You can always spot Rick Berry in a crowded room. He was this big guy wearing a trademark smile as wide as the Grand Canyon. And most of the time he had his trusty trumpet by his side, ready to play some cool jazz or whatever you wanted to hear. He was a great listener, as comfortable as an old shoe. A gentle soul, said a friend.
He loved music, his trumpet, people in general but especially children, whom he supervised and learned to appreciate music like him. And he loved the city of Long Beach, running for city council one year and, even though he lost, talking about what it might be like to be mayor one day.
He had a big heart that just gave in after battling multiple health issues and he died on December 9, according to his sister, Belinda Berry, a longtime teacher and community volunteer. A celebration of life will be held in his honor on March 12 at the Long Beach Recreation Park at Seventh Street and Park Avenue. For more information, email: [email protected]
When news of Berry’s death spread, tributes poured in from friends and associates who knew him through the Long Beach Symphony, the Jazz Angels, the Blues Society and many other organizations.
Longtime friend Dana Buchanan said, “So many memories. Pizza in your garden. Hear you play at Fingerprints and all the other gigs. Sustainability heroes. You are leaving a big hole in our community.
Kathleen Irvine remembers Berry as “a great friend, great neighbor, compassionate, activist, farmer, musician and all around good guy. Long Beach is poorer without you.
Helen Dolas, founder of Arts and Services for Disabled, where Berry was the former chairman of the board, said he would be remembered as “a brilliant, passionate, talented and kind soul”.
Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, who defeated Berry and four other candidates in his first election to city council in 2009, said he remembers Berry as “a great musician, a great guy and someone who always helped his neighborhood and his community of Willmore.. I always heard him play all over town.
Garcia, as mayor, then appointed Berry to the city’s Sustainability Commission, which advises the city council on environmental issues, such as urban nature, water, neighborhoods, transportation and energy. Among his many other talents, Berry was an expert gardener.
Rick Berry was born on April 25, 1962 in Washington, DC to John Raymond Berry, Jr. and Cecily Willis Berry, the last of their four children. Her Ohio-born father was an Air Force colonel and held key executive positions for the Apollo and Space Shuttle programs with North American Aviation, now Boeing, in Washington and Downey. In the 1950s, Colonel Berry partnered with his father in the Berry & Berry Desoto-Plymouth dealership in Long Beach.
Rick Berry got much of his love of music from his mother who was born in Berkeley and was a longtime singer and community volunteer as a founding member of the Public Corporation for the Arts and a supporter of the Long Beach Symphony, Musical Theater West and International City. Theater. She died aged 95 in 2014. Her husband died aged 90 in 2010.
Berry developed her love of the trumpet when she was 11 years old. “He loved the sound of the trumpet,” said his sister, Belinda. Berry attended preschool with the Colorado Lagoon Play Group, Lowell Elementary, and Rogers Junior before graduating from Wilson High in 1980.
During this time he also developed a love for origami and magic. Dirk Larsen, a longtime friend, said on Facebook: “Among his many talents was the art of origami. Thanks, Rick, for helping me make the flowers and the flapping bird. Russell Parks, who played trumpet with Rick in Rogers Junior and was a magician at Magic Castle later, said Berry was “the kind of friend you can spend a few years between seeing each other and then when you do, it’s just like you saw them last week. He said Berry did a levitation act at the Rogers talent show.
In addition to his musical talent, Berry also had good grades in math and science. Belinda said her brother loved music and was considering majoring in music at Cal State Long Beach, but his father discouraged him because it wouldn’t pay the bills.
Her mother, as much as she loved music, understood the need to be practical, Belinda said.
So Berry majored in electrical engineering at Cal State Long Beach, graduating in 1984, then earning a master’s degree in business administration from Pepperdine University.
This led him to work for 20 years with companies using his math and science skills, starting with ITT Canon and ending with Carlisle Interconnect Technologies.
During this time working for engineering companies, he also found time to play trumpet in Long Beach with bands like Boardwalk Brass and the Long Beach Community Band.
“Rick wanted a new challenge in his life, so he left Carlisle and started his life with nonprofits in Long Beach,” his sister said.
He spent nearly three years as director of marketing and communications for the Long Beach Symphony before becoming a partner at Mission Possible Entertainment, managing various projects in the entertainment industry. In 2015, he became general manager of the Jazz Angels. Barry Cogert, founder of the Jazz Angels, who works with children ages 9 to 17, said Berry loves working with kids. “He was a great mentor and cheerleader. He sat with the kids at jam sessions. They loved him,” Cogert said. He said the Jazz Angels would play at an event on April 3, which would be dedicated to Berry. Berry joined the Blues Society as a consultant in 2016, then as an executive director in 2017.
“He’s helped the Blues Society in so many ways,” said Bill Grisolia, who founded the New Blues Festival with Bob Barr in 2014 and helped produce the Long Beach Unity Festival in its early days in 1998. the mentor of many colleges. students. He helped expand our internship program for college students, eventually expanding to high school students.
Grisolia said Berry developed grassroots programs serving underserved members of the community, beginning with Blues in the Schools with the Long Beach Unified School District.
“He was so proud when we held our first of many all-school assemblies,” Grisolia said. “Later, we launched Blues for Veterans; Rick really enjoyed these events at the VA Hospital for different wards including Spinal Cord Injury, Blind and Mentally Handicapped. This led to the Blues for seniors. Rick’s help in creating these programs has touched hundreds of children, veterinarians and seniors.
Grisolia said Berry had a great gift for listening to a person and understanding where they were coming from. “He had this natural empathy and everyone who had a conversation with him was totally touched by him,” he said.
Berry’s sister, Belinda, said her brother loved music so much that he once told her, “I never want to stop playing the trumpet”. She said he had a collection of 300 long-running jazz records with favorites like Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis. He even named his miniature Doberman “Dizzy” after Gillespie. He liked to wear shirts with the saying, “Kiss a brass player; Feel the difference.” Berry left two trumpets behind when he died. They will go to Belinda’s son, Chris.
“His legacy will be so great,” Belinda said. “He touched many people’s lives because he cared about them and their lives, always encouraging and positive.”
Toni Popoki Reed, a friend from high school, said goodbye to Berry. “I believe if there is music in heaven it will be filled with happy jazz and Rick will lead the parade, welcoming people.”
In addition to her sister, Belinda, survivors include a brother, John Raymond Berry III (Marita); sister, Susan Berry Brown; nine nephews and nieces and 10 grand-nephews and nieces