Saturday, October 21, 2000

A statesman, a dad laid to rest


Son to his father: 'Your place in history is secure'

By Cindy Kranz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Theodore M. Berry, Cincinnati's first African-American mayor, was eulogized Friday as a relentless man who worked diligently for the disenfranchised, but never at the expense of his family.

        “He was a true statesman, but as busy as he was in public service, he was a wonderful father,” said his son, Theodore Berry Jr., 45, of Loveland.

[photo] Theodore Berry Jr. pauses by his father's casket during the funeral service on Friday at Christ Church Cathedral downtown for Cincinnati's first African-American mayor.
(Tony Jones photos)
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        ""He always came to my games. I'd look for that pipe on the sidelines and the smoke coming up.”

        About 300 people attended the two-hour funeral service at Christ Church Cathedral, downtown. Among those attending was John Marshall, son of the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

        “We consider Ted Berry part of our family,” Mr. Marshall said following the funeral. “He was "Uncle Ted' to me and my dad was "Uncle Thurgood' to the Berrys. He was a very compassionate, caring person and a dedicated public servant.”

        As mourners entered the cathedral Friday morning, John Marion of Madisonville handed out a small stack of green-and-white bumper stickers from Mr. Berry's last council race in the early 1970s. Mr. Marion was youth coordinator in several of Mr. Berry's campaigns.

        “You rarely meet an individual that seemingly has the resonance of God when he speaks,” Mr. Marion said. “He was the consummate orator.”

        And that wasn't all.

        “Throughout my life, had I needed an additional father, he would have been there for me,” Mr. Marion said.

        The most poignant moment during the funeral came when Mr. Berry's son stood behind the lectern. He didn't prepare a speech, choosing to speak extemporaneously, much as his father often did.

[photo] Tyron Yates reads his "Words Of Remembrance" at Christ Church Cathedral.
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        “I always felt I never measured up to your stature, but I hope you'd be proud of me speaking to you now,” said his son, a lawyer like his father. “Your place in history is secure — in the city's history, in the state's history and in this nation's history.”

        Mr. Berry recalled the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. coming to their North Avondale home for dinner. And he recalled his father's tales from the road while trying civil rights cases in the South with Mr. Marshall in the late 1940s.

        “I can remember you and Thurgood flipping coins to see who would sleep in the bed next to the window in case of a firebombing,” Mr. Berry said.

        His family was blessed to have him, he said, but they were prepared for his death.

        “A couple of weeks ago we returned from vacation, and you had taken a turn for the worse. I requested your favorite ice cream and apple pie. You were only able to eat two bites. I asked, "Are you hungry, or is something wrong?' and you said, "I'm just tired.'

[photo] The Right Reverend Herbert Thompson, Jr. left, watches as the casket of Mr. Berry is put in the hearse.
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        “Rest in peace, Daddy.”

        Funeral-goers provided a snapshot of a diverse community. Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk, chancellor emeritus of Hebrew Union College, gave a reading. Pews were filled with blacks and whites, adults and children — some too young to know much about Mr. Berry.

        That's why Charlotte Hunter of Forest Park brought her 5-year-old niece, Gershila Mitchell.

        “I wanted her to know something of Mr. Berry, who he was and why she is to be the best person she can be,” Ms. Hunter said.

        At the end of the service, a bell tolled 94 times, one for each year of Mr. Berry's life.

        Gershila blew kisses at the casket as it passed by. Her aunt nodded and smiled. Gershila had learned the story of Theodore Berry.
       



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