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Berry Friesen, Goodbye


Age 69

Died January 17, 2018

Berry died of renal cell carcinoma, but maybe too of grief for the world.

He wrote this blog for several years, his last one in December,  here.

His obituary is  here.  But if the link no longer works, here is the text of the obit.

Berry Friesen, 69, of Lancaster, died on Wednesday, January 17, 2018 of advanced Renal Cell Carcinoma at Hospice & Community Care, Mount Joy.
Berry was born in 1948 to the late John V. and Blondina (Blanche) Friesen in Mountain Lake, Minnesota. The third of three boys, he grew up on a farm in Cottonwood County where he tended chickens, swam in nearby lakes, and planted soybeans row by row with his dad. He met his future wife Sharon Klassen in Sunday school at Carson Mennonite Brethren Church where both families attended.  
He is survived by his wife of 48 years, Sharon; his two daughters, Amber Friesen, married to Rehan Hanif of London, England, and Emily Burkholder, married to Guy Burkholder, III of Lancaster; six granddaughters, Saffiyah Friesen Hanif and Anna, Elena, Addie, Olivia and Clara Burkholder; and one brother, LeRoy Friesen. His brother, Marlyn Friesen, and nephew, Chad Friesen, predeceased him.
Following graduation from Tabor College in Hillsboro, Kansas in 1970, Berry volunteered with Mennonite Central Committee as an alternative to the draft; he and Sharon spent three years in Jamaica (1970-1973) teaching in a local secondary school. Berry continued to teach after returning to the US, until deciding to pursue a law degree at the University of Minnesota, where he graduated Juris Doctor cum laude in 1979. After graduation Berry joined Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services where he spent ten years advocating for Native Americans, Hmong refugees, farmers, and families on social benefits, and also leading the Minnesota Family Farm Law Project.  
During those years in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Berry and Sharon had two daughters, Amber and Emily, and were active members of Faith Mennonite Church. He loved to play pickup basketball, sing and play his guitar, tease his girls, and watch the Minnesota Twins lose … and then win big. 
Berry left his legal career in 1989, in order to continue his work for social justice within a faith-based organization. The family moved to Lancaster where he worked for Mennonite Central Committee, first as Director of the U.S. Service Program (1989-1992) and then as MCC’s Director of Administration (1993-1997). 
From 1997 to 2007 Berry was the Executive Director of Pennsylvania Hunger Action Center, leading the advocacy organization’s work related to food security. In the years following he worked for several other non-profits, the last in 2016 when he was appointed President of the Nazareth Project, which supports health care and health education services in Nazareth. Berry resigned that position after receiving his cancer diagnosis.
Berry spent his career working for people and causes he believed were important, and his passion for peace and justice infused his life. He was an avid reader, bird watcher, writer and blogger. He authored two books which have been published (“Water from Another Time” and “If Not Empire, What?”), many articles, opinion pieces and letters to the editor; prior to his death completed a third book written for his granddaughters titled “Believing in god”. Berry was committed to following the way of Jesus, and was an active member of East Chestnut Street Mennonite Church in Lancaster and also the 1040 For Peace organization. 
A memorial service will be held at East Chestnut Street Mennonite Church, 432 E. Chestnut Street in Lancaster, on Monday, January 22, 2018 at 10:30 a.m. The family will receive friends at East Chestnut Street Mennonite Church on Sunday, January 21, 2018 from 4:00–6:00 p.m. 
In lieu of flowers, Berry would welcome donations to The Nazareth Project,

We remember him with admiration and appreciation, and give our condolence to his wife Sharon and children and grandchildren. 

—John K. Stoner

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