Unique, masterful, loyal, hilarious, inspirational, compassionate, admirable, generous, committed, and "the Berry best" were just some of the words used to describe outgoing state Sen. Fred Berry at a celebratory night in his honor Thursday at the .
Led by Master of Ceremonies Nelson Benton, a longtime former editor at the Salem News, Berry's praises were sung by Gov. Deval Patrick and Lt. Gov. Tim Murray, alongside hundreds of state and local officials, friends and family members. They all remembered Berry's 30 years on Beacon Hill.
In a video presentation, members of the community expressed their gratitude for Berry. Speakers included representatives from North Shore Elder Services, HAWC, North Shore Community College, Salem State University, the North Shore Chamber of Commerce and the Essex County District Attorney's office, as well as Berry's step-daughter and step-granddaughter.
Beverly Mayor Bill Scanlon, who referred to the senator as "the Berry best," said there were "so many things that happened in this region that would not have happened without Fred."
One major project for the region that's finally coming to fruition and which has been strongly supported by Berry over the years is the new regional vocational high school in Danvers.
For Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt, fellow Tanner City native Berry "exemplifies Peabody pride."
"He inspires me and will continue to inspire countless others," said Bettencourt, who was strongly backed by Berry in the mayoral election last fall.
Danvers Town Manager Wayne Marquis said not only will the town miss Berry at the State House, but also the friendly "Fred at the other end of the phone."
Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll noted that Berry's activism has never been about his ego. "He just wants to help," she said. "It's classic Fred."
Berry, a Democrat who was born with cerebral palsy, was first elected to the state Senate in 1982. In recent years, he has served as the Majority Leader. During his time in office, among other accomplishments, Berry has been considered a champion for fellow residents with disabilities.
. The district includes Peabody, Salem, Beverly, Danvers and Topsfield.
Berry graduated from and . Before he was elected to the Senate, he served two terms on the Peabody City Council.
Proceeds from the event benefited the Fred Berry Charitable Fund and local food pantries. Since its creation in 1982, his charitable fund has raised more than $1 million. It hosts a popular golf tournament each year. In recent years, he has also organized a high profile food drive each year during the holiday season.