News Sen. Berry was a human services champion

The Massachusetts community-based human services sector lost a champion on Nov. 13th with the passing of former state Sen. Fred Berry.

Berry, who served 30 years in the state Senate, including a decade as Senate Majority Leader before his retirement in 2012, was a constant and convincing advocate for persons with disabilities.

Providers’ Council President and CEO Michael Weekes said, “There will never be another Fred Berry-type. He was smart, witty, a quick study, transparent, tenacious and the consummate advocate. When you worked with Fred, you knew you worked with a friend. We will all miss him dearly.”

The Council presented Berry with its Legislator of the Year Award in 2002.

“Senator Berry was a force in the disability community ensuring that individuals with disabilities were treated and respected equally,” said WORK Inc. President and CEO Jim Cassetta, who is also on the Council’s Board of Directors. “His passion to fight for employment of individuals with disabilities was felt throughout the human services community and his passion and advocacy will continue through those who he touched.”

Berry, who with his wife ran a charitable foundation and worked with Northeast Arc, leaves a legislative legacy that includes fighting efforts to reduce Medicaid benefits and a role in requiring insurance to cover autism treatment. He was also the driving force to change the name of the Department of Mental Retardation to the Department of Developmental Services, according to a State House News Service story. His district included Beverly, Danvers, Peabody, Salem and Topsfield.

“Sen. Berry will be greatly missed by all of us in the human services community and especially here at WORK Inc.,” said Cassetta. “Through his efforts and work with us, he assisted in the creation of over 100 jobs for individuals with disabilities in federal contracts throughout Massachusetts and New England. We are honored to have been able to call him our friend.”

Visiting hours were scheduled at Peabody City Hall on Nov. 16, followed by a funeral Mass and burial on Nov. 17.

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