A fearless civic leader greatly respected for his work in the Pinelands community – this is how John Berry will be remembered, say those who knew him.
Mr Berry, who died on Wednesday September 27 at the age of 66, served Pinelands in various ways for decades.
He leaves behind his wife, Benita, two daughters, four grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
Born in 1956, Mr Berry spent his early years living in Pinelands before his family moved to the Atlantic seaboard.
Mr Berry worked in the transport logistics industry for the past 45 years having started his career at Transnet. He left the corporate world in 2008 and opened up his own logistics company and was chairman of the Cape Town Harbour Carriers Association. He and his wife would also buy several Kleen Bin franchises.
Mr Berry was also a part-time soldier until he retired at the age of 65.
He was the chairman of the Pinelands Ratepayers and Residents Association for more than 20 years. He also chaired the Pinelands Community Police Forum and the Pinelands Street Camera Project and helped Pinelands become a city improvement district.
“We were often referred to as being joined at the hip, but we afforded one another the space to pursue our own interests as well. I was happy that John found fulfilment in his military and community involvement and was very proud of what he had achieved,” said Ms Berry.
Following three hospital visits this year, it became clear that Mr Berry’s health was deteriorating rapidly.
“Such was his dedication that in spite of waking up on the morning of the 27th not well at all, he still got up, got dressed and attended to emails and then sat in on a meeting. John was tenacious, a visionary and ensured that everything he put his mind to came to fruition,” said Ms Berry. “John was a man much respected and revered by many, who achieved much in his 66 years on earth – he has left a legacy that will be valued and treasured by those who survive him.”
The Pinelands Ratepayers and Residents Association’s new chairwoman, Desray Britz, said Mr Berry with his military and business background, knew how to be firm but clear.
“He spoke his truth and did not shy away from the hard questions. He kept calm (most times) and understood that one simply had to keep trying. He truly understood that sometimes change takes a long time, and sometimes one had to accept a slightly different path.
“He listened, had insight into broader structures, and firmly believed in order and good service delivery for all. He knew that the cost of inaction was greater than the cost of non-involvement. Where many just complain and watch, he threw himself into every aspect where he could be the change.”
Pinelands Community Police Forum said Mr Berry was highly respected within the community as an activist and leader.
“John was unapologetic in his fight for the need for transparency and accountability within all organisations. Through this vision and leadership, Pinelands CPF has successfully implemented programmes and has significantly increased its membership. He will be dearly missed by the CPF team, his family and countless friends who were touched by his warm spirit,” the CPF said in a statement.
Pinelands CID social development director Yazied Davids said Mr Berry had helped to raise much of the funding for the creation of the CID.
“For over 20 years, John advocated for the need of the Pinelands CID to become a reality, and we are happy that he was alive to see it come to fruition. His legacy will continue through the Pinelands CID, and we are eternally grateful for all his efforts in trying to keep Pinelands clean, green and safe,” he said.
Ward councillor Riad Davids met Mr Berry and the previous ward councillor, Brian Watkyns, in 1999, when they came to see him about the height of his boundary wall.
“At this meeting, he was very welcoming to my family for choosing to live in Pinelands. A few months later, he chaired a public meeting of the ratepayers and once again welcomed the Muslim community to Pinelands. Very soon after that, he accepted my nomination to join the ratepayers executive. He wanted everyone to feel welcome, safe and part of the community.”
Mr Berry had never complained and had never become angry or disheartened when they could not accomplish something in as short a time as possible, he said.
The Pinelands Ratepayers and Residents Association will dedicate its annual general meeting, on Monday October 23, to Mr Berry’s memory. Mr Berry will be laid to rest on Saturday October 7.