Patricia Berry, 73, of Concord, MA, formerly of Burlington, VT, died peacefully at home of metastatic melanoma on Wednesday, May 27, with her loving daughter by her side. She is survived by her daughter, Tian Berry of Burlington, VT, her twin brother Peter J. Berry and his wife Joan Fischer of Acton, MA, sister Nancy Alston and her husband Phil of Williamstown, VT, and brother David J. Berry and his wife Peg of Canton, CT, as well as numerous nieces, nephews, great-nieces, and great-nephews.
Born March 16, 1947 in Bridgeport, CT, to the late Helene Ciglar Berry and Henry Arnold Berry, Patricia grew up in Stratford and Fairfield. There she developed an early love of the sea, spending long summer days on Fairfield Beach. After graduating from Notre Dame High School in Bridgeport, she received her BS in nursing from Boston College, worked at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx, NY, then moved to Vermont, where she began a distinguished 40-year career as a pioneer in public health.
Patricia received her Masters of Public Health from Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD in 1982. She served the Vermont Department of Public Health as Public Health Planning and Policy Chief, as Director of Local Health Services and ultimately as the Director of Public Health for the state from 1989 until her retirement in 2007. Patricia was a fierce and effective advocate for children and families in Vermont, especially those at risk. Her vision focused on infrastructure, integration, and partnerships, and she worked tirelessly to build and strengthen the local district office structure and community services throughout the state. She was also instrumental in obtaining federal funding to support statewide school-aged health programs. Among her many professional accomplishments, Patricia’s legacy includes securing funding for and cofounding the Vermont Child Health Improvement Program (VCHIP) at UVM’s Larner College of Medicine, where she continued to work following her retirement. She also received national recognition for her development of Vermont’s WIC/Medicaid prenatal helpline campaign, and the March of Dimes Vermont Chapter 2005 Lifetime Achievement Award.
At the age of 52, Patricia traveled to China to adopt her daughter, Tian, whom she loved “to the moon and back.” As Tian grew up, Patricia enthusiastically joined school PTOs, cheered on the sidelines of countless soccer games and cross country meets, and applauded at violin recitals and musical theater performances. She brought her leadership to Burlington’s parent community, and nurtured in Tian her dedication to equality, justice, and advocacy for underserved populations.
Following her retirement, Patricia suffered a tragic accident that rendered her triplegic, but nevertheless…she persisted. Faced with many physical challenges, Patricia showed her indomitable spirit and resilience during her final years. She relocated to Concord to be closer to family, with the love and assistance of her dedicated personal care attendant, Afua Nikra, without whom she would not have had such independence, joy, and laughter.
Patricia was an avid reader –particularly of biographies. She traveled extensively, and her adventures included circumnavigating the world in a cargo ship as a young woman, and visiting China, India, Thailand, Brazil, Europe, and the Panama Canal, in addition to annual trips to visit “Mother Sea,” with a special love for Truro, MA. She loved cooking, fine food, and entertaining family and friends, and she made a mean pesto! Though never vain, Patricia was proud that her beautiful auburn hair spectacularly never turned grey. She was committed to fitness, competed in triathlons and road races, and annually hosted the Berry family reunion/marathon/relay at the Vermont City Marathon for many years. In her later years, she became an avid Red Sox fan, and never missed a game. She touched the lives of too many people to count, but none more profoundly than her dear friends and family. She was uniquely able to maintain connections with relatives and friends alike, and those who loved her will miss her more than words can say. We will remember her fondly in quiet moments by the sea, while relaxing on our front porches, listening to VPR, when we catch the fragrant lilacs on a spring breeze or while strolling the streets of downtown Burlington.
A celebration of Patricia’s life will be held at a later date. Memorial donations in her honor may be made to Spectrum Youth and Family Services, Burlington, Vermont, www.spectrumvt.org. Arrangements made by Acton Funeral Home, https://actonfuneralhome.com .