Andrade | June 13, 2011 | Reply

  3. […] Suggestions may be forwarded to:”  I did write in my announcement of Bob’s death that Bob was leaving many books that would need new homes. I have learned that, as Bob did not […]

    Pingback by Bob Berry obituary in Berkeley Daily Planet « Tomyamaguchi’s Weblog | June 18, 2011 | Reply

  4. Dear Tom, Avila, and Bill,

    You have my condolences. I wish I could have joined you to remember Bob’s many contributions to transportation activism. I feel a void for learning of his passing too late to join in the memorial.

    Bob Berry was a trusted resource who provided witty transportation advice like no one else could. In the early 1990s we discused how to build the influence of the East Bay Bicycle Coalition to gain public access on Caltrans’ bridges, bicycle access on BART, and build bikeways in local jurisdictions. Bob challenged me by noting that bicyclists were “powerless.”

    Bob coined several phrases that I often repeated: “BART exists to make Caltrans look good,” was a personal favorite. He described the 12-lane roadway on Oakland’s 12th St Dam at the foot of Lake Merritt as “the world’s shortest freeway.” This phrase resonated with Oakland voters when they voted in 2002 to demolish the barrier.

    We spoke on May 12, 2011 near the bicycle parking lot at the Oakland party following Bike to Work Day. He was in good spirits and wore a new T-Shirt emblazoned with an image of Zoom Zoom’s DC-3 parked next to the supersonic Concord! My memory of Bob shall always remind me of such extreme juxtapositions and continue to guide me to empower the disenfranchised.

    – Robert Raburn

    Comment by | June 20, 2011 | Reply

  5. We are extremely shocked and saddened to hear of Bob’s recent passing. My husband Patrick was a good friend of Bob’s from their youth in San Diego. One of their crazier antics as teenagers was driving down the San Diego Freeway with Bob sitting outside the sunroof (on the roof) “steering” his red VW bug with his feet while Patrick hidden down below operated the gas and brake pedals. I was not there to witness this “performance” … But it was true vintage Bob Barry Style. I first knew him as the guy who walked around barefoot summer or winter in Berkeley. He was a true San Diego Beach Boy!

    Bob was a great friend through all the years, we all went to UCB together and went on many long hikes in the hills surrounding Berkeley. His favorite place was to view the bay from the platform on the telecommunications tower at the crest of the highest peak. Over the years we spent many hours together – him stopping often by the house on his bike dressed in his bright orange windbreaker, that matched his long flowing, bright orange locks.

    He was an extremely bright and intelligent fellow. Always had a fun story to tell about Zoom Zoom Airlines or a petition to sign regarding his Whig Party… He will be GREATLY MISSED!! Kind and loving and so proud of his daughter Avila. Bob – You are now a bright star in the Heavens!

    Peace and Love, Linda and Patrick Keilch

    Comment by Linda Keilch | October 7, 2011 | Reply

  6. DEAR FRIENDS, I had the pleasure & honor to know & be a friend of Bob Berry for over 45 years since we met at Point Loma High School in 1965 in San Diego where he and our families grew up. We continued as friends since he and I went to Cal Berkeley in the late 1960s, were active in community activities, and both worked professionally – Bob at Cal Trans and me at the City of Berkeley local government and both of us in environemtnal affairs. – Bob and I met in the Point Loma High School Athletics program where we gave support to the coaches & players and got to get to know folks both in school & the community. Our memories in San Diego were fun times going out after foot ball games, enjoying San Diego culture, e.g. local theatres, rock concerts, ranging from Balboa Park, to casual impromtou concerts at local beaches.

    Both of us & our friends were interested in the politics of the 1960s. That included the era of the Civil Rights Movement, the United Farm Workers Movement, and the strugge to end the War In Vietnam. I remember Bob would visit LA and Berkeley and bring home copies of so-called “underground newspapers” like the Berkeley Barb & the LA Free Press, which the right-wing considered virtually subversive. San Diego did develop its own progressive media and movement – amidst the Viet Nam War, struggles for integration, and certain repression by the powers that be.

    Bob always kept an upbeat, spirited, creative approach from the days I first got to know him in high school in San Diego to his settling in Berkeley, starting his home, continuing his environmental interests, and his career working on clean transporation at Cal Trans. Our family in central Berkeley will miss Bob occassionally dropping by our home on his always-present bicycle on his way from work and having a fun talk with us and will his miss dropping by our home parties on occassion. Bob’s spirit is something that I know none of us will ever forget.

    Best Wishes, Patrick T. Keilch, 2229 Jefferson Ave., Berkeley, CA 94703

    Comment by Patrick Keilch | October 7, 2011 | Reply

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