COLUMBIA — Fred Berry never planned to run for an office this election. The day before the deadline in March, though, he realized there was no Republican candidate in Missouri's 46th House District.
“My family has experience in politics, and I’ve always been very interested in it,” he said. “I always thought someday I’d run for office, so my time is now. I decided to run and had not given it even 24 hours notice.”
Berry said he knew that campaigning for office, especially one in which his opponent is the incumbent, would be no easy task. He's put a lot of time, effort and money into it.
“A lot of my campaign finance money is out of my own pocket,” he said. “I have not taken money from any PACs, and I’m not even getting money from the Republican Party. It’s all mine or individual donors. If I get elected, I’ve done it through people who believe in me.”
Berry said he has put between $8,000 and $9,000 of his own money into his campaign, which is close to half his total contributions.
“I’m not the big spender in this campaign, but I am very satisfied with the amount of money we have been able to raise and with the response I have gotten from the community,” he said.
Berry, whose opponent is incumbent Stephen Webber, said a love for politics that dates back to his childhood would allow him to serve the community well.
“My family has always been interested in politics, and my interest derives from that beginning,” he said. “Politics was something that we always talked about, and that’s how I got into it.”
Berry, a native of Scottsdale, Ariz., attended Arizona State University from 1966 to 1970. That's where he met his first wife, Mary Jane. They married shortly after Berry joined the Army and was preparing to go on active duty as a lieutenant.
In his years in the Army from March 1970 to April 1994, he saw many parts of the world. He spent a year in Korea, 12 years in Germany and three years in Italy.
“It was great seeing parts of the world I otherwise might not have,” he said.
A retired full colonel, Berry said he enjoyed the escalating responsibility he received each time he won promotion.
“At one time, I was in command of a brigade-sized unit in Italy,” he said. “I also commanded a battery in Korea. We were on the militarized zone, and we shot every day. It wasn’t always target practice, even though we weren’t there during the actual Korean War.”
His military experience led to a nearly three-year stint working at the Pentagon as director of military education policy. His job entailed receiving budget and policy responsibilities for areas such as ROTC. He worked frequently with the scholarship programs offered.
“I think my experience at the federal level helps me now,” he said “I know how the process works in Washington.”
His resume aside, Berry said he's most proud that he and Mary Jane Berry were able to raise two children to become exceptional adults.
“They grew up in a time when it was very difficult for kids,” he said. “ There was just so much influence on them in terms of pop culture and friends in the form of drugs and all kinds of things that can get you off course. They were able to skirt all that. I don’t think that happened by accident. Mary Jane and I worked very hard to raise kids, and they grew up with really strong values.”
Mary Jane died of leukemia in 1996 shortly after the couple moved to St. Louis so Berry could work for Wells Fargo Alarm Services Inc. They were married for 30 years.
Instead of resigning himself to long-term loneliness, Berry said he searched for another companion using Match.com. When he changed the radius of his search from 25 miles to 250 miles, he found the person he was looking for — here in Columbia. She became Sherry Berry.
“My only experience was dating in college,” he said. “I really didn’t know what to do, so I tried Match.com. Sherry and I hit it off instantly.”
As for the rhyming moniker Sherry Berry?
“I think it’s a perfect name for her,” he said. “We just kind of dated like high school kids do for about a year, and then we got married. I was looking for much of the same things I had before, and Sherry met that. Both she and Mary Jane are both a lot of fun and well-educated. Sherry is a great person.”
Sherry Berry said she appreciates all of the courteous things that her husband has done for her.
“I am in a wheelchair, and he’s very, very supportive and helpful with that,” she said. “He does stuff around here that I can’t get done. I think we make a really good team.”
Berry also prides himself on his many hobbies, although he concedes he doesn't stick with them for very long. He's tried his hand at making jewelry, skiing and knitting.
“I am one of those guys that has been through the hobby of the month for most of his life,” he said. “I’ll get a craving to try something, and I’ll do that, so there are very few activities you can think of that I haven’t tried.”
One hobby that has stuck with Berry is art, especially painting and drawing. It's an interest he's held since childhood.
“Art is like golf,” he said. “When you first start out, you’re awful, and then you take a couple of lessons and get better at it. The ability to do art has more to do with desire than talent. Talent is something that comes.”
Berry enjoys painting landscapes, still lifes and people.
“There really is no subject that I’m afraid to tackle,” he said. “I like to do art that is natural. I try to actually represent what I’m drawing.”
Berry also enjoys playing the trumpet but has been unable to since he began campaigning.
“I picked it up again at age 52,” he said. “I played a little bit as a kid. I don’t play it now, but when the campaign is over, I’ll probably pick it back up. I just don’t have the time now.”
Berry enjoys going to the movies but he does not approve of a lot of them.
“Even the most harmless movies sometimes have gotten too political,” he said. “I would like to go to a movie and not have politics be there. I think people need to get away from them and be able to truly escape.”
Berry said a recent movie he enjoyed was “The Bourne Legacy,” released in August.
Although he grew up a New York Yankees fan, Berry said he has grown to like the St. Louis Cardinals since moving to Missouri.
“I got to know the team pretty well,” he said. “In St. Louis, it was a 10-minute walk from my office to the ballpark, so I got season tickets. I really like them.”
For now, however, Berry has little time for hobbies and is focusing on the campaign. He hopes he can appeal to residents with his outgoing, friendly manner.
“If Fred by some chance didn’t win, I can’t think of another thing that we couldn’t have done,” Sherry Berry said. “We’ve worked on this campaign 24/7 and made a bazillion phone calls. He’s knocked on well over 7,000 doors, and talked to people, done interviews.”
Berry feels confident about his chances on Election Day.
“I think the race is going to be a lot closer than some people think,” he said. “Nobody is really quite sure of the mix of Republicans and Democrats in the district. The turnout is going to be very important in this race.”
If Berry wins, he said he would get started right away on changing policies, especially tax reforms. He said he would not be discouraged, however, if he loses.
“Instead of kicking from the inside out, I would still be kicking from the outside in,” he said.
Berry said he believes he would make a strong, incorruptible leader.
“I think that honor is one of the most important values any person could have,” he said. “You don’t see it in any of my campaign literature that I am an honest leader that uses integrity. It’s behavior you should exhibit, but it’s not something you should tell. Everybody knows it about you.”
If elected, Berry said he would help Missouri reach its full potential by implementing policies to help small business begin and grow.
“A strong country needs a strong state,” he said. “We need 50 strong states in this country, and there’s no reason why Missouri shouldn’t be a strong state. I will help get this country back together by strengthening Missouri."
Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.