DANVERS — Gov. Deval Patrick told a packed Danversport Yacht Club last night that he’s learned something after working at the Statehouse. “You learn you better listen to Fred Berry.”
The retiring state Senate majority leader was honored as hundreds of friends cheered when his wheelchair was pushed onto the stage. Wife Gayle stood beside Berry, taking in the outpouring of affection.
“Wow,” Patrick said. “And every bit of it deserved.” Patrick made the formal introduction, citing Berry’s devotion to those less fortunate, the children, the disabled.
“They’re never out of sight or out of mind for Fred Berry,” Patrick said.
In more than 30 years, Berry, 62, made the climb from the Peabody City Council to the No. 2 job in the state Senate. All this happened despite debilitating cerebral palsy and the health concerns that come with it. Yet, Berry can point to taking a part in major accomplishments, like the construction of North Shore Community College in Danvers and helping bring the new courthouse complex to Salem and a dorm and library to Salem State University.
University President Patricia Meservey used the occasion to announce that the new library will bear Berry’s name.
Fred Berry Charities has funded $1 million in social and educational programs for children on the North Shore.
He’s been Sen. Berry since 1982, serving along with six governors and five U.S. senators, including three men who won their party’s nomination for president of the United States.
Interviewed by another retiree, former Salem News editorial page editor Nelson Benton — who came back from Arizona for the occasion — Berry displayed his legendary sense of humor with a tale about each of those presidential candidates
Dukakis, Berry told the crowd, was famous for taking public transit — even while governor. Once, crossing the Boston Common to get to the T, he was accosted by a woman of the evening who told him, “I’ll do anything you want for $60.” Dukakis considered the offer, then asked, “Will you paint my house?”